Ashley Westerman | WAMC

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.

Clarisa Andres, a petite 22-year-old, hasn't been home in over a month. She's homesick, but she says she can cope.

She's an emergency medical technician with the San Juan Early Response Network – one of the few women on the 63-member team – and the pandemic has amped up their work of responding to medical emergencies. They work 24-hour shifts, 7 days a week and when they're on call, they live in a dorm with other health-care workers.

The Philippines' Health Department says it will no longer allow local governments to announce which brand of coronavirus vaccines will be available at inoculation sites.

The move comes after hundreds of people this week lined up at a site in Manila when they found out the Pfizer vaccine would be given out there.

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At the Grammys last month, there was a special guest during the performance of rapper Lil Baby's song "The Bigger Picture."

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On Monday, Australia and New Zealand launched their long-anticipated travel bubble that will allow residents of each country to visit the other without having to quarantine upon arrival.

Emotional videos capturing long-awaited reunions in arrival halls in various airports across Australia and New Zealand have been circulating online since the first passengers touched down. Thousands are reported to have made the journey across the Tasman Sea in the bubble's opening first day.

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On Thursday, Palau and Taiwan launched what is being touted as "Asia's first travel bubble," with an inaugural flight from Taipei landing at Palau International Airport just after 7:30 p.m. local time.

Palau has recorded zero cases of coronavirus infection, and Taiwan has kept the virus largely in check since the start of the pandemic.

Bethany Long Newman says she saw herself in the victims of last week's shooting outside of Atlanta, when a gunman rampaged through three spas and killed eight people. Of the eight victims, six were women of Asian descent.

"When I first heard about it, I was immediately scared," says Newman, 32, of Chicago. "You kind of put yourself in their shoes a bit and think: This would happen to me — or my daughter."

For the first time in over two decades, the Pacific island territory of New Caledonia has a government made up mostly of pro-independence politicians, a historic turnover that analysts say could edge it toward becoming independent from France.

As President Biden pushes to get U.S. schools fully open soon, an art exhibit aims to help people visualize what it means that they're closed.

This month's military coup in Myanmar has made an already dire situation for Rohingya refugees even worse, say human rights activists. Now, prospects are even more unlikely for hundreds of thousands to return to Myanmar from sprawling camps in neighboring Bangladesh.

"The coup is obviously good for no one," says Matthew Smith, cofounder of the human rights advocacy group Fortify Rights. "But for the Rohingya, the risk is heightened. This is the military regime responsible for the atrocities over many, many years."

Myanmar's economy could take a significant hit following this week's military coup, analysts say, as the U.S. mulls fresh sanctions and foreign investors appear rattled — potentially putting billions of dollars' worth of business investments at risk for the Southeast Asian country.

The Black Lives Matter movement became an international phenomenon in 2020. As protesters took to the streets in cities across the U.S. in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis, Minn., so did demonstrators in other countries — all with a similar message: Black lives matter.

"There is a George Floyd in every country," South Africa-based journalist Lynsey Chutel tells NPR's David Greene during a recent roundtable interview.

Dr. Amir Khalil is no stranger to helping animals out of really bad situations. The 55-year-old Egyptian-born veterinarian, who works with the Vienna-based animal welfare group Four Paws International, has been rescuing animals from crumbling zoos and conflict zones such as Syria and the Gaza Strip for more than two decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy appear set for another five years in power, and analysts expect to see few changes in her second term.

Myanmar's general election, held on Sunday, was the Southeast Asian nation's second since the military relinquished absolute power in 2011. It was largely seen as a referendum on Suu Kyi's first term as state counsellor, which began after her party's landslide electoral victory in 2015.

The last time Mustapha Alauya L. Pacasum saw his ancestral home standing was three years ago.

The spacious three-story concrete house in his hometown of Marawi, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, was built in 1971. Pacasum, a 37-year-old political aide, still remembers the smell of the large living room.

"It had a distinctive old wood smell and visitors sometimes imagine it as a haunted house because of the large painting displayed in the center of the sala [living room]," he says. "I miss it so much."

