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.

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.

President Trump has announced new sanctions against the Iranian government, after Iran downed a U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz.

Speaking from the Oval Office, Trump said that "hard-hitting" sanctions will cut off Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his office from certain financial assets.

As he signed an executive order authorizing the sanctions on Monday, Trump said, "These measures represent a strong and proportionate response to Iran's increasingly provocative actions."

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.

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."

NASA is highlighting the legacy of African American women who played a major role in the space race but are only recently getting widespread recognition.

This week, the space agency renamed the street in front of its headquarters Hidden Figures Way.

Hidden Figures is the name of a book and movie that celebrate the contributions of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. Its author, Margot Lee Shetterly, was at the unveiling ceremony, along with members of the women's families.

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