Ashley Westerman

Ashley Westerman is a producer who occasionally directs the show. Since joining the staff in June 2015, she has produced a variety of stories including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. She is also an occasional reporter for Morning Edition, and NPR.org, where she has contributed reports on both domestic and international news.

Ashley was a summer intern in 2011 with Morning Edition and pitched a story on her very first day. She went on to work as a reporter and host for member station 89.3 WRKF in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she earned awards covering everything from healthcare to jambalaya.

Ashley is an East-West Center 2018 Jefferson Fellow and a two-time reporting fellow with the International Center for Journalists. Through ICFJ, she has covered labor issues in her home country of the Philippines for NPR and health care in Appalachia for Voice of America.

A record 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced by war, persecution and other violence worldwide at the end of 2018, according to the latest annual Global Trends report by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

A U.S. permanent resident who was recently released from prison in Iran is finally making his way back to America, where his three sons live.

Nizar Zakka, 52, who is a citizen of Lebanon, was arrested in September 2015 in Tehran while trying to leave the country and charged with spying for the U.S. He denied the charges, but he was sentenced to 10 years in Iran's Evin Prison.

Young adult author Randy Ribay is Filipino American and says his latest book Patron Saints Of Nothing is dedicated to people like him: "The Hyphenated," he calls them. And not just Filipino Americans, Ribay tells NPR's Morning Edition, but also anyone else who would consider themselves more than one thing.

"The difficulty with a dual identity is just trying to figure out what does it mean to be more than one thing in a world where people want you to be one thing," he says.

China and the United States are locked in a trade fight, a technology race and competing world military strategies. Leaders of these countries seem to be pulling the world's two largest economies apart.

These tensions are especially felt by those living with a foot in each country. The NPR special series A Foot In Two Worlds reveals the stories of people affected because of their ties to both nations. Reports from both the U.S. and China show how deeply and broadly the two nations are connected and what's at stake as they reshape their relations.

Centuries ago, the kingdom that made up much of modern-day Laos was called Lan Xang. In English: "Land of a Million Elephants."

Yet while the Asiatic elephant may have endured as a cultural icon for the Lao People's Democratic Republic, the numbers tell a story of a species in crisis.

The Laos government and conservation groups estimate there are only about 800 elephants left in the country — 400 wild elephants, 400 in captivity.

China, known as the world's biggest polluter, has been taking dramatic steps to clean up and fight climate change.

So why is it also building hundreds of coal-fired power plants in other countries?

President Xi Jinping hosted the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing over the weekend, promoting his signature foreign policy of building massive infrastructure and trade links across several continents.

In Southeast Asia's only landlocked country, the Mekong River is a lifeline. From a slow boat heading up the river in Laos, you'll see fishermen working in their boats, riverside farms where bananas grow, and domesticated buffalo lazing. Occasionally a ferry chugs by. From time to time, steps leading to a riverside village become visible on the banks through the foliage. The wind is swift, and the brown fresh water laps up onto the side of the boat.

Just over 9 miles north of Luang Prabang, a startling aberration appears: five giant concrete pylons rising out of the water.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Now let's look south of China's capital 1,600 miles to Laos. China is building a railway in Laos, and our producer, Ashley Westerman, visited.

Ashley, what'd you learn?

Snow leopards and Marco Polo sheep have not been on the agenda for peace talks involving the Taliban, U.S. officials and Afghan opposition figures.

But going forward, should they be?

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Press freedom advocates across Manila, Philippines, including students and some faculty at a handful of universities, have been rallying the past two days following the arrest of journalist Maria Ressa this week.

The award-winning journalist and outspoken critic of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration was arrested Wednesday on charges stemming from coverage by her online news website, Rappler, one of the Philippines' few independent news outlets.

For one Native American tribe whose land straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, President Trump's proposed border wall would, literally, divide its people.

The Tohono O'odham Nation stretches through the desert from just south of Casa Grande in southern Arizona to the U.S. border — and then beyond, into the Mexican state of Sonora. This means that if Trump gets his $5.7 billion border wall, it would cut right through the tribe's land.

Archetypes, not stereotypes.

That's what the creators and cast of the hit play-turned-sitcom Kim's Convenience, the first Canadian TV show with an all-Asian lead cast, have striven for from the beginning. And as the series starts its third season, the CBC production has found lasting success in being both funny and deep.

On a day meant to celebrate Myanmar's independence from Britain 71 years ago, Buddhist insurgents launched attacks on four police posts that killed seven soldiers in the country's restive Rakhine state.

A Taiwan independent from mainland China is not an option, and no person or party can stop the trend toward "unification," Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a policy speech Wednesday.

