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.

A year after a computer beat a human world champion in the ancient strategy game of Go, researchers say they have constructed an even stronger version of the program — one that can teach itself without the benefit of human knowledge.

The program, known as AlphaGo Zero, became a Go master in just three days by playing 4.9 million games against itself in quick succession.

As thousands of Californians take stock of the damage caused by wildfires, one boy's story has at least half of the teams in Major League Baseball rallying behind him.

In a letter to the Oakland Athletics, posted on Twitter by Katie Utehs, an ABC 7 News Bay Area journalist, 9-year-old Loren Jade Smith writes about his love of the team and the loss of his beloved baseball collection in the fire.

Six months into a protracted battle with militants besieged in the southern city of Marawi, the Philippine military appears to be on the cusp of victory.

In a speech to soldiers in the city on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte was decisive: "Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi City liberated from the terrorist influence."

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

The remnants of post-tropical cyclone Ophelia slammed parts of Ireland with wind gusts of more than 90 miles per hour, reportedly causing the deaths of at least three people and bringing strange red skies to the U.K.

The schools in Puerto Rico are facing massive challenges.

All the public schools are without electricity, and more than half don't have water. More than 100 are still functioning as shelters.

But Puerto Rico's secretary of education, Julia Keleher, tells us that the schools that are open are serving as connection points for communities. They've become a place where children and their families can eat a hot meal and get some emotional support, too.

Back-to-school season didn't last long this year in Puerto Rico. First Hurricane Irma and then Maria forced schools to close and turned the lives of students and their families upside down.

Puerto Rico's secretary of education, Julia Keleher, says that of the U.S. territory's 1,113 public schools, 22 reopened last week and another 145 this week. They're hoping that the majority will be open by Oct. 23. Some are still functioning as emergency shelters.

Café Hacienda San Pedro, a trendy coffee shop in San Juan, is buzzing. A long line snakes through it. People are chatting; dogs sit snoozing. Everything looks normal.

But in a few months, it probably won't.

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Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Saudi Arabia has reversed its long-standing and widely criticized ban against women driving.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud issued an order on Tuesday that paves the way for women to obtain driver's licenses, according to Saudi state media.

It might surprise you that Australia doesn't already have a space agency.

The country has been involved in the space field for decades — in 1967, it was among the first countries to launch a satellite. Two years later, a NASA tracking station in Australia received and transmitted the first TV images of Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the Moon.

For the first time, a female Marine has completed the grueling Infantry Officer Course.

The 13-week course is considered one of the toughest in the U.S. military, and one-third of the class dropped out before graduation.

Residents of Iraq's Kurdish region cast their votes today in a controversial independence referendum seen as a way to signal the ethnic minority's desire for self-determination, despite strong opposition from regional and international powers.

The historic poll, which is nonbinding, took place in three northern Kurdish provinces of Iraq, as well as in disputed areas such as the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

A federal judge has sentenced disgraced former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner to 21 months in prison for sending obscene messages to a 15-year-old girl last year.

The sexting case played a role in the 2016 presidential election. Weiner's wife, Huma Abedin, who has filed for divorce, was a top aide to Hillary Clinton.

Berliners have voted to keep the centrally located Tegel Airport open, in a nonbinding referendum that has starkly divided the city.

The margin of victory in Sunday's vote was narrow, with 56 percent of voters supporting the plan. Tegel was built during the Cold War, when Berlin was a divided city, and has been scheduled to close after the opening of a new international airport called Berlin Brandenburg, farther from the city center.

Fossilized dinosaur feces are challenging some basic assumptions about dinosaur eating habits.

Hadrosaurs, a kind of duck-billed dinosaur, are among the most common herbivores of the Cretaceous period. But new research suggests that actually, these animals also chowed down on crustaceans. The prehistoric snacking was likely intentional and linked to mating behaviors.

The scientists found tell-tale crustacean shell pieces in samples of fossilized dinosaur feces about 75 million year old from the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

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