Anthony Kuhn

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Bejing, China, covering the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Throughout his coverage he has taken an interest in China's rich traditional culture and its impact on the current day. He has recorded the sonic calling cards of itinerant merchants in Beijing's back alleys, and the descendants of court musicians of the Tang Dynasty. He has profiled petitioners and rights lawyers struggling for justice, and educational reformers striving to change the way Chinese think.

From 2010-2013, Kuhn was NPR's Southeast Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Among other stories, he explored Borneo and Sumatra, and witnessed the fight to preserve the biodiversity of the world's oldest forests. He also followed Myanmar's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, as she rose from political prisoner to head of state.

During a previous tour in China from 2006-2010, Kuhn covered the Beijing Olympics, and the devastating Sichuan earthquake that preceded it. He looked at life in the heart of Lhasa, Tibet's capital, and the recovery of Japan's northeast coast after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Kuhn served as NPR's correspondent in London from 2004-2005, covering stories including the London subway bombings, and the marriage of the Prince of Wales to the Duchess of Cornwall.

Besides his major postings, Kuhn's journalistic horizons have been expanded by various short-term assignments. These produced stories including wartime black humor in Iraq, musical diplomacy by the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang, North Korea, a kerfuffle over the plumbing in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Pakistani artists' struggle with religious extremism in Lahore, and the Syrian civil war's spillover into neighboring Lebanon.

Previous to joining NPR, Kuhn wrote for the Far Eastern Economic Review and freelanced for various news outlets, including the Los Angeles Times and Newsweek. He majored in French Literature as an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, and later did graduate work at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies in Nanjing.

British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was not only a key figure in developing the theory of evolution in the mid-19th century but also had the foresight to call for saving endangered species.

Wallace, who died 100 years ago this year, did his most important research in the rich biodiversity of Indonesia, and his plea for preservation is even more compelling than when he wrote it.

Ask most folks who came up with the theory of evolution, and they'll tell you it was Charles Darwin.

In fact, Alfred Russel Wallace, another British naturalist, was a co-discoverer of the theory — though Darwin has gotten most of the credit. Wallace died 100 years ago this year.

The town of Meiktila in central Myanmar presents a tranquil scene on a hot April day: A woman presses juice from sugar cane while customers loll around in the midday heat. The town is right in the center of the country, on a broad and arid plain where white cows graze among palm trees and pointy pagodas. It's a bustling trading post on the road between the capital, Naypyidaw, and the country's second-largest city, Mandalay.

For centuries, Asia has been home to sophisticated vegetarian cultures. In recent years, Americans have gradually discovered cooking with meat substitutes like tofu and an Indonesia soybean cake called tempeh.

Tempeh is known for being versatile. There's an almost endless variety of ways to cook it. My favorite is perhaps one of the simplest: Cut it into thin slices, cover it in spices and crushed coriander seeds, and pan-fry it in a little oil until it's golden brown.

Last year, Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was greeted by adoring crowds during triumphant tours of Asia, the U.S. and Europe. She eclipsed President Thein Sein, who remained in Burma, as the country is also known, and managed a series of domestic crises.

For decades, Myanmar was isolated diplomatically, an economic backwater that seemed almost frozen in time amid a Southeast Asian region that was modernizing at a rapid pace.

But the political reforms under way in Myanmar, also known as Burma, are redefining its place in the world. President Obama's visit in November was a sign of the dramatic turnaround in relations with the United States.

Tucked away in a back street of Semarang, a city in Indonesia's Central Java province, is a tiny, four-table restaurant. In the cramped kitchen, Mahmudi Haryono whips up a plate of ribs — lunch for two customers.

He brings it out and serves it to two Indonesian soldiers in olive drab uniforms.

Haryono is smiling and cool as a cucumber. But he acknowledges that after getting out of jail a few years ago, serving men in uniform set butterflies aflutter in his stomach.

For the past few weeks a team of scientists, archaeologists and documentary makers has been digging at Yangon's international airport in Myanmar, also known as Burma. They are searching for a legendary trove of Spitfire fighter planes, said to have been buried in Burma in the waning days of World War II.

At a clean and sunny community center in Seoul, the South Korean capital, senior citizens make clay models of their own faces in an arts class. Some of the faces are vivid and lifelike. Others are expressionless and indistinct. The project is intended to help the seniors remember what they look like.

This is the Gangseo District Center for Dementia. Since 2006, Seoul has opened a dementia center in each of the city's 25 urban districts.

Residents give a boisterous welcome to Jakarta's newly elected governor, Joko Widodo, when he shows up for a town meeting with the residents of a Jakarta slum where residents' shacks overlook the muddy, garbage-strewn waters of the Ciliwung River.

The governor's administration plans to fix chronic flooding here by dredging the river and moving residents into subsidized apartments.

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Her presidential campaign rallies present blaring pop music and dancing supporters, but Park Geun-hye's campaign involves managing some tricky legacies.

Her father, Park Chung-hee, was a military dictator who ran the country from the time he carried out a 1961 military coup until his assassination in 1979. His memory still stirs mixed emotions among South Koreans.

One of the holiest sites in Christendom has also been one of the most contested. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem lies on the site where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified and buried.

Multiple Christian denominations share the church uneasily, and clerics sometimes come to blows over the most minor of disputes. The Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syriac Orthodox all have a presence in the church.