A new cybersecurity law has gone into effect in Vietnam that puts stringent controls on tech companies operating inside the country and censors what its citizens read online.

The decree, which was passed by the National Assembly in June, requires companies such as Facebook and Google to open offices in Vietnam, store local user data and to hand over information if the government asks for it. It would also require social media companies to remove any content authorities deemed offensive or "toxic."

The state of New York has a new attorney general and she is, literally, like no one who has ever held the office before.

Democrat Letitia James was sworn in as New York's 67th Attorney General late Monday in a ceremony at the state capitol in Albany. James, 60, is the state's first black attorney general and the first woman ever elected to that state-wide office.

Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her ruling alliance have secured another term in power following Bangladesh's general election Sunday, during which the military was deployed and almost 20 people were killed. The results, announced Monday by the Bangladesh Election Commission, have been rejected by the main opposition party, which accuses Hasina's party of rigging the election, according to the Associated Press.

The prairie town of Enid, Okla. — population 50,122 — is best known as the state's "wheat capital." Enid is also home to a community of around 2,000 people who were born in the Marshall Islands. Most are low-income and struggling to get health care.

A flight chartered by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is said to have departed Monday from El Paso, Texas, carrying about three dozen Cambodian immigrants who came to the U.S. legally, but were ordered deported for having committed a crime.

A single season playing football might be all it takes to change a young athlete's brain.

Those are the preliminary findings of research presented this week in Chicago at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

Researchers used special MRI methods to look at nerve bundles in the brain in a study of the brains of 26 young male football players, average age 12, before and after one season. Twenty-six more young males who didn't play football also got MRI scans at the same time to be used as a control group.

Anyone who owns a cat knows the furry beasts can spend an inordinate amount of time grooming themselves. Cats take that sandpaper tongue of theirs and just lick and lick and lick and lick for literally hours a day. But researchers are discovering more about what that tongue, with its hundreds of tiny, backward-facing spines called papillae, is doing.

Chrissy Houlahan has done a lot with her industrial engineering degree over the last 30 years including serving in the Air Force, working in the aircraft manufacturing industry, being the COO of a sports apparel company and even teaching high school chemistry.

Houlahan says her science, technology, engineering and mathematics – or STEM – background has allowed her to be fluid in her career by helping her tackle everyday problems through a unique lens.

Strong, dry winds are expected to continue through the early part of this week in California as the state battles several wildfires.

The Camp Fire in Northern California, which started Thursday, is the state's most destructive fire ever, scorching more than 113,000 acres north of Sacramento and killing 29 people so far, according to state officials on Monday. In Southern California, officials say the Woolsey Fire, which also started Thursday, has killed at least two people and burned more than 91,000 acres.

Roger Chui first learned about the mass shooting that killed 12 people in a packed bar Wednesday night in Thousand Oaks, Calif., when he woke up the morning after and turned on his phone.

"And I was like 'Oh, that seems really soon after Pittsburgh and Louisville,' " says the software developer in Lexington, Ky. "I thought we'd get more of a break."

Chui feels like these kinds of shootings happen in the U.S. so often now that when he hears about them all he can think about is, "Oh well, it happened again I guess."

He's not alone.

The Justice Department has brought criminal charges against two former Goldman Sachs bankers and a Malaysian financier in connection with the financial scandal known as 1MDB, which involved the misuse billions of dollars in Malaysian government funds.

Updated at 9:23 p.m. ET

The U.S. has issued a report condemning the violent crackdown on the Rohingya Muslims by the Myanmar military as "extreme, large-scale, widespread." But the report, issued by the State Department on Monday, notably did not label the mass killings a genocide.

That distinction is an important legal one governing how and whether the International Criminal Court may act in these cases.

Southeast Asia's economy is booming, increasing at an average of 5 percent per year. Thanks to an expanding consumer market, a young, robust workforce and increasing regional cooperation, it's only expected to grow.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So judging by the success of the movie "Crazy Rich Asians," Asian men are hot. Back in 2016, we spoke with filmmakers about how rare that is, seeing sexy Asian men on the big screen. NPR's Ashley Westerman followed up with some of them.

For years, Australia has employed a controversial policy for migrants coming by sea without proper documents for entry: It sends them to offshore holding facilities.

The law was passed in 2013, during a time when many refugees and migrants were attempting to cross the ocean from Indonesia to reach Australia. Many died or went missing en route. Those caught by Australian authorities were transferred to centers on Australia's Christmas Island, the island nation of Nauru and Manus Island, which is part of Papua New Guinea.

Major issues such as trade, security and China's expansion are up for discussion when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo travels to Southeast Asia this week. On the first leg of his trip, in Malaysia, he'll be checking in on a new government for the first time.

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