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.

Details are still trickling in from today's attacks in Brussels that have killed at least two-dozen people. We're keeping you updated on the latest here.

While the tragedy in Brussels is the focus of headlines around the world, we're reminded that there have been a number of other attacks recently that have seen less attention, some in places where access is difficult and reporting resources are limited.

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear Samsung's appeal of a Federal Circuit Court ruling in the company's patent infringement dispute with Apple.

At issue in the case: What portion of the profits is a design-patent infringer liable to pay?

Apple accuses the South Korean tech giant of copying patented aspects of the iPhone's design, such as the round-cornered front face and the colorful icon grid.

North Korea fired five short-range missiles into the sea Monday, the South Korean military says.

NPR's Elise Hu in Seoul reports that these are the latest in a string of similar launches, despite repeated calls from the international community to halt them.

"The missiles were fired near the eastern coastal city of Hamhung, and analysts say the short-range projectiles traveled about 120 miles," Elise tells our Newscast unit.

NASA has released a new gravity map of Mars, providing a detailed look at the Red Planet's surface and revealing new information about what lies beneath it.

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam, one of Europe's most wanted men, has been taken alive during a police raid in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek.

Abdeslam, 26, had evaded capture for more than four months after the terrorist attacks that killed 130 people on Nov. 13.

The news was confirmed by Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel and France's President Francois Hollande during a joint press conference Friday evening.

In Brussels, the European Union and Turkey have reached a deal aimed at stemming the massive flow of people into Europe. It will likely impact tens of thousands of migrants and refugees.

European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted that the sides unanimously agreed to terms.

Where is Queen Nefertiti buried? It's one of the biggest mysteries in Egyptology, and today, archaeologists might be one step closer to an answer.

Researchers have been radar-scanning the walls of King Tutankhamen's tomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings in search of hidden chambers.

Now, NPR's Leila Fadel tells our Newscast unit that analysis of scans conducted in November shows there are two empty spaces behind the walls. And those spaces may contain organic or metallic material.

"Let me be blunt," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said in his opening statement to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "This was a failure of government at all levels. Local, state and federal officials — we all failed the families of Flint."

Voters unseated the top prosecutors in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, and Cook County, Ill., in Democratic primary races on Tuesday. Both have been under fire for their handling of fatal shootings by police.

Two-term Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez faced criticism for the amount of time it took her to indict the white officer who shot black teenager Laquan McDonald 16 times. As the Associated Press reports, Alvarez "explained the yearlong investigation by calling it complex and meticulous."

FIFA is requesting tens of millions of dollars in restitution, arguing that it was a victim of its corrupt leadership.

FIFA's Victim's Statement, filed to authorities in New York on Wednesday, contends that the embattled international soccer federation is a "global force for good." The organization is arguing that a group of disgraced leaders — rather than systemic corruption — is to blame for the onslaught of corruption and bribery allegations.

The Obama administration is reversing a plan to allow oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, after an uproar from local communities over environmental concerns.

"We heard from many corners that now is not the time to offer oil and gas leasing off the Atlantic coast," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.

Georgia Public Broadcasting's Emily Jones tells our Newscast unit that this is a reversal from a draft proposal issued in January 2015:

Ahead of President Obama's landmark trip to Cuba later this month, the U.S. is loosening sanctions regulations against Cuba.

The changes make it easier for U.S. citizens to travel to the island and allow nonimmigrant Cubans who are in the U.S legally to earn salaries.

"Normalization means not just normalization between governments, it means normalization of our relationship with the Cuban people. And that is what this change really aims to advance," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters as he announced the changes.

Myanmar has elected its first civilian president after decades of military rule.

U Htin Kyaw, a close ally of Nobel laureate and democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, won the legislature's vote. Suu Kyi was barred from running herself by the country's constitution — drafted by the former military leaders — because she has two foreign sons.

Eighty million years ago, tyrannosaurs were the top predators in Asia and North America.

And scientists say a newly discovered dinosaur from Uzbekistan helps to explain their rise.

In a paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers said they have found a specimen from a 20 million-year gap in fossil records — between the small-bodied "marginal hunters" and the "apex predators" the tyrannosaurid group would become. This group includes Tyrannosaurus rex, Albertosaurus and Tarbosaurus.

Turkish warplanes are conducting airstrikes against Kurdish targets in Northern Iraq, following a deadly car bomb that killed at least 37 people in Turkey's capital, Ankara.

The Turkish military said "11 warplanes carried out airstrikes on 18 targets in northern Iraq early on Monday, including ammunition depots and shelters," Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, mourners held funerals for the victims of Sunday's attack.

