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.

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."

Your phone company may start blocking robocalls without your needing to ask for it.

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission passed a ruling that allows and encourages phone companies to block robocalls by default.

"We think these actions will help consumers in the near term and the long term to get the peace and the quiet that they deserve," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.

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.

The cruise line giant Carnival Corporation and its Princess subsidiary have agreed to pay a criminal penalty of $20 million for environmental violations such as dumping plastic waste into the ocean. Princess Cruise Lines has already paid $40 million over other deliberate acts of pollution.

U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz approved the terms of the deal during a hearing Monday in Miami. She had appeared to grow increasingly frustrated as the company continued to flout environmental laws during the course of the years-long case.

A years-long government inquiry says human rights abuses "perpetrated historically and maintained today by the Canadian state" has led to violence against Indigenous women and girls that amounts to genocide.

It's the conclusion of more than two years of research involving at least 2,380 people who shared their stories or artwork with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Shipping containers of Canadian trash have moldered in the Philippines for years, in a situation so irksome to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that he threatened to personally sail it back to Canadian waters.

Now, much of the trash that arrived in 2013 and 2014 is on its way back to Canada. The Canadian government says that 69 shipping containers of rubbish have left the Philippines and are expected to reach Canada by the end of June.

Thad Cochran, the Republican senator from Mississippi who served for some four decades, has died at the age of 81, his successor, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, said on Thursday.

Cochran used his considerable influence, especially while serving as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to direct billions of dollars to Mississippi.

A lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told a U.K. court Thursday that he was too ill to appear via video link at an extradition hearing about possible transfer to the United States.

Lawyer Gareth Peirce told Westminster Magistrates' Court in London that Assange was "not very well." The United States is pursuing a range of criminal charges against Assange, including a violation of the Espionage Act.

WikiLeaks said in a statement that it has "grave concerns" about the state of Assange's health.

The family of a man who died in a Milwaukee jail after the water in his cell was shut off for seven days has been paid a $6.75 million settlement, according to the family's lawyers.

Terrill Thomas, 38, died of dehydration in Milwaukee County Jail in April 2016. The payment was made by Milwaukee County and Armor Correctional Health Services, a company that was contracted to provide medical care for inmates at the jail.

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