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.

Taliban militants wiped out almost an entire Afghan Army base in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, leaving just two Afghan soldiers there uninjured. This brings the week's toll to more than 120 people killed by the militant group.

The attack, which started late Wednesday, killed at least 43 Afghan soldiers and wounded nine, reporter Jennifer Glasse in Kabul tells our Newscast unit.

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.

In October 1971, South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Timol died under suspicious circumstances in police custody. An inquest the next year found that he committed suicide by jumping out of a 10th floor window at a Johannesburg police station.

But today, a Pretoria judge reversed that finding, saying that Timol was murdered and that the apartheid police holding and interrogating him were responsible.

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.

The only known Leonardo da Vinci painting in private hands is heading to auction.

The portrait of Jesus Christ, Salvator Mundi, was only recently confirmed to be by Leonardo. This piece was thought to be a copy of a destroyed original. And it's still not clear where the painting was, exactly, for more than a century.

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.

Updated at 8:23 p.m. ET

In central San Juan, Puerto Rico, a policeman waves cars away from a closed freeway at about the time that President Trump landed at the airport.

Over a San Juan freeway overpass, near the low-income Playita community, there's a sign that reads, "SOS Playita Needs Water and Food."

It was a cry for help put up by residents who say they waited more than a week after the storm without receiving any outside aid.

There was a feeling, says 21-year-old Edison Rodriguez, that his community was "running out of time. That you can only have so much water, so much food [between] each other. That's why they put out those signs outside."

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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.

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