Across the West Bank, olive harvesting season is drawing to a close once again. But this year, the usually joyous occasion has become grimly purposeful because the Palestinian economy, according to some economists, is being held hostage to politics, and is on the verge of collapse.

In the West Bank village of Deir Ibzie, Amal Karajeh and her husband, Basem, comb through the leaves and branches of an olive tree in their front yard.

The Carousela cafe in West Jerusalem is one of a handful of restaurants and cafes in Israel staging a bit of a rebellion by defying Jewish religious authorities who claim they are the only ones who can certify restaurants as kosher, or in compliance with Jewish dietary laws.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

For more on the politics within the Palestinian territories, we turn now to NPR's Anthony Kuhn in Gaza. He reports that the current conflict has helped unite Palestine's various factions and strengthened Hamas' domestic political position.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The day had started with more intense air attacks between Israel and the militant Hamas rulers of Gaza. Overnight air raids pushed the Palestinian death toll to more than 90, with more than 700 wounded. The numbers on the Israeli side are dramatically lower, with three dead so far.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The governments of Cambodia and the United States are locked in a legal battle with the auction house Sotheby's over a thousand-year-old statue. The two governments say the statue was looted from a temple of the ancient Khmer empire. Sotheby's says this can't be proved, and a court in New York will decide on the matter soon.

The case could affect how collectors and museums acquire artifacts, and how governments recover lost national treasures.

Cambodia's former King Norodom Sihanouk dominated his country's politics through more than a half century of foreign invasion, genocide and civil war.

The monarch of the small Southeast Asian country, who often felt himself better suited to art than to statecraft, died of a heart attack Monday in Beijing, where he was receiving medical treatment. He as 89.

"The King Father," as Sihanouk was known in Cambodia, spent many years in exile in the Chinese capital, beginning in 1970.

A court in Cambodia has convicted a prominent journalist and pro-democracy activist on charges of convincing villagers in eastern Cambodia to rise up and declare independence from the country. Civic groups say the case is part of a worrying trend of government efforts to stifle freedom of expression, and attempts to take land away from farmers.

Hundreds of supporters vented their fury outside the courthouse Monday as judges sentenced Mam Sonando to 20 years in jail. Speaking before the verdict, his wife, Dinn Phanara, says the case was politically motivated.

After decades of enforced silence, Singaporeans who spent years in jail without charges or trial are shattering a political taboo by speaking out about their detention — and the colonial-era security laws that made it possible.

The affluent trading hub — known for its solid rule of law — still allows the government to detain citizens indefinitely.

But people who say that the laws were used to abuse them and silence their dissenting voices are now talking — which many see as a foreshadowing of bigger political changes for Southeast Asia's wealthiest nation.

For the past six years in a row, the World Bank has rated the Southeast Asian city-state of Singapore as the easiest place in the world to do business. Drawn in part by this reputation, money and talent are pouring into the island nation's growing technology sector.

One of Facebook's co-founders recently renounced his American citizenship and relocated to Singapore, where he has been investing in tech startups.

In Lebanon, a wave of kidnappings and an alleged plot to destabilize the country with bombings — both related to the uprising in Syria — are shaking Lebanon's precarious sectarian balance.

That's been apparent on al-Mokdad Street in south Beirut, which has been tense in recent days. The Mokdads are a large Shiite clan who control the street that is named for them. Young men with pistols in their pockets cruise the street on motor scooters, acting as the clan's lookouts.

The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has been stung by a string of prominent defections, from the prime minister to a leading general to a military aviator who was Syria's first man in space.

Ra'ed, a soldier from Syria's most prestigious military unit, the Republican Guard, is among the defectors.

The guard's chief duty is to protect the Syrian leadership. But Ra'ed says he never felt proud to serve after he was drafted in June 2010 at age 19.

Ra'ed, who is now living in Lebanon, asked that NPR use only his first name out of concern for his safety.

On a recent day, baffled motorists honked their horns and veered around the blocked entrance to a major street in Sidon. Now Lebanon's third-largest city, Sidon was once a flourishing Phoenician city-state on the Mediterranean.

The street was closed off by Sunni cleric Sheik Ahmad Assir, who erected a small tent encampment in protest against the country's most powerful military and political force, the militant Islamist group Hezbollah.

In response to political reforms in Myanmar — also known as Burma — the U.S. and other Western countries have eased some sanctions targeting the country's former military rulers.

But so far, one of the most powerful institutions inside the country has kept its sanctions in place. For some time, Myanmar's Buddhist clergy have effectively been on a spiritual strike by refusing to take donations from the military — a serious blow to the former regime's legitimacy.

Aung San Suu Kyi would probably not be the symbol of Burma's quest for democracy without her experiences at Oxford University. She studied there in the 1960s and raised a family there in the '70s.

Suu Kyi returned to her alma mater Wednesday to receive the honorary degree she was unable to collect for more than a decade while under house arrest.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Aung San Suu Kyi heads to Europe Wednesday, where she'll deliver a speech she was invited to give more than two decades ago: the one for her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, which she was unable to collect while under house arrest.

In Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, at the headquarters of Suu Kyi's party, spokesman U Nyan Win says she is busy writing speeches for her extended trip to Europe, including the visit to Oslo for the belated Nobel address this weekend.

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