Freshman Taylor Vibbert has always wanted to be in a sorority. When she signed up to rush this fall at Western Kentucky University, she was looking forward to the fanfair, house tours and meet-and-greets.

Then she got some bad news: Greek recruitment would be mostly virtual this year.

"That was a bummer," the 18-year-old from Louisville, Ky., said in early August. "Honestly, if I would have known, I probably wouldn't have signed up."

Vibbert was concerned she would be more outgoing in-person than over the computer, but she was willing to see how it goes.

"In a battle for facts, in a battle for truth, journalism is activism," says Philippine journalist Maria Ressa.

Ressa, who is internationally known and lauded for standing up to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's escalating attacks on the press, tells NPR that circumstances in the Philippines have forced her to evolve as a journalist.

If you spend any time on social media, you know it can be a war of words out there. Whether it's the debate over wearing masks, the racial unrest sweeping across the U.S. or the impending presidential election — everyone's got an opinion and someone is always ready to give a hot take.

New leadership has taken over at a company known for a particular brand of cute.

Shintaro Tsuji, the 92-year-old founder of Sanrio, the Japanese company that created Hello Kitty, handed over the reins to his 31-year-old grandson Tomokuni Tsuji, who officially became Sanrio's president and CEO on July 1. It's the first leadership change in the company's 60-year history.

Johnson & Johnson has announced it will discontinue two lines of skin-lightening products popular in Asia, making it one of the latest major companies to change business tactics seen as racist amid the global debate over racial inequality.

There's something about the video of the George Floyd killing that makes it very specific to the Twin Cities.

The video shows a white police officer and a black male victim — a familiar dynamic in similar videos and killings seen nationwide — but there's a third identifiable person: an Asian American officer seen running interference with the crowd and standing watch. He's now-former Minneapolis police officer Tou Thao, a Hmong American — which is how you know this isn't "any" city. It's Minneapolis.

The best thing about being 17, according to Shawn Richardson, is freedom.

"I'm able to go out more with my friends," he says. "I can do things solo."

Shawn is a rising high school senior in Minneapolis. School is fine, but what he really loves is track. His friend timed him running the 100-meter dash in 10.71 seconds.

The track season was canceled because of COVID-19. But if he can run that time officially, he will have the school record. Distance running isn't his thing. Shawn is a sprinter.

"It's like gathering energy and then just letting it go," he says.

It's graduation season. But thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, ceremonies are likely to be anything but typical for the class of 2020. For seniors at Webster County High School in Dixon, Ky., that meant a no-contact, drive-through ceremony.

Officials in the Lao People's Democratic Republic say they are ready to further lift lockdown restrictions. Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia's only landlocked country have remained steady at 19 for over a month, and there are zero reported deaths.

The Bangladeshi government has quarantined 28 Rohingya Muslims on a cyclone- and flood-prone island in the Bay of Bengal, citing fears of exposing residents of the country's sprawling refugee camps to COVID-19.

Officials say the group — mostly women and children — had been stranded at sea for weeks, reportedly trying to get to Malaysia.

Indonesia now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in all of Southeast Asia, according to numbers released by the government on Friday.

The Health Ministry in Jakarta reports 5,923 positive cases — following the country's largest daily jump of more than 400 new infections since Thursday. COVID-19 has killed 520 people in Indonesia. In the region, only China, where the novel coronavirus originated, has a higher death toll.

Just months ago, David and Michaela Parker felt like they were finally nearing the end of their two-year journey to adopt twins Ariella and Claira from Chad.

As COVID-19 cases in the remote Pacific climb, it turns out that even natural isolation is no match against this pandemic.

Glenn Hurst didn't grow up dreaming of becoming a doctor. But eventually, he made his way into health care, taking a job placing doctors in small towns. Traveling farm country, he says, the work moved him in ways he didn't expect.

"To see the physicians in those communities helping those people stay in their fields, helping those people's families be safe ... I decided that I wanted to be part of something rural and I wanted to be part of health care," he says.

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