Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for The Two-Way, NPR's breaking news blog. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.

Merrit 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 ouster 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.

U.S.-backed troops are making slow progress in their offensive aimed at retaking the Syrian city of Raqqa, the so-called capital of the Islamic State. This comes as Iraqi forces, assisted by the U.S., report gains in their mission to capture Mosul, the most important ISIS stronghold in that country.

An adorable koala in a backpack — it's what you didn't know you needed during the final stretch of the exhausting U.S. presidential race.

Police found this bundle of joy in the town of Wishart in Queensland, Australia, during a traffic stop Sunday night.

Authorities said in a statement that the officers asked the 50-year-old driver if she had anything to declare. She then mentioned that she had a baby koala in her bag.

A federal jury has found that Rolling Stone, a reporter and the magazine's publisher are liable in a defamation lawsuit over a retracted article about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia.

The trial centered on a November 2014 piece by reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely that told the story of a student, identified as "Jackie," who said she was brutally gang raped at a fraternity party in 2012.

Updated at 1:00 p.m. ET on Nov. 6

The Pentagon says three U.S. service members were shot and killed Friday at a Jordanian military base, reportedly fired on as their vehicles entered the facility.

A U.S. official told NPR's Tom Bowman that it was Jordanian soldiers who opened fire. The reason wasn't immediately clear, the official says, but there were no apparent signs of hostile intent.

A Pakistani court has ordered the deportation of Sharbat Gula — the "Afghan girl" with arresting green eyes in the famous National Geographic photo.

That image was taken in 1984 at a refugee camp in Pakistan after Gula fled her native country when her parents were killed by a Soviet airstrike.

She has spent most of her life outside of Afghanistan, and now a judge says she must return there after completing a 15-day jail sentence and paying a fine of about $950, Reuters reports.

Less than three years ago, a Russian court convicted Bolshoi Ballet dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko of ordering a shocking acid attack against the Ballet's then-artistic director Sergei Filin.

Now, according to multiple media reports, officials from the legendary ballet company have granted Dmitrichenko permission to return to the building for practice – the same building where Filin continues to work.

The value of Egypt's beleaguered currency fell by almost 50 percent against the dollar Thursday. That's after the country's central bank decided to lift controls and let the pound freely float.

The move in the region's most populous country was designed to take aim at the black market and is likely to cause prices to jump.

The reclusive leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has purportedly issued an audio message calling on his fighters to stand firm in Mosul, as Iraqi security forces enter the city for the first time since ISIS seized it more than two years ago.

The message could not be independently verified, but if authentic, it would be Baghdadi's "first audio message released in nearly a year," Reuters reports.

Luxury department store Neiman Marcus is well-known for its opulent holiday offerings.

For example, its "Christmas Book" holiday gift guide is offering his-and-hers "Island cars" for $65,000 each. And a trip to castles in the U.K. for eight will set you back a cool $700,000.

Gawker Media and former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan have reached a settlement after years of litigation in an invasion of privacy lawsuit.

"The saga is over," Gawker founder Nick Denton wrote in a blog post.