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.

Rapper Meek Mill has been granted a new trial by a three-judge appeals court panel in Pennsylvania, for a case that dates back 12 years. The only witness who testified against Meek was a police officer who was later found to have committed theft.

"The Commonwealth concedes a new trial is required," the judges' unanimous opinion stated, in light of "after-discovered evidence" about the police officer's conduct.

Updated at 6:12 p.m. ET

Boris Johnson, the polarizing and showboating politician who led the campaign for Britain to leave the EU in 2016, is now officially in charge of ushering the country through that fraught and difficult divorce. With Theresa May's exit, Johnson took office as prime minister Wednesday.

The Senate has voted 97-2 to approve a bill that will virtually ensure permanent funding for rescue workers whose work after the Sept. 11 attacks caused health problems.

The House passed the bill last month, and President Trump is expected to approve it, ending a years-long ordeal for the victims after concerns that the fund was on the verge of running out of money.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A federal judge in North Carolina has approved a consent decree that enshrines the right of transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their gender identities in North Carolina public buildings.

Former Chinese Premier Li Peng, who became known as the "Butcher of Beijing" for playing a major role in the brutal crackdown on the Tiananmen Square student protests in 1989, has died at the age of 90.

Updated at 5:06 p.m. ET

President Trump said Iran's claim that it has captured 17 people spying for the U.S. is "totally false," as tensions continue to ratchet up between the two nations after the U.S. said it downed an Iranian drone last week.

It comes on the same day that U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said his country will seek to create a European-led security mission for ships in the Strait of Hormuz, separate from a similar U.S. effort to form a maritime coalition.

A former National Security Agency contractor who pleaded guilty to stealing vast troves of classified material over the course of two decades has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Harold Martin III, 54, apologized before U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett handed down the sentence on Friday.

"My methods were wrong, illegal and highly questionable," Martin told the court in Baltimore, according to The Associated Press.

If a fire was reported while you were on an upper floor of a high-rise, what would you do?

For one West Philadelphia man, the answer was: Get to the outside of the building and scramble down more than a dozen floors.

The breathtaking feat was captured in detail by multiple local television stations, bringing us several views of the man descending at least 14 floors of the tall building with apparent ease.

Updated at 9:50 a.m. ET

Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the freshman Democratic congresswomen facing attacks from President Trump and his supporters, was cheered as she arrived back at her home district in Minnesota on Thursday.

A crowd of people at the airport in the Twin Cities held banners with slogans such as "Stop Racism Now" and chanted "welcome home Ilhan" as the congresswoman emerged from her flight.

Updated at 5:48 p.m. ET

A major anime studio in Kyoto, Japan, was hit with a major fire in a suspected act of arson that killed at least 33 people, according to Japanese national broadcaster NHK.

At least three dozen people were injured, the broadcaster said, citing fire department officials in Kyoto.

Police told the broadcaster that one suspect, believed to be in his 40s, is in custody.

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