From Our Own Correspondent Podcast

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Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines. Presented by Kate Adie and Pascale Harter.

BBC Radio 4


    • Oct 23, 2021 LATEST EPISODE
    • weekdays NEW EPISODES
    • 28m AVG DURATION
    • 417 EPISODES

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    Latest episodes from From Our Own Correspondent Podcast

    Eric Zemmour: France's new right wing contender

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 23, 2021 28:33

    The French political scene has a new kid on the block, or one might say, a new veteran. Eric Zemmour is his name, not one familiar in the UK, but Zemmour has long been well known in his own country as a right-wing television presenter. His controversial pronouncements on race, religion and immigration have in the past got him into legal trouble, but now he appears to be flirting with the idea of standing to be president. Until now, the French far-right scene has been dominated by one political party – indeed you might say, by one family. The Front National was founded nearly fifty years ago by Jean-Marie Le Pen. His daughter Marine then took over its leadership, though she changed the party's name to “National Rally.” Ms Le Pen had been seen as a serious challenger for the French presidency, in elections to be held next year. Yet some think she's now being eclipsed by Mr Zemmour. Lucy Williamson went to see him in action: It looks like Joseph Biden will not be allowed to forget the way US troops departed from Afghanistan, leaving the country to fall quickly into Taliban hands again. Rightly or wrongly, it's likely to be a millstone round the president's neck, should Mr Biden seek re-election in three years' time. That is a very different state of affairs to the way Afghanistan is talked about in Russia these days, or rather not talked about. Military parades there tend to focus on the Soviet Union's victory in World War Two, while some politicians like to boast about more a more recent conflict, Russia's invasion and occupation of Crimea in 2014. Far less is said about how Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan in 1979, only for troops to pull out a decade later, defeated and demoralised. And this silence has proved hard for those Russians who served in Afghanistan, or who lost friends and family there. Now, a new exhibition is allowing veterans of the conflict to express through art the trauma they suffered. Francis Scarr went along to see it: As a health correspondent for the BBC, Tulip Mazumdar has reported on medical problems around the world, and one she has seen plenty of is women suffering miscarriages. It is a loss whose seriousness is often not recognised, with many women suffering a form of grief every bit as serious as when a living person dies. And it's a common problem too; in the UK, it has been estimated that a quarter of pregnancies are lost. However, knowing all this, and having reported on it for many years, could not have prepared Tulip for the many miscarriages she herself went on to suffer, and which she frankly admits, she is still struggling to come to terms with. People do sometimes hold funerals for babies who are miscarried or still-born. But whether for a child or an adult, funerals serve many purposes: they allow people to express publicly their grief, in the company of friends and families who are there to support them. They may be an opportunity to look back on the life of the person who died, and to recall what they meant to those who knew them. What you do not expect is for funerals to provide the chance for a quick buck to be made, and yet that's exactly what happens in parts of eastern Nigeria. And it's not just funerals, weddings too may be targeted by extortionists, unwilling to allow the proceedings to go ahead, unless they are paid off. It is something Olivia Ndubuisi has seen for herself: We all need a break now and then, and that might involve a holiday. But is that something you would grant to prisoners? That is exactly what happens in parts of Brazil, where occupants of the country's jails are given occasional home leave. You might think this sounds absurdly indulgent, the sign of a country that has gone soft on those who break the law. In fact, Brazil's prisons are notoriously harsh, with assault and murder common. The actual purpose of giving prisoners a break from their sentence is to encourage them not to end up back there, after they're released, as Andrew Downie discovered. For details of organisations which offer advice and support with pregnancy related issues, go online to bbc.co.uk/actionline.

