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.

Until now, all the pictures of the sun have been straight-on head shots. Soon, scientists will be getting a profile.

NASA and the European Space Agency are set to launch a joint mission on Sunday to provide the first-ever look at the sun's poles. Previous images have all been taken from approximately the same angle, roughly in line with the star's equator.

Scientists are hesitant to guess what the elusive poles of the star might look like. "I hate to speculate," says Holly Gilbert, the NASA project scientist for the mission.

Bernie Madoff, the mastermind behind a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that defrauded hundreds of investors, is seeking compassionate release from prison because of terminal kidney failure.

The motion filed by Madoff's lawyer, Brandon Sample, says the 81-year-old suffers from end-stage renal disease and many other chronic medical conditions. He has a life expectancy of less than 18 months, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

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.

Canada's Federal Court of Appeal has cleared the way for a major expansion to the Trans Mountain Pipeline by ruling against four different challenges from First Nations groups concerned about the environmental impacts of the project.

The Trans Mountain expansion, which would add more than 600 miles to the pipeline and increase its capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000, has been mired in controversy and legal battles since Canada's cabinet first approved the project in 2016.

The European Union expressed major reservations about President Trump's newly unveiled plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying it doesn't meet "internationally agreed parameters" on issues such as where Israel's borders should be drawn.

The plan, which has been roundly rejected by Palestinians, sides with Israel on major sticking points such as Jerusalem, settlements in the West Bank and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency software engineer who allegedly leaked thousands of pages of documents to WikiLeaks was set to begin Monday in federal court in New York. The leak has been described as one of the largest in the CIA's history.

Joshua Schulte has pleaded not guilty to 11 criminal counts, including illegal transmission of unlawfully possessed national defense information and theft of government property.

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 5:10 p.m. ET

Two people are in custody after a bizarre and apparently unintentional security breach at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on Friday in which authorities shot at a car, according to Florida officials.

"This is not a terrorist thing. This is somebody that obviously was impaired somehow and is driving very recklessly and endangering not only the public, but the law enforcement officers as well," Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told reporters. "I'm not so sure she knew where she was going."

International track and field's governing body is imposing new restrictions on which shoes can be worn in elite competition, following years of controversy over whether Nike's Vaporfly line of shoes gives athletes an unfair advantage.

Elite marathon runners have seen major success wearing Vaporfly models. Kenyan marathoner Eliud Kipchoge, for example, was wearing a high-tech Nike prototype when he clocked a sub-two-hour marathon in Vienna last year.

The House has approved two measures seeking to limit the president's ability to take military action without congressional approval.

The first piece of legislation, known as the No War Against Iran Act, would block funding for military force in or against Iran unless Congress has signed off. The measure, introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna of California, passed by a vote of 228-175.

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 2:39 p.m. ET

A massive industrial explosion in northwest Houston early Friday killed two people, left a business in ruins, knocked homes off their foundations and sent debris flying for about half a mile.

The predawn blast at a building belonging to Watson Grinding and Manufacturing, which provides industrial services such as thermal spray coatings, could be felt more than 30 miles away, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said at a news conference.

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.

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

The District of Columbia is suing President Trump's inaugural committee, the Trump Organization and the Trump International Hotel in Washington, accusing them of "grossly overpaying" for event space at the hotel to enrich the president's family during the 2017 inauguration.

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.

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