KASU

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.

On an island eight miles off Puerto Rico's coast, homes sit destroyed on hillsides and many of its nearly 9,000 residents still wait for federal aid. Vieques' hospital is operating out of tents in a parking lot. And the island is facing the prospect of six more months without electricity from Puerto Rico's main grid.

The island's bleak trajectory epitomizes the unevenness of the disaster relief effort in the hurricane-devastated U.S. territory, where metropolitan areas such as San Juan are showing clear signs of recovery.

Nearly three months after Hurricane Maria, parts of Puerto Rico are showing clear signs of recovery. But in Vieques, a remote island with nearly 9,000 residents eight miles off the main island's coast, recovery is a long way off. There, some live in dingy conditions as they wait for help to rebuild, while others gather what they can to do it themselves.

Gregorio Velazquez Rivera, an 81-year-old who is blind, has left his destroyed home — which is totally unlivable — virtually untouched in the months since the hurricane.

Outside Puerto Rico's capital, a three-story-high mountain of debris and waste sits smack in the middle of what was a suburban soccer field before Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Blue bleachers peek out from the edge of the trash pile, as a line of trucks rolls in to dump even more tree branches and moldy furniture. Workmen wearing yellow hard hats operate diggers to add the new waste to the growing pile in the center of the field.

A jittery group of middle-schoolers is about to start the first day of classes since September, when Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and totally disrupted the island's school system.

The vast majority of the island's public schools — more than 98 percent — are open for at least part of the day, according to Puerto Rico's Department of Education.

In 2006, the U.S. military purchased $12.1 million worth of inspection equipment for five border posts in Afghanistan in an effort to crack down on illicit drug smuggling and boost customs duty revenues to the Afghan government.

After operation, training and maintenance costs, the total investment for the equipment to date is estimated at up to $62.6 million.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up a case challenging the use of a Confederate emblem on the Mississippi state flag.

Carlos Moore, an African-American lawyer from Mississippi who petitioned the court, had argued in court documents that the flag, visible in state buildings, courts and schools, symbolically expresses support for white supremacy. The flag incorporates the Confederate battle flag in its upper left corner.

The Department of Justice has opened a probe into the role of race in Harvard University's admissions policies and is threatening to sue unless Harvard turns over documents by a Dec. 1 deadline, according to correspondence obtained by NPR.

Della Reese, a performer and pastor best known for her starring role on the CBS spiritual drama Touched by an Angel, has died at 86.

"Her signature television role came late in life," NPR's Eric Deggans reported. "Reese already had been famous for decades as a gospel-influenced R&B performer, TV guest star and talk show fixture."

After a Japanese man was killed early Sunday in a car crash involving a U.S. service member, U.S. forces in Japan are prohibited indefinitely from purchasing or drinking alcohol.

NPR CEO Jarl Mohn is going on medical leave for at least one month.

It comes less than a week after the ouster of NPR's head of news, Michael Oreskes, over sexual harassment allegations by multiple women.

The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is calling for an investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan.

The scope of such an investigation isn't clear, but it could have the potential to involve U.S. troops. Fatou Bensouda said in a statement that she has decided to request authorization to open a formal investigation. ICC judges would then decide whether the situation meets the court's criteria.

Updated at 4:15 p.m. ET

A military judge has ruled that Bowe Bergdahl, who has pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, should serve no prison time.

During a hearing Friday in Fort Bragg, N.C., Bergdahl was sentenced to dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of $1,000 in pay per month and a reduction in rank from sergeant to private, according to a statement from the Army.

Defense lawyers and prosecutors made their closing arguments at the sentencing of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, with prosecutors seeking 14 years in prison and defense lawyers asking for no prison time and a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.

During the last two weeks of the sentencing hearing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the military court has heard about three soldiers who were wounded while searching for Bergdahl after he walked off his military post in Afghanistan in 2009.

Updated at 5:30 p.m. ET

NPR's senior vice president for news, Michael Oreskes, has resigned following allegations of sexual harassment from several women.

The accounts of two women, first published by The Washington Post, describe Oreskes unexpectedly kissing them during meetings in the late 1990s, while he was Washington bureau chief for The New York Times. An NPR employee has also come forward publicly about harassment that allegedly occurred during a business meeting-turned-dinner in 2015.

Updated on Nov. 2 at 5:45 p.m. ET

The majority of U.S. funding for Afghanistan reconstruction has gone to supporting the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces, totaling more than $63 billion.

But it's now going to be significantly harder for the public to understand how the U.S.-supported Afghan forces are faring in the fight against the Taliban.

Pages