    Nostalgia For Gaddafi

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 21, 2021 28:47

    Libya has been marking an anniversary of sorts this week: ten years since the dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was killed, having been toppled from power as part of the Arab Spring. Since then, elections have been held, and a much-delayed election for a new President is due at the end of this year. But few have much faith in this process. Whole swathes of Libya are beyond the control of the national government in Tripoli. So it's perhaps not surprising in these circumstances that some Libyans are nostalgic for the days of Gaddafi's rule, despite the human rights abuses which took place. Among those who remain loyal is the man who was once Gaddafi's advisor, and sometime interpreter. Tim Whewell has been talking to him. Democracy in Libya may be very much a work in progress, but here in Europe, there are some who feel that long-standing democracies are also being threatened. The murder in Britain of the MP, David Amess was described by many as an attack on democracy itself. And that suggestion had echoes from a recent killing in the Peter De Vries was famous as an investigative reporter in the Netherlands. He ignored repeated threats to his life, while he bravely uncovered the power of international criminals. This week, two men went on trial in Amsterdam, accused of murdering him. It was an act the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, said was “an attack on the free journalism so essential for our democracy". But then Mr Rutte has himself had to change his habit of cycling alone through Holland's streets, because he too has received death threats. Anna Holligan reports. During its twenty year presence in Afghanistan, American troops brought in billions of dollars' worth of gear, and quite a lot of it seems to have found its way into the hands of smugglers, who brought it across the border to neighbouring Pakistan. Some of it is still sold furtively in small towns, but one Lahore shopkeeper is making a good living by selling very openly this stolen US Army equipment. Ironically, he considers himself an implacable enemy of all things American, and a supporter of the Taleban. Ali Kazmi went to meet him. With just days to go until the COP26 summit on climate change, there's ever more pressure being applied to countries to explain how they propose to get to net zero or in other words, how to reach the point where they do not contribute any net carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. They're being encouraged both to set targets, and to outline what measures they will introduce to reach them. But there's an island in Denmark which has already gone one stage further and become “carbon positive.” Ritula Shah went to Samsoe to find out how they've done it. When you think of ancient mummies, you might think of Egypt, with its famously preserved pharoes and other leading lights of that ancient civilisation. In fact, the oldest mummies in the world were discovered in Chile. They were discovered in 1917 by a German archaeologist, but it took decades for the mummies to be correctly dated, and identified as part of the Chinchorro civilisation. And they're still not on the tourist map, the way that the pyramids and their long dead occupants are. Jane Chambers travelled into the heart of what was once Chinchorro country, to see the mummies for herself.

    Disillusion in Iraq

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 16, 2021 28:43


    When western troops overthrew Saddam Hussein, the argument was that this would turn Iraq from a dictatorship into a democracy. And they have indeed held elections there; the latest vote for a new Iraqi parliament took place last Sunday. Yet when it comes to actually voting, tribal and religious affiliation appear to have trumped any ideological leanings, and with a heavy dose of apathy and disillusionment thrown in, says Lizzie Porter. As with Iraq, Japan also faces much disillusionment with democratic politics. The last election saw only a little over half the voting population turn out, and it's not hard to see why: in almost every single contest, the same party has won. Now, the Liberal Democrat Party has chosen a new leader, and he automatically became interim prime minister, pending a general election later this month. It is an election nobody expects him to lose, but was the country's new leader welcomed with great excitement and fanfare? Hardly, says Rupert Wingfield-Hayes: According to mythology, Rome was founded by a pair of twins who had been raised by wolves. But Romulus and Remus might have been surprised to know that in the early Twenty First Century, the “eternal city” would have wild wolves spotted near its airport. Meanwhile wild boars and other animals have been stalking the streets, feasting on the rubbish that sits uncollected. It's all just one sign of the extent to which Rome has not been particularly well run in recent years, maladministration and the mafia making easy bedfellows. Tomorrow, Romans will have the chance to choose a new mayor, hoping they save the city from this plight. Italian politics is, of course, often rather colourful, and the two remaining candidates in this contest are a radio star with links to the far right, and a former Economics Minister, who has attempted to seduce voters by serenading them with a bit of bosa nova guitar. Watching this spectacle is long-term Rome resident, Joanna Robertson. Someone once said that when it came to British politics, there had only been three issues in recent elections: Brexit, Brexit and Brexit. This was not a subject that other countries necessarily wanted to focus on, most governments having enough challenges of their own to think about. Yet, for the Republic of Ireland, the UK's rows over Europe were always going to make their mark; the country has so much trade with Britain, as well as an open border with Northern Ireland. Emma Vardy says that the latest developments in the Brexit saga, have left Irish people exasperated, and also rather sad. It was the writer William Faulkner who famously said “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” That's something which another writer, Colin Freeman, discovered, when he visited Ukraine this month. He was there to hear about a new memorial and museum for the “Babi Yar” massacre, an atrocity which took place in 1941. German Nazi occupiers shot dead more than thirty thousand Jews there, and later, would use the same site to kill gay people, prisoners of war, and the mentally ill - some of the worst mass shootings in human history. Plans for a new museum about the massacres have been underway for some time, but it's a development, which Colin Freeman say,s tells us much about present day Ukraine, as well as about the moment in history being commemorated.


