Merrit Kennedy

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. 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, 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 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.

Starting in April, immigration authorities will start taking cheek swabs to collect DNA from hundreds of thousands of immigration detainees in federal custody each year.

The Trump Administration says the policy change will help law enforcement apprehend criminal suspects. The data collected will be transferred to an FBI database, so that in the future, law enforcement officials could check if these samples matched any DNA recovered from a crime scene.

The International Criminal Court has cleared the way for its prosecutor to investigate possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan, including those allegedly committed by U.S. forces and the CIA.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted the decision, calling it a "breathtaking action by an unaccountable political institution, masquerading as a legal body."

In Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria's nearly decade-long civil war, airstrikes have razed villages to the ground and displaced populations are being forced into smaller and smaller areas, as their camps balloon and overtake farmland, according to newly revealed satellite imagery.

The province has come under attack from Syrian and Russian forces in an offensive that began last year.

The Horn of Africa, one of the world's most impoverished regions, is being ransacked by billions of tiny invaders.

Farmers look on in horror as desert locusts moving in vast cloud-like swarms darken the sky. The insects blast through fields of crops at an astonishing pace, decimating livelihoods in the process.

Forever 21, the fast-fashion mall standby that filed for bankruptcy last year, will live on. Three companies announced Wednesday that they are jointly acquiring the retailer aimed at young shoppers and that they plan to continue to operate its U.S. and international stores.

The buyers are Authentic Brands Group, which owns major brands such as Barneys New York, Aeropostale and Nine West; and real estate companies Simon Property Group and Brookfield Property Partners.

Updated 6:50 a.m. ET Friday

Federal prosecutors have added new charges against Chinese telecom giant Huawei, its U.S. subsidiaries and its chief financial officer, including accusing it of racketeering and conspiracy to steal trade secrets from U.S.-based companies.

The company already faced a long list of criminal accusations in the case, which was first filed in August 2018, including bank fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Prosecutors filed the expanded indictment in federal court in Brooklyn on Thursday.

Updated at 2:20 p.m. ET

Houston Astros players and coaches offered an apology Thursday in the wake of a sign-stealing scandal that sent shock waves throughout Major League Baseball. But the apology seemed to further inflame critics of the league's and team's response to the sweeping cheating scheme during the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

About 50,000 years ago, ancient humans in what is now West Africa apparently procreated with another group of ancient humans that scientists didn't know existed.

There aren't any bones or ancient DNA to prove it, but researchers say the evidence is in the genes of modern West Africans. They analyzed genetic material from hundreds of people from Nigeria and Sierra Leone and found signals of what they call "ghost" DNA from an unknown ancestor.

Holden Matthews, the white son of a sheriff's deputy, has pleaded guilty to federal charges over setting three historically black churches on fire in Louisiana during a 10-day period last March and April. The religious institutions were completely destroyed.

"His atrocious actions inflicted severe pain and grief upon these congregations," Bryan Vorndran, the special agent in charge of the FBI's New Orleans Field office, said in a statement.

Angela Merkel's handpicked successor says that she will not seek Germany's chancellorship, casting into uncertainty the future of the Christian Democratic Union, Germany's most dominant political party.

"With the aim of making the CDU stronger, I have today, after extended reflection, informed the party board and leadership team: I will not seek to become a candidate for the office of German Chancellor," party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, 57, announced Monday, according to Deutsche-Welle.

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