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 4:45 p.m. ET

A Florida police chief has announced that Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, will face charges of soliciting prostitution after he was caught on surveillance video allegedly in the midst of a sexual act.

Jupiter Police Chief Daniel Kerr announced the charges on Friday as part of a sting on a local spa suspected of human trafficking and potential money laundering.

Updated at 11 p.m. ET

An Israeli spacecraft blasted off this evening, aiming to land on the moon. And if the mission is successful, it would make Israel the fourth country to land a spacecraft on the lunar surface – after the U.S., the former Soviet Union and China.

After the deadliest wildfire in California's history last year, one family that fled has received a little joy. The family was reunited with its dog, Kingston, who disappeared shortly after the Camp Fire started.

The Ballejos family told Sacramento's KXTV that Kingston, an Akita, jumped out of the truck as they were evacuating the wildfire area in Paradise, Calif.

"When I found out, [it] just about brought me to tears," Gabriel Ballejos, Kingston's owner, told the station. "I'm so proud of him. I can't believe it. He's a true survivor."

A convicted Chinese trafficker known as the "ivory queen" has been sentenced to 15 years in jail by a Tanzanian court.

Yang Fenglan, who has lived in Tanzania on and off for decades and operated a Chinese restaurant, was found guilty of working with two Tanzanian men to smuggle more than 800 pieces of ivory between 2000 and 2004, as Reuters reported.

Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET

President Trump pushed forward Tuesday with his plan to launch a space force as a new branch of the military. But it would at first be under the umbrella of the Air Force, and it requires approval of Congress — which is far from certain.

This represents at least a temporary shift. Trump had stated that he wanted a space force that is "separate but equal" from the Air Force.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the NFL have reached an agreement to settle his allegations that league teams colluded to deny him a contract after his controversial protests in which he took a knee during the national anthem.

The league has also reached a deal with Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid over similar collusion allegations.

Updated at 9:55 p.m. ET

Nigerians who were due to cast ballots Saturday to choose a new leader from a field of some 70 candidates will now have to wait until Feb. 23. Election officials blame the delay simply on "challenges."

The Associated Press cites reports that "voting materials had not been delivered to all parts of the country."

Two men have emerged as the clear front-runners. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to hold on to his position, and opposition leader Atiku Abubakar is his fiercest challenger.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is trying to reassure its members after its decision not to air four awards live at the Oscars triggered a wave of criticism.

Hollywood luminaries such as Brad Pitt, Emma Stone and Quentin Tarantino have come out against the decision to limit the broadcast of awards for Best Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

Egypt's parliament has overwhelmingly approved proposed constitutional changes that would allow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to potentially stay in office until 2034.

The changes, which must be approved by a referendum to enter into force, would also further enshrine the authority of the Armed Forces in "maintaining the foundations of the civil state."

The elusive black leopard has been sighted.

In Kenya, the vast majority of leopards have a light coat with dark spots. A tiny minority of them have a genetic mutation called melanism that causes them to appear all black in the daylight. According to San Diego Zoo Global, the spots show up in infrared imagery at night.

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