    A Haitian Odyssey Across The Americas

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 9, 2021 28:42


    In recent weeks, images of thousands of Haitian migrants living in squalid conditions in a temporary camp in Texas have caused widespread shock and anger in the United States. US Border patrol agents on horseback forced many of them back across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Thousands more were deported back to Haiti, which is in the grip of its deepest economic and political crisis for years. The US Special Envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned last month in protest at the Biden Administration's deportations policy, which he described as “inhumane” and “counterproductive”. Some of the migrants say it was also arbitrary, with no clarity about the process deciding who made it into the US and who was sent home. Will Grant met two families, at the US-Mexico border and in Haiti, whose journeys north came to very different ends: Last year, Thailand was rocked by student-led protests, which for the first time broke a taboo on criticising the monarchy. But the Thai government led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha fought back, using a raft of repressive laws to prosecute the protest leaders. Together with a rapid rise in Covid infections, that appeared to put a stop to the street rallies. The protest gatherings have now resumed but on a smaller scale. As Jonathan Head has been finding out, the heady optimism of the students last year has been replaced by a harder-edged realism over just how long it might take to reform Thailand's politics. Last weekend, thousands of people from 150 towns and cities across Brazil joined street protests against its President, Jair Bolsonaro. Many of them were angry about his handling of the pandemic which has killed at least 600,000 Brazilians so far. Not all the criticism is centred on Covid, though. Some of his former supporters are now calling for his resignation too – and their concerns are more ideological. The President is as combative as ever – and he still has control of Congress, though his public support has slumped to its lowest level yet in opinion polls. Katy Watson reports from Sao Paulo. Questions about the future of coal have caused some of the deepest divisions in modern Australia. The debate may soon get even sharper as COP26 and other climate-change summits try to push rich nations to set a faster pace in giving up fossil fuels. Australia still uses coal to generate about 70% of its electricity, making it the most carbon-polluting nation per person in the world. As Phil Mercer explains, the country's vast natural resources help fuel its domestic politics, as well as its power stations. And the BBC's new Middle East correspondent Anna Foster offers some personal first impressions of settling in to her posting to the Lebanese capital, Beirut - and of the extraordinary resilience which keeps the city's people going. Producer: Polly Hope


    Bumps in the road for the Czech Republic

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 7, 2021 28:45

    The Czech election this week will decide whether embattled billionaire businessman Andrej Babis gets another four-year term as Prime Minister. He's under pressure from new revelations in the Pandora papers – seeming to show that he was involved in the purchase of 16 properties on the French Riviera using offshore companies. Mr Babis has denied any wrongdoing: “I don't own any property in France,” he said. “It's nasty, false accusations that are meant to influence the election.” He has always governed in coalition – but he now faces a tough challenge from the centre-right opposition and also has the far-right nipping at his heels. So which way are the Czechs heading? Rob Cameron reports from Prague. Over the past two months – like many international organisations - the BBC has been busy organising a way out of Afghanistan for many of its staff in the country and trying to get them to places of safety – in the UK and elsewhere. Karim Haidari was one of them. After a nerve-wracking three days spent waiting at Kabul airport, he and his family managed to fly out. They are now safe in Britain – but there's a lot for him to think about as they try to start their lives again. How can we feed the world – on a planet with finite resources and a growing number of people? Moreover, more of those people are eating more meat and fish – and those animals in turn need feeding, and protein, to grow. At the moment, soy and fishmeal are the main sources of protein for animal feed – but the demand for soy has been linked to deforestation in South America, while the fishmeal trade helps drive over-fishing in the oceans. So now manufacturers are looking for alternative sources of protein. The use of insects has been permitted in fish feed for years, but the European Union recently decided to allow them in poultry and pig feed too. Emilie Filou went to visit an ultra-modern bug farm in France where the animals they raise might be tiny, but the plans and the ambition are very big indeed. The Aland Islands in the Baltic Sea have been settled for over seven thousand years –they're full of Neolithic remains, showing how their earliest inhabitants hunted seals and birds there. But the islands have changed hands many times since then over their history – sometimes being treated as little more than bargaining chips by their larger neighbours. These days they enjoy a quirky – and carefully negotiated – sort of independence. Mark Stratton asked some of the islanders who they feel closest to in today's Europe. Smell and taste are the most intimate and evocative of the senses – with a startling power to transport us to other times and places. Reha Kansara recently explored some of her family history in Kenya – and part of her quest centred on a childhood favourite - the delicious potato fritter known as the Maru Bhajia. Would it taste as good in its birthplace in Nairobi? And what else was on the menu during her journeys into Kenya's past?

    Silence Falls in Libya

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 2, 2021 28:47

    It's not easy to talk in Tripoli; Palestinian anger over Nizar Banat's death; the MH17 trial in the Netherlands; Rwandan forces in Mozambique; a number plate dispute in the Balkans In Libya, the promise of a new dawn after the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime a decade ago now seems to ring hollow. After its revolution came civil war – as militias proliferated and fought for control. For more than six years the country was split between rival administrations in the east and west. There's been a ceasefire since last year, and an internationally-brokered unity government is now installed. Elections are planned for December. Daily life for Libyans hasn't got much easier though. There are still frequent electricity blackouts, high unemployment – and regular street protests. But Tim Whewell was more struck