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.

TOKYO — They were called the "COVID Olympics." The "pandemic Olympics." The "anger Olympics." Many Japanese people were upset to host such a huge and risky event in the middle of the pandemic, and many outside observers were surprised it happened at all.

Updated August 6, 2021 at 10:50 AM ET

TOKYO – U.S. star Allyson Felix now has the most Olympic medals ever for a female track athlete, after winning a new bronze medal on Friday in the 400 meters at the Tokyo Olympics.

This is Felix's fifth Olympics and her 10th medal. She first competed in Athens in 2004 and has medaled in every Summer Games since then.

"This one is very different, and it's very special. And it just took a lot to get here," Felix said after the race.

Updated August 3, 2021 at 8:32 AM ET

TOKYO — After pulling out of multiple events to focus on her mental health, U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles was back on the mat for Tuesday's balance beam final at the Tokyo Olympics. And she won a bronze medal.

"I wasn't expecting to walk away with a medal. I was just going out there to do this for me and whatever happens, happens," Biles said after competition, adding that it "just meant the world to be back out there."

Updated August 2, 2021 at 9:19 AM ET

U.S. star gymnast Simone Biles will return for the final women's artistic gymnastic event of the Tokyo Olympics, after multiple withdrawals to focus on her mental health.

"We are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow - Suni Lee AND Simone Biles!!" USA Gymnastics said. "Can't wait to watch you both!"

Updated July 28, 2021 at 12:01 AM ET

TOKYO — Katie Ledecky has won her first gold of the Tokyo Olympics, in the 1,500 meter freestyle race. She took silver in her first race of the Games, and then missed out on medaling in the 200 meter freestyle.

After the race, she talked about the immense pressure she feels to meet the sky-high expectations on her — and the pressure she places on herself. Other stars such as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka are opening up about the difficulties of being in the spotlight.

Updated July 28, 2021 at 3:05 AM ET

TOKYO — U.S. superstar gymnast Simone Biles, the greatest gymnast of all time, will not compete in the individual all-around gymnastics final at the Summer Olympics on Thursday.

The Olympic individual all-around is the sport's marquee individual event, and she won by a huge margin at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Updated July 27, 2021 at 11:09 AM ET

TOKYO — The U.S. women's gymnastics team has taken silver in the women's team final, behind the team from Russia, after U.S. star Simone Biles suddenly pulled out of competition after the first rotation to focus on her mental health.

This marks the first time in a decade that the U.S. women's team has not come out on top in major international competition. The U.S. has won every Olympics and World Championships event since 2011.

Updated July 26, 2021 at 10:22 AM ET

TOKYO — U.S. beach volleyball player Jake Gibb was facing a nightmare scenario at the Tokyo Games.

The four-time Olympian, 45, has been paired with Taylor Crabb since 2017. They were the top U.S. men's team to make it to the Olympics, after an arduous qualification process that started nearly three years ago.

TOKYO — If you've been tuning in to Olympic events, you might have noticed that every medal winner carries a small bouquet of yellow, green and deep-blue flowers tied with a blue bow.

But they're more than just flowers. The elements of the bouquet carry a deeper story, and they are years in the making.

They're meant to symbolize Japan rising from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which left about 20,000 people dead or missing. Homes were swept away and whole areas were deserted.

TOKYO — Just a day before the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese organizers have dismissed the show's director over past comments about the Holocaust. It's yet another setback for the troubled event on the same week that the ceremony's composer was forced out.

It's not clear yet how the last-minute departure of director Kentaro Kobayashi is going to affect the ceremony, which is expected to be an elaborate production unfolding over the course of three hours on Friday morning ET.

Updated July 21, 2021 at 8:21 AM ET

TOKYO — It was a devastating start to the Tokyo Olympics for the U.S. women's soccer team. The U.S., ranked No. 1 and the reigning World Cup champions, played a familiar foe: Sweden. And unfortunately for the U.S., it was a familiar result. Sweden beat them 3-0.

Updated July 20, 2021 at 1:10 PM ET

TOKYO — The Tokyo Summer Olympics are here.

The start of the largest event in sports after a year postponement is a sign of hope for many. But critics view holding the Games during pandemic times as an unacceptable risk to the world's top athletes and the Japanese people.

TOKYO — U.S. tennis star Coco Gauff will no longer lead the U.S. tennis team at the Tokyo Olympics. She has announced that she tested positive for the coronavirus, dashing her hopes of competing in the Games.

