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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.

After a crash that killed seven motorcyclists in New Hampshire, lawyers for the man charged with seven counts of negligent homicide have entered a plea of not guilty.

According to the criminal complaint, 23-year-old Volodymyr Zhukovskyy was driving erratically in a Dodge pickup truck and trailer on Friday night. He allegedly crossed the center line of a rural road in the small town of Randolph, colliding with a group of motorcyclists.

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.

The U.N.'s human rights chief says there are only two options for dealing with the tens of thousands of suspected ISIS fighters currently detained in Syria and Iraq: They must be either tried or let go, and their families cannot be detained indefinitely.

Some 55,000 suspected ISIS fighters and their family members have been swept up and detained since ISIS was effectively toppled and lost control of its territory, the U.N. says.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

A fire at an oil refinery in South Philadelphia caused a series of explosions before dawn on Friday, unleashing a giant ball of flames and plumes of smoke into the air. The incident prompted a shelter-in-place order for a nearby neighborhood and sent more than 100 firefighters to the scene.

Several people were treated on the scene for minor injuries, WHYY's Tom MacDonald reported.

Two female beluga whales have finally arrived in Iceland, where they will enjoy a sanctuary in cool coastal waters. But the longtime performers from an aquarium in China had quite the journey to get there.

Little Grey and Little White traveled from Shanghai by land, sea and air — a Boeing 747 aircraft.

Naturally, transporting two whales — each about 13 feet long — was a huge logistical headache. Trainers have been preparing the belugas for the journey and for their new life in open water.

So picture this: You're a receptionist at, say, a hotel. Someone walks in and says they found a lost wallet but they're in a hurry. They hand it to you. What would you do?

And would that answer be different if it was empty or full of cash?

Those are questions researchers have been exploring; Thursday, they published their findings in the journal Science.

Remember Boaty McBoatface? In the years since the naming snafu over a research vessel grabbed international headlines, Boaty has been off gathering crucial deep-sea data on the effects of climate change.

Now, the findings from Boaty's first mission are out — and they shed light on how Antarctic winds that are strengthening due to climate change are impacting sea levels.

But before we dive into what Boaty found, let's remember how it got here.

Updated at 8:54 p.m. ET

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has died, Egyptian state television reported Monday, after fainting during a Cairo court session.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. ET

A man was killed and five people were injured in a shooting at a graduation party late Sunday evening in Philadelphia, police say. All of the victims are younger than 25, and four of them are teenagers.

The shooter fired "indiscriminately into the crowd" at Paschall Playground in Southwest Philadelphia just after 10 p.m. ET, the police department said in a statement emailed to NPR on Monday morning. The gunman is still at large, and no weapon has been recovered.

Bald eagles are typically known for their elegant flying, skilled hunting and having such majestic strength and beauty that they became the U.S. national bird. But they also possess a lesser-known talent: swimming.

Yes, bald eagles are really good at swimming, a fact some of us learned this week from a viral video published by New Hampshire TV station WMUR.

Thousands of women are demonstrating in the streets of Switzerland. Dressed in purple and brandishing signs, they're furious that in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, their wages still lag far behind those of men.

Friday's strike comes 28 years after Switzerland's first nationwide women's strike for equal rights. Its motto is "Wages. Time. Respect."

The U.S. government is juicing up its weather forecasting power.

This week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that it has upgraded its main weather forecasting model, called the Global Forecast System.

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has agreed to pay about $15,000 as part of a plea deal to settle allegations that she improperly spent some $100,000 in catering at the prime minister's residence.

Haitian President Jovenel Moïse is facing escalating challenges to his leadership after government auditors found even more evidence of large-scale corruption, ushering in days of street protests and strikes in multiple Haitian cities.

The capital Port-au-Prince has been flooded with protests, calling for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse. Thick smoke from burning cars and tires filled the air, as protesters waved flags and faced off against security forces.

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.

The United Nations says at least 95 people were killed in an armed attack on a village in central Mali. It's the latest in a spate of deadly attacks in the region, which has seen escalating tensions between ethnic groups.

The attack on the village of Sobanou-Kou started Sunday evening when a group of armed men poured into the village, according to a statement from the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

Venezuela has hit a worrying milestone. The United Nations says more than 4 million refugees and migrants have left the country, which is suffering from political chaos, food shortages and hyperinflation.

The U.N. has called this exodus the "largest in the recent history of Latin America and the Caribbean."

National Weather Service meteorologists noticed something puzzling on their radar screens in Southern California on Tuesday evening — a big green blob.

"It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we weren't really expecting any rain or thunderstorms," Casey Oswant, a NWS meteorologist in San Diego, tells NPR. "But on our radar, we were seeing something that indicated there was something out there."

Oakland passed a resolution to effectively decriminalize psychedelic mushrooms and other psychoactive plants and fungi in a unanimous City Council vote on Tuesday.

That makes it the second U.S. city to do so – last month, Denver voters approved a similar ballot initiative that decriminalizes the "magic" mushrooms.

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