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.

Gavin McInnes, the founder of the far-right, all-male group Proud Boys, has filed a defamation lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center.

SPLC has labeled the Proud Boys a hate group and has published a series of articles with examples of racist, misogynistic and transphobic quotes.

McInnes is perhaps best known as a co-founder of Vice Media, a position he left in 2008. He founded the Proud Boys group in 2016, describing it as a "men's club that meets about once a month to drink beer."

Updated at 5:08 p.m. ET

Australia says the last four asylum-seeking children held in its detention centers on the island nation of Nauru are to be transferred to the United States.

The country has faced years of criticism from human rights advocates over the health of asylum-seekers and the condition of detention facilities on the island. Amnesty International and other groups have described a mental health crisis where self-harm is common.

New Year's Eve parties have kicked off around the world, including the famous gathering in New York's Times Square.

Hundreds of thousands of revelers are expected to gather there to watch the ball drop and ring in 2019 — and this year, according to the organizers, it's covered in 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles.

A lion killed a 22-year-old intern at a North Carolina animal center during a routine enclosure cleaning, devastating the small facility and raising questions about how the animal escaped.

Alexandra Black had just recently started her internship at the Conservators Center, which is located in Burlington, N.C., and home to about 80 animals.

On New Year's Day, two of the greatest tennis champions ever will stride out onto a court in Perth, Australia, and play each other for the first time.

Serena Williams and Roger Federer have been on the international tennis circuit for decades — both are 37 years old — and they have won 43 Grand Slam titles between them.

"I've always thought, 'How is it to return that serve, or to go head to head with her?' " Federer said, according to Tennis.com.

The Trump administration has authorized five companies to "incidentally, but not intentionally, harass marine mammals" by using seismic air guns to search for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean.

It's a decision opposed by environmental groups, who say the blasts could harm marine animals such as humpback whales, and some coastal communities, who fear it could be a precursor to offshore drilling.

Brazil has rescinded its bid to host a major U.N. conference on climate change next year, raising questions about how the incoming far-right administration will handle environmental issues.

Brazil's foreign ministry made the announcement, saying it withdrew its offer due to "the current fiscal and budget constraints, which are expected to remain in the near future," according to a statement provided to The Associated Press.

In a Los Angeles courtroom in 2014, 74-year-old Samuel Little was adamant that he had not murdered three women.

"I didn't do it!" he screamed in court, according to the Los Angeles Times, before he was sentenced to life in prison.

It came down to a series of rapid tie-break games, but defending world chess champion Magnus Carlsen has emerged victorious once again.

Carlsen, a 27-year-old Norwegian, has held the title since 2013. He defeated Fabiano Caruana, who would have been the first U.S. citizen to win the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

The two appeared evenly matched in the 12 games they played over three weeks before Wednesday's climax. Each of those 12 games resulted in a draw, making it the first time in the tournament's history that no player won a game during regular play.

More than 30 years after the release of The Handmaid's Tale, author Margaret Atwood has announced there's going to be a sequel.

Penguin Random House said Wednesday that the new novel is set to be published on Sept. 10, 2019. It's called The Testaments and will take place 15 years after The Handmaid's Tale left off. The story will be told by three female characters, according to the U.S. publisher.

Stephen Hillenburg, who created SpongeBob SquarePants, has died at 57. Inhabited by a good-natured pineapple-dwelling yellow sponge and a motley crew of sea creatures, the Nickelodeon TV program gained huge popularity with both children and adults over its nearly 20-year run.

Nickelodeon said Tuesday that Hillenburg died of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease.

The World Chess Championship is heading toward a dramatic conclusion on Wednesday, which could give the U.S. its first champion since Bobby Fischer took the crown in 1972.

The players will embark on a series of fast-moving tiebreaks at the event in London, which will get faster and faster if they continue to draw.

Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET

General Motors says it plans to cease production of some models at three vehicle assembly plants in the U.S. and Canada in 2019. It also plans to cut production at two plants in the U.S. that make transmissions. The company said the moves are part of an effort to cut 15 percent of its workforce.

It's part of a major restructuring that will prioritize the company's electric and autonomous vehicle programs.

Samsung Electronics has issued a formal apology to its workers who were stricken with serious illnesses after working at its factories. It also promised to compensate the employees.

At a press conference, Kinam Kim, president and CEO of the company's Device Solutions Division, gave a low bow as part of the apology.

Dozens of people have been hospitalized after a charter bus transporting members of the University of Washington marching band rolled on a Washington interstate Thursday, according to Washington State Patrol.

Trooper John Bryant said "40-45 plus" people were transported to hospitals but that none of the injuries were serious. He said there were 56 people total on the bus.

A former Venezuelan national treasurer has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in an elaborate international scheme that involved more than $1 billion in bribes.

The scheme allegedly involved payments from Venezuelan billionaire Raul Gorrin Belisario, who owns the Globovision news network, to Alejandro Andrade Cedeno and an unnamed senior Venezuelan official. Gorrin allegedly made the payments to gain access to favorable currency exchange rates.

A dead sperm whale found in Indonesia had at least 13 pounds of garbage in its stomach, including 115 plastic cups and two sandals, according to a team of researchers including the World Wide Fund For Nature.

"Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful," Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia, told The Associated Press.

Property-renting company Airbnb says it plans to remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described it as a "disgraceful surrender," while senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called it an "initial positive step."

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET Tuesday

Chicago is mourning an ER doctor, a pharmacy resident and a police officer who were killed Monday after a man opened fire at Mercy Hospital & Medical Center on Chicago's South Side.

"This tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and a consequence of evil," Mayor Rahm Emanuel told reporters.

After years of motorists blazing through a tiny village in Northern Italy, the area's mayor got fed up and installed speed cameras.

And after just two weeks, Acquetico's cameras have caught more than 58,000 speeding incidents, according to Italian media. That's a hefty number for a community of about 120 residents.

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