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.

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 scale 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 scaling at least 14 floors of the tall building with apparent ease.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, one of the freshman Democratic congresswoman facing attacks from President Trump and his supporters, received a hero's welcome back at her home district in Minnesota on Thursday.

A cheering crown 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.

"We are going to continue to be a nightmare to this president," she said into a megaphone, "because his policies are a nightmare to us. We are not deterred, we are not frightened, we are ready."

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.

Elijah "Pumpsie" Green was the first black player on the Boston Red Sox, the last Major League Baseball team to integrate. He died on Wednesday at the age of 85.

Some of Puerto Rico's biggest stars rallied a crowd of many thousands in San Juan on Wednesday, calling on the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló, to resign. It was the fifth day in a row of protests in the U.S. territory, following a leak of hundreds of pages of misogynistic and homophobic texts between the governor and his main advisers.

During the day, trap artist Bad Bunny and singer Ricky Martin were among the huge crowd that marched to the governor's mansion.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

The World Health Organization's director-general has declared the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo an international health emergency.

The outbreak in the DRC has killed more than 1,650 people, and about 12 new cases are reported daily, according to the WHO.

The State Department said it has issued sanctions to four top military leaders in Myanmar over what it called "gross human rights violations" during the "ethnic cleansing" of the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Two vital research agencies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture are hemorrhaging staff as less than two-thirds of the researchers asked to relocate from Washington to the Kansas City area have agreed to do so.

There's a new king of the hill.

The small town of Harlech in Wales has ousted Dunedin, New Zealand, for bragging rights to the world's steepest street. Guinness World Records announced the new title in a news release on Tuesday.

Ffordd Pen Llech, the name of the Wales street, winds up at a slope of 37.45 % stretch over fall, Guinness World Records said. That's in comparison to a slope of 34.97% at Dunedin's Baldwin Street.

Two years after it released the first season of the show 13 Reasons Why with a graphic suicide scene, Netflix has announced that it has edited it out.

The names of several major hotels and camp villages at Yosemite National Park in California are being restored, after a years-long trademark dispute.

The Majestic Yosemite Hotel is back to its original name, The Ahwahnee. And a set of cabins that was temporarily called Half Dome Village now carries its historic name, Camp Curry.

Curious how much the ground shifted after the two large earthquakes last week in Southern California? NASA has just the map for that question — and it happens to look like beautiful, psychedelic art.

On July 4, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the town of Ridgecrest, north of Los Angeles. The next evening, the area was jolted again by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or major infrastructure damage.

About two hours after a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant closed for business on Wednesday night, a massive blast reduced it to rubble within seconds.

The explosion in the small town of Eden, N.C., which happened Thursday just after 12:30 a.m., was captured in dramatic surveillance footage from a neighboring pharmacy.

It shows a quiet building under street lights, when suddenly the frame fills with white from the blast. Smoke and flames erupt from the demolished building, and debris and sparks fall from the sky.

Chalk up another victory for machines.

In artificial intelligence, it's a milestone when a computer program can beat top players at a game like chess. But a game like poker, specifically six-player Texas Hold 'em, has been too tough for a machine to master — until now.

Researchers say they have designed a bot called Pluribus capable of taking on poker professionals in the most popular form of poker and winning.

Four-time World Poker Tour title holder Darren Elias helped test the program's skills, playing Texas Hold 'em against a whole table of the bots.

A Brazilian judge has ordered mining giant Vale S.A. to pay for all damage caused by a ruptured dam that unleashed a torrent of mine waste and killed at least 247 people in January.

The disaster in the small city of Brumadinho was one of Brazil's worst-ever industrial accidents. Twenty-three people are still missing from the rupture that engulfed many of the company's workers and nearby residents in the muddy waste.

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