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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.

"This is Europe's moment," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament today, as she proposed a massive fund to help Europe recover from the coronavirus pandemic. "Things we take for granted are being questioned. None of that can be fixed by any single country alone."

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Arne Garlipp has farmed his 150 acres of asparagus in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt for 24 years. For much of that time, he has relied on seasonal workers to help harvest it each spring.

"Our Romanian workers live with us on the farm," says Garlipp. "In the fields, they're surrounded by fresh air, birds and very few people."

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Police cracked down on large anti-shutdown protests in cities across Germany over the weekend.

The coronavirus pandemic has plunged Europe's largest economy into recession. Official figures show Germany's economy shrank by 2.2% in the first three months of this year. It's the biggest quarterly fall since 2009 when the global financial crisis ravaged the country's economy.

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Germany's federal government says the Bundesliga will be the first of Europe's major soccer leagues to resume its season later this month, after play was postponed in March. The German League said the first matches would take place on May 16.

The league has nine matches remaining, and it's committed to end the season by June 30. According to its agreement with Germany's Federal Health Ministry, players will submit to frequent COVID-19 testing and fans will have to watch matches on TV. The public will not be allowed inside or outside stadiums to watch the matches.

As British scholar Richard Evans researched the history of pandemics for a book more than 30 years ago, he was struck by the uniformity of how governments from different cultures and different historical periods responded.

"Almost every epidemic you can think of, the first reaction of any government is to say, 'No, no, it's not here. We haven't got it,'" he says. "Or 'it's only mild' or 'it's not going to have a big effect.'"

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Wearing face masks on public transportation and in shops became mandatory in much of Germany on Monday, with some regions imposing fines on those who don't.

The requirement comes a week after small shops in much of the country were allowed to reopen and follows a monthlong government-imposed lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19. Germany has the world's fifth-highest number of confirmed cases, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has implemented strict social distancing rules, limiting public gatherings to two people and canceling public events.

Updated on April 28 at 10:30 a.m. ET

In the pre-COVID-19 era, Michael Crotty's company, Golden Pacific Fashion and Design, based in Shanghai, sold curtains. But since the global economy ground to a halt, nobody's buying curtains. They're buying masks.

"It's pandemonium at its highest level," says Crotty. "It's the Wild West and it really is a unique situation where these factories that can make these goods are in the driver's seat at the moment."

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Germany is carrying out Europe's first large-scale COVID-19 antibody testing to monitor infection rates and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Wearing a black baseball cap, black shirt and black pants, DJ Tommy Four Seven bobs his head to the beat as his hands move over the turntables like a nimble chef juggling four scorching frying pans at once. He looks lost in his own musical world. And that's probably a good thing, because nobody in sight is dancing.

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she welcomes the development of a European COVID-19 tracing app that protects data and doesn't store the location of its users.

The app, developed by a European initiative, uses Bluetooth to log a user's proximity to other cellphones. Users then receive a message if they've been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

In Germany, nearly half a million companies have applied for government funds to support employees with reduced work hours, as the country with the largest economy in Europe pushes to contain the new coronavirus.

Heavy restrictions on public life, an export slump because of nations' lockdowns and broken supply chains throughout industry have meant millions of Germany's workers are eligible for public financial aid.

When news broke of an epidemic in Wuhan, China, German scientist Christian Drosten was soon in great demand.

Drosten is one of the world's leading experts on coronaviruses, and, back in 2003, he and a colleague were the first Western scientists to discover SARS after China hid information about that outbreak.

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As confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Germany soared past 10,000 last week, hundreds of Berliners crowded Volkspark am Friedrichshain to play soccer and basketball, and to let their kids loose on the park's many jungle gyms.

The conditions seemed ideal for the spread of a virus that has killed thousands. Indeed, as of Wednesday, Germany had the fifth-highest number of cases.

Yet Germany's fatality rate so far — just 0.5% — is the world's lowest, by a long shot.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put herself under self-quarantine after learning that her doctor who had vaccinated her against pneumonia on Friday has tested positive for COVID-19.

Merkel will be tested regularly in the coming days as she plans to carry out her duties from home, and Germany's government will continue to operate as planned, with Merkel's cabinet set to meet Monday to discuss a stimulus package of roughly $160 billion to help keep Germany afloat as it suffers from the pandemic.

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