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.

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.

Vandals have broken into a historic church in Dublin and stolen the head of an 800-year-old mummy nicknamed "The Crusader."

The grim discovery was made by a guide at St. Michan's Church, as he was getting ready to open the site to the public, according to a statement from the Church of Ireland.

In addition to the Crusader, several other corpses were damaged, including that of a nun dating back 400 years.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the U.K. forcibly removed the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, an area that had been part of Mauritius. And on the largest island, Diego Garcia, it allowed the U.S. to build a large and strategically important military base.

The publisher of a small local newspaper in Alabama penned an editorial calling for the Ku Klux Klan to "ride again." After massive outcry, he's stepped down, and a black woman has taken the job.

The new publisher and editor of The Democrat-Reporter, Elecia R. Dexter, took the reins on Thursday, after Goodloe Sutton doubled down on his incendiary comments.

Andrew and Elad Dvash-Banks have twin sons, born four minutes apart. The U.S. State Department has maintained that one is a U.S. citizen and one is not.

The same-sex couple has been fighting the U.S. government in federal court for citizenship rights for their young child. On Thursday, a judge ruled that the child, Ethan, is indeed a U.S. citizen because his parents were married at the time of his birth, and therefore the State Department misapplied the law.

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.

After the deadliest wildfire in California's history last year, one family that fled has received a little joy. The family was reunited with its dog, Kingston, who disappeared shortly after the Camp Fire started.

The Ballejos family told Sacramento's KXTV that Kingston, an Akita, jumped out of the truck as they were evacuating the wildfire area in Paradise, Calif.

"When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears," Gabriel Ballejos, Kingston's owner, told the station. "I'm so proud of him. I can't believe it. He's a true survivor."

A convicted Chinese trafficker known as the "ivory queen" has been sentenced to 15 years in jail by a Tanzanian court.

Yang Fenglan, who has lived in Tanzania on and off for decades and operated a Chinese restaurant, was found guilty of working with two Tanzanian men to smuggle more than 800 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2004, as Reuters reported.

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.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the NFL have reached an agreement to settle his allegations that league teams colluded to deny him a contract after his controversial protests in which he took a knee during the national anthem.

The league has also reached a deal with Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid over similar collusion allegations.

Updated at 9:55 p.m. ET

Nigerians who were due to cast ballots Saturday to choose a new leader from a field of some 70 candidates will now have to wait until Feb. 23. Election officials blame the delay simply on "challenges."

The Associated Press cites reports that "voting materials had not been delivered to all parts of the country."

Two men have emerged as the clear front-runners. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to hold on to his position, and opposition leader Atiku Abubakar is his fiercest challenger.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is trying to reassure its members after its decision not to air four awards live at the Oscars triggered a wave of criticism.

Hollywood luminaries such as Brad Pitt, Emma Stone and Quentin Tarantino have come out against the decision to limit the broadcast of awards for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Egypt's parliament has overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional changes that would allow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to potentially stay in office until 2034.

The changes, which must be approved by a referendum to enter into force, would also further enshrine the authority of the Armed Forces in "maintaining the foundations of the civil state."

The elusive black leopard has been sighted.

In Kenya, the vast majority of leopards have a light coat with dark spots. A tiny minority of them have a genetic mutation called melanism that causes them to appear all black in the daylight. According to San Diego Zoo Global, the spots show up in infrared imagery at night.

You might have heard about Ultima Thule at the very beginning of this year, when NASA's New Horizons spacecraft whizzed by it. It's the farthest place ever explored, and many concluded that it looked like a snowman.

More than 75 years after the aircraft carrier USS Hornet sank in a World War II battle, researchers have uncovered its wreckage 3 miles under the South Pacific Ocean.

The Hornet played a role in several key events of the war — including the Doolittle Raid on Japan and the pivotal Battle of Midway.

Since it sank, its resting place has been a mystery. An expedition crew, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, has been searching for "historically significant shipwrecks" using the Research Vessel Petrel.

President Trump has called on Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., to resign after she made comments on social media that were criticized as "anti-Semitic" by lawmakers from both parties, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes," Omar said Monday. "This is why I unequivocally apologize."

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Scientists have come up with a novel way to try to stop mosquitoes from biting humans. They put them on a kind of diet - seriously. NPR's Merrit Kennedy tells us how.

Chinese authorities say they are investigating a batch of medication that is suspected to be tainted with HIV.

According to local media, the batch contains more than 12,000 doses of human immunoglobulin — intravenous treatments used to boost weakened immune systems.

Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right, all-male group Proud Boys, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center.

SPLC has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group and has published a series of articles with examples of racist, misogynistic and transphobic quotes.

McInnes is perhaps best known as a co-founder of Vice Media, a position he left in 2008. He founded the Proud Boys group in 2016, describing it as a "men's club that meets about once a month to drink beer."

Updated at 5:08 p.m. ET

Australia says the last four asylum-seeking children held in its detention centers on the island nation of Nauru are to be transferred to the United States.

The country has faced years of criticism from human rights advocates over the health of asylum-seekers and the condition of detention facilities on the island. Amnesty International and other groups have described a mental health crisis where self-harm is common.

New Year's Eve parties have kicked off around the world, including the famous gathering in New York's Times Square.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers are expected to gather there to watch the ball drop and ring in 2019 — and this year, according to the organizers, it's covered in 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles.

A lion killed a 22-year-old intern at a North Carolina animal center during a routine enclosure cleaning, devastating the small facility and raising questions about how the animal escaped.

Alexandra Black had just recently started her internship at the Conservators Center, which is located in Burlington, N.C., and home to about 80 animals.

On New Year's Day, two of the greatest tennis champions ever will stride out onto a court in Perth, Australia, and play each other for the first time.

Serena Williams and Roger Federer have been on the international tennis circuit for decades — both are 37 years old — and they have won 43 Grand Slam titles between them.

"I've always thought, 'How is it to return that serve, or to go head to head with her?' " Federer said, according to Tennis.com.

The Trump administration has authorized five companies to "incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals" by using seismic air guns to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

It's a decision opposed by environmental groups, who say the blasts could harm marine animals such as humpback whales, and some coastal communities, who fear it could be a precursor to offshore drilling.

Brazil has rescinded its bid to host a major U.N. conference on climate change next year, raising questions about how the incoming far-right administration will handle environmental issues.

Brazil's foreign ministry made the announcement, saying it withdrew its offer due to "the current fiscal and budget constraints, which are expected to remain in the near future," according to a statement provided to The Associated Press.

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.

It came down to a series of rapid tie-break games, but defending world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has emerged victorious once again.

Carlsen, a 27-year-old Norwegian, has held the title since 2013. He defeated Fabiano Caruana, who would have been the first U.S. citizen to win the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

The two appeared evenly matched in the 12 games they played over three weeks before Wednesday's climax. Each of those 12 games resulted in a draw, making it the first time in the tournament's history that no player won a game during regular play.

More than 30 years after the release of The Handmaid's Tale, author Margaret Atwood has announced there's going to be a sequel.

Penguin Random House said Wednesday that the new novel is set to be published on Sept. 10, 2019. It's called The Testaments and will take place 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale left off. The story will be told by three female characters, according to the U.S. publisher.

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