"It has always been a dream of mine to represent the USA at the Olympics, and I hope there will be many more chances for me to make this come true in the future," the 17-year-old said in a statement on her Twitter account.

Updated July 19, 2021 at 1:15 PM ET

TOKYO — Kara Eaker, an alternate for the U.S. women's gymnastics team, has tested positive for the coronavirus. USA Gymnastics said the rest of the team, which includes superstar Simone Biles, is continuing to prepare for the Games.

Updated June 30, 2021 at 5:36 PM ET

Comedian Bill Cosby has been released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Wednesday vacated the indecent assault conviction against him.

The court's decision upends the long-running legal battle against the once-beloved actor, whose conviction marked a major milestone in the #MeToo movement after he was accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women stretching back decades.

Updated April 3, 2021 at 11:53 AM ET

One U.S. Capitol Police officer is dead and another is hospitalized with injuries after an apparent attack Friday at a Capitol checkpoint in which a man rammed his car into officers and lunged at them with a knife, police said.

Capitol Police identified the slain officer as William "Billy" Evans, an 18-year veteran of the force.

Updated March 26, 2021 at 11:14 AM ET

Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, saying the network spread false claims that the voting machine company was involved in voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election.

Umpires will have a little help behind home plate in some minor league games this season – from a "robot ump."

Updated at 2:30 a.m. ET Wednesday

Golfer Tiger Woods is "awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room" after undergoing surgery following a dramatic traffic accident Tuesday morning in Los Angeles County, according to an update on his Twitter account.

When Super Bowl LV kicks off next month in Tampa Bay, Fla., some special guests will be in attendance – thousands of health care workers from around the country.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET

As airlines try to coax back customers wary of flying during the COVID-19 pandemic, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines are bowing to consumer demand and getting rid of many change fees.

United announced the change on Sunday, and Delta and American followed suit on Monday afternoon.

Updated at 1 p.m. ET

College basketball has lost a legend. John Thompson Jr., who turned Georgetown University's men's basketball team into a juggernaut and became the first Black coach to win a national men's college basketball title, has died. He was 78.

Thompson's family confirmed his death in a statement released by Georgetown University but did not provide additional details.

Updated at 3:45 p.m.

China will close its borders to foreigners starting on Saturday, March 28, in a dramatic step to try to stop the coronavirus coming in from abroad.

The move is the latest in a string of tough steps by the Chinese government to combat the virus, which first appeared in the city of Wuhan late last year and has spread widely since.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that because of the coronavirus pandemic, he is delaying a constitutional referendum that could allow him to stay in power until 2036. The vote had been scheduled for April 22.

"You know that this is a very serious matter for me," Putin said in a speech on Wednesday. "However...our absolute priority is the health, life and safety of the people. This is why I believe the vote should be postponed."

Authorities are calling in the army to Italy's hardest-hit region to help enforce orders that people stay at home, as the country registers its largest death toll in a single day since the start of the outbreak.

"Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana said the Rome government has agreed to deploy the army in his region to ensure compliance," NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reported. "Officials complain that there are simply too many people still on the streets with no justification."

The State Department says it is organizing repatriation flights for U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are having trouble leaving Morocco because of travel restrictions prompted to fight the coronavirus crisis.

"Today, as we speak, Mission Morocco is supporting the repatriation via chartered flight of more than 1,000 American citizens stranded in Morocco as that country halted its air, land and maritime links in order to slow the virus's spread," David Schenker, the Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs, told reporters.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

U.S. taxpayers will have a three-month extension to file their taxes because of the coronavirus pandemic, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday.

He said that at the president's direction, "we are moving Tax Day from April 15 to July 15."

"All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties," Mnuchin added.

At the same time, he encouraged people who are set to receive refunds to file earlier so that they can get their money more quickly.

Updated at 2:45 p.m. ET

Trump administration officials say nonessential travel between the U.S. and Mexico will halt as of Saturday to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

"The United States and Mexico have agreed to restrict nonessential travel over our shared border," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters Friday.

Brazil's famed Christ the Redeemer statue was lit up with the flags of countries that have reported positive coronavirus tests, as cases of the virus spread around the world.

The giant statue of Jesus Christ, which stands nearly 100 feet tall and overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro, also showed images of the continents afflicted. Images of the words "pray together" in many languages were also projected onto the statue on Wednesday.

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