Rob Schmitz

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.

Prior to covering Europe, Schmitz provided award-winning coverage of China for a decade, reporting on the country's economic rise and increasing global influence. His reporting on China's impact beyond its borders took him to countries such as Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. Inside China, he's interviewed elderly revolutionaries, young rappers, and live-streaming celebrity farmers who make up the diverse tapestry of one of the most fascinating countries on the planet. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road (Crown/Random House 2016), a profile of individuals who live, work, and dream along a single street that runs through the heart of China's largest city. The book won several awards and has been translated into half a dozen languages. In 2018, China's government banned the Chinese version of the book after its fifth printing. The following year it was selected as a finalist for the Ryszard Kapuściński Award, Poland's most prestigious literary prize.

Schmitz has won numerous awards for his reporting on China, including two national Edward R. Murrow Awards and an Education Writers Association Award. His work was also a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. His reporting in Japan — from the hardest-hit areas near the failing Fukushima nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami — was included in the publication 100 Great Stories, celebrating the centennial of Columbia University's Journalism School. In 2012, Schmitz exposed the fabrications in Mike Daisey's account of Apple's supply chain on This American Life. His report was featured in the show's "Retraction" episode. In 2011, New York's Rubin Museum of Art screened a documentary Schmitz shot in Tibetan regions of China about one of the last living Tibetans who had memorized "Gesar of Ling," an epic poem that tells of Tibet's ancient past.

From 2010 to 2016, Schmitz was the China correspondent for American Public Media's Marketplace. He's also worked as a reporter for NPR Member stations KQED, KPCC and MPR. Prior to his radio career, Schmitz lived and worked in China — first as a teacher for the Peace Corps in the 1990s, and later as a freelance print and video journalist. He also lived in Spain for two years. He speaks Mandarin and Spanish. He has a bachelor's degree in Spanish literature from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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At first glance, swimmers along Germany's Baltic coast thought the creature swimming toward them was a dog. A sailor had seen the animal, too, miles away from shore in the open sea, and thought it was a porpoise. But they were all mistaken. It was a wild boar.

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In Germany, it's been the summer of the wild boar. Boars are native to Germany. And videos of their antics keep showing up on social media, which is funny, but it's not entirely funny. Here's NPR's Rob Schmitz.

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Updated at 2 p.m. ET

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny was poisoned with a variant of Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, according to tests carried out by a German military laboratory. A German government spokesman said the evidence is "without a doubt."

Navalny "is the victim of a crime that intended to silence him," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a news conference Wednesday about the findings. The crime, she said, was an "attempted murder."

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Among the twisting alleys of the St. Pauli district in Hamburg is the Reeperbahn, Germany's busiest red-light district. One stretch, Herbertstrasse, is blocked off to women who aren't sex workers. This part of Hamburg is nicknamed in German "die sündigste Meile," or "the most sinful mile." But for the first time in two centuries, this mile is less sinful than ever, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.

Updated at 2 p.m. ET

Alexei Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critics, was poisoned by an unknown substance from a group of drugs that affect the nervous system, according to the German hospital that is treating the Russian opposition leader.

The drug is a cholinesterase inhibitor, meaning it disrupts the body's ability to break down acetylcholine — an important neurotransmitter in the brain and body.

Navalny remains in a medically induced coma in intensive care.

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In 1963, 11-year-old Klaus Teuber received a gift that would change his life: a board game. "When I opened the box of the game, I liked the scent of the game," he remembers, inhaling deeply. "Ah, so wonderful! There is adventure in this box!"

It was a game of Romans versus Carthaginians. "It was a tabletop game with wonderful painted figures, and you had to role the dice to fight against the others," Teuber recalls.

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On Sunday, Poland will hold its presidential election. The two frontrunners are the incumbent nationalist president and the young, progressive mayor of Warsaw. As Rob Schmitz reports, the stakes are high.

Less than a month after President Trump vowed to stop funding the World Health Organization, Germany and France say they will contribute financial backing to the agency in its fight against the coronavirus.

Germany promised to give 500 million euros (over $560 million) in funding and equipment to the WHO this year, as the country assumes the presidency of the European Union.

Germany, a country of more than 83 million people, has flattened its coronavirus curve, dropping from a peak of more than 6,000 new cases a day to just around 600 now. Contact tracing by telephone is one tool the country has relied on.

"Public Health Authority, Pankow," says an operator, answering her phone before the first ring is over and identifying the Berlin district where she works. "So," she confirms with the caller, "you've had contact with someone who's tested positive."

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Germany has had notable success in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. One reason for that is contact tracers - armies of tracers. NPR's Rob Schmitz reports from the frontlines.

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President Trump complained yesterday that Germany needs to contribute more to the NATO alliance.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They owe NATO billions of dollars. And they have to pay it.

People on both sides of the Atlantic are waiting for official confirmation whether the U.S. will pull 9,500 troops out of Germany — over a third of its total 34,500 troop presence in the country.

The possible proposal was first reported June 5 by The Wall Street Journal. A U.S. official confirmed to NPR the plan exists, but no orders have been issued.

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