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.

Updated at 6:06 p.m. ET

Celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, who is already accused of federal financial crimes, has been indicted on 36 counts of embezzlement and fraud by a California federal grand jury, U.S. prosecutors announced Thursday.

If Avenatti is found guilty of all charges in the new indictment, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 335 years in prison.

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be on his way to a fourth consecutive term, and his main challenger has conceded defeat.

The election was neck and neck between his right-wing party and that of his top contender, centrist political newcomer Benny Gantz. But with at least 97 percent of the votes counted, Netanyahu appears to be in the best position to form a government because of the strength of other right-wing, nationalist and religious parties.

Updated at 9:00 p.m. ET

The final results of the Israeli parliamentary election are too close to call, but two television stations are forecasting a slim victory by incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party.

Israel's channels 12 and 13 project that Likud will capture 35 seats in the 120-seat parliament, changing their forecasts from earlier in the vote-counting, according to the Associated Press.

Ukraine's presidential election – which was already high-drama — has taken an unusual turn. The two remaining candidates took highly public alcohol and drug tests on Friday, as part of an escalating series of challenges delivered on social media.

The runoff election on April 21 pits incumbent President Petro Poroshenko against Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedian who plays a president on TV. Zelenskiy came out of the first round of election with 30 percent of the vote – nearly double the number of votes cast for Poroshenko.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin made their initial appearances in federal court in Boston on Wednesday for their alleged roles in a massive college admissions fraud that has sent shock waves through the U.S. higher education system.

One of the most shocking aspects of the massacre that unfolded Friday at two mosques in Christchurch is that it happened in New Zealand — a country where low crime rates are a part of its identity and mass shootings are extremely rare.

"This is New Zealand. This can't happen here," as Muslim Association of Marlborough Chairman Zayd Blissett told Stuff.

Venezuela has been in the grip of a crippling blackout for four days — and the humanitarian situation there is growing increasingly dire.

Signs of the crisis are everywhere you look in the Venezuelan capital. "Drive around Caracas, and you see long lines of cars waiting for hours at the few gas stations still operational," NPR's Philip Reeves reported from the city.

"Motorists park on highways, cell phones aloft, searching for a signal. The rich have taken refuge in luxury hotels. The poor stand in lines in the street," Reeves added.

U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said in a letter to President Trump that she plans to resign from her post effective in late May.

Wilson has been named as the sole finalist to be the next president of the University of Texas at El Paso, a position that the system's regents will vote on after a state-required waiting period of 21 days. She said she will resign after getting the job.

Updated at 4:03 p.m. ET

A New Jersey man is basking in the good fortune of a $273 million lottery jackpot win that wouldn't have happened without the kindness of a stranger.

Mike Weirsky, who is unemployed and recently divorced, purchased lottery tickets at a QuickChek supermarket near New Jersey's border with Pennsylvania.

Since the start of the racing season in late December, a shocking 21 horses have died at the famed Santa Anita Park racetrack in southern California.

It's horrified the racing world and experts say there's no clear answer as to why this is happening.

Santa Anita's owners, The Stronach Group, announced on Tuesday that it was halting racing and training at the park in order to test the main track – a picturesque spot tucked next to the San Gabriel Mountains where the champion racehorse Seabiscuit won big.

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