This week, several Balkan countries slammed their borders shut on migrants, effectively cutting off their main route leading to Northern Europe.

It's causing growing humanitarian concerns as tens of thousands of people who hoped to move north remain stuck in camps in Greece. Meanwhile, EU nations are still struggling to come up with a solution to the crisis.

The Cleveland Clinic says it has removed a transplanted uterus — the first-ever in the U.S. — after the patient suffered from a "sudden complication."

The clinic conducted the landmark operation in late February. As we reported, the procedure is intended to "open up another possible path to parenthood besides surrogacy or adoption for U.S. women who do not have a uterus, or who have a uterus that does not function."

Iran's military tested two ballistic missiles Wednesday, and an Iranian officer says the missiles are designed to reach Israel, according to an Iranian news agency. Iran has conducted a number of other ballistic missile tests this week.

The tests, which come after Iran won sanctions relief in January by curbing its nuclear program, seem to be "aimed at demonstrating that Iran will push forward with its ballistic program," The Associated Press reports.

Ending a Democratic filibuster lasting more than 36 hours, the Missouri Senate has given preliminary approval to a controversial bill that shields religious groups and individuals who have religious objections to same-sex weddings.

Former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan testified in his invasion of privacy suit in St. Petersburg, Fla., against the media organization Gawker, which published a portion of a sex tape.

The case raises major questions about freedom of expression, privacy and celebrity. That being said — "it really couldn't be seedier in terms of the topic that provoked this suit," as NPR's David Folkenflik told Here and Now.

The Dutch dentist was initially welcomed to the rural French town of Chateau-Chinon, which had been without a dental care provider for two years.

Then the horror stories started.

Tennis star Maria Sharapova has lost several major sponsors after admitting that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open.

The U.S. military has hit an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia using both drones and manned aircraft, killing at least 150 of the al-Qaida fighters, the Pentagon says.

The weekend strikes hit an al-Shabab training camp about 120 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, NPR's Tom Bowman reports. Here's more from Tom:

"A Pentagon spokesman, Capt. Jeff Davis, [who provided the casualty figure] says U.S. intelligence indicated that al-Shabab was preparing for what he called a 'large scale attack' on American and Somali troops.

...

The Marshall Islands is on an unlikely mission — trying to press India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom to curb their nuclear programs.

The Pacific archipelago, which was the site of dozens of U.S. nuclear tests in the '40s and '50s, is suing the three countries in the U.N.'s International Court of Justice. The Marshall Islands says the three countries haven't carried out in good faith their obligations to pursue negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.

European Union leaders and Turkey's prime minister have ended talks aimed at resolving the flood of migrants into Europe, signaling their leaders are closer to an agreement.

The Associated Press reports, "Luxembourg's prime minister says that European Union and Turkish leaders have ended talks ... but that more work is needed to finalize an agreement. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said in a tweet early Tuesday that EU Council President Donald Tusk 'will take forward the proposals and work out the details with the Turkish side' before the next EU summit on March 17."

A Turkish court has sentenced two Syrian nationals to four years in prison each in a case tied to the drowning death of Syrian toddler Alan Kurdi and four others.

Photos of 3-year-old Alan's body lying facedown on a Turkish beach in September 2015 produced a groundswell of global sympathy for people fleeing violence in the Middle East and North Africa, and laid bare the human cost of their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

When astronaut Scott Kelly's space capsule touched down in Kazakhstan, it was a familiar scene to Mark Kelly, who is a retired astronaut and Scott's identical twin.

NASA is conducting a "twin study" on the brothers to explore what spaceflight does to the body. Multiple universities are involved in the research.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will march in the city's St. Patrick's Day parade, ending his two-year boycott over a ban on LGBT groups.

NPR's Hansi Lo Wang tells our Newscast unit that the mayor's decision comes after organizers allowed a new group to march in the upcoming parade. New York's is the largest and oldest St. Patrick's Day parade in the country.

A team of refugees will compete alongside athletes representing their home countries at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, the International Olympic Committee has announced.

Previously, athletes who did not represent a country were not allowed to compete.

The team will likely number between five and 10 athletes, the committee said in a statement, and "will be treated at the Olympic Games like all the other teams."

The crumpled brown paper bag looked like trash.

But luckily for baseball card enthusiasts, a family in a rural Southern town that was sifting through its great-grandparent's possessions took a closer look.

The family, who wishes to remain anonymous, found seven identical baseball cards of famed Detroit Tigers outfielder Ty Cobb dating from a printing in 1909-1911. Previously, only 15 of this particular card were known to exist.

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