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.

The U.N. Refugee Agency and Italian authorities say they fear at least 700 migrants have died in three separate shipwrecks in the Mediterranean since last Wednesday.

This comes amid a surge of migrants attempting to make the dangerous crossing between Libya and Italy, UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler tells The Two-Way. He adds that search and rescue teams have been able to save 14,000 people making the crossing during the past week.

After a 3-year-old boy slipped into the gorilla enclosure on a crowded Saturday at the Cincinnati Zoo, a security team killed the gorilla to save the child.

More than 40 people were injured from lightning strikes in two separate incidents in Europe on Saturday.

Lighting hit a children's birthday party in an upscale Paris park, injuring at least 11 people, AFP reports. Police say most of the victims were children and six of them were seriously injured, according to the news agency.

According to Paris city councilor Karen Taieb, the group at Parc Monceau had "taken shelter under a tree," AFP adds.

The World Health Organization is trying to ease concerns about spreading Zika as a result of this summer's Olympics in Rio de Janiero.

"Based on current assessment, cancelling or changing the location of the 2016 Olympics will not significantly alter the international spread of Zika virus," a statement released Saturday reads.

Shoulder patches are the subject of a diplomatic incident between the U.S. and Turkey. The flap highlights the complicated regional politics the U.S. is navigating in its offensive against Islamic State militants in Syria.

The central issue: the Kurdish YPG militia, which the U.S. views as a key ally against the Islamic State in Syria, has been branded a terrorist group by Turkey's government.

An Argentine court has sentenced Reynaldo Bignone, the country's last dictator, to 20 years in prison for his part in Operation Condor.

It's the "first time a court has ruled that Operation Condor was a criminal conspiracy to kidnap and forcibly disappear people across international borders," The Associated Press reports.

Researchers are developing a system to teach robots how to feel pain.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has pardoned thousands of inmates to make room in the country's overcrowded, cash-strapped prisons.

The move is "set to decongest national prisons and promote better living conditions," the state-run Herald reports. But as Reuters notes, this also comes as "prisons struggle to feed inmates due to lack of funding from the government."

ISIS is making gains near Syria's border with Turkey, seizing a string of villages and trapping tens of thousands of civilians, according to Doctors Without Borders and a Syrian monitoring group.

The offensive has forced Doctors Without Borders to evacuate a major hospital outside the strategically located town of Azaz.

The deep-sea researchers were surveying an ocean ridge off the coast of Hawaii in 2015 and amid ordinary ocean floor fare — a bit of coral, some volcanic rock — they came across something surprising.

"Where did this guy come from? Holy cow!" one researcher said to his colleague.

The U.S. nuclear weapons system still runs on a 1970s-era computing system that uses 8-inch floppy disks, according to a newly released report from the Government Accountability Office.

That's right. It relies on memory storage that hasn't been commonly used since the 1980s and a computing system that looks like this:

U.S.-backed forces have launched offensives on two areas of strategic importance to the Islamic State: Fallujah, Iraq, and an area north of Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria.

Ukrainian pilot and national hero Nadiya Savchenko has been released from Russia, where she has been held for almost two years.

Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov and HBO host John Oliver are locked in a public spat over a lost cat.

First, Kadyrov — the leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya whose forces have been accused of torture — asked his 1.8 million Instagram followers for help finding his missing cat.

Updated 1:50 a.m. ET Monday:

President Obama, in Vietnam on Monday as part of a 10-day trip to Asia, confirmed the killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. He calling Mansour's death a milestone in U.S. efforts "to bring peace and prosperity to Afghanistan."

In a statement, the president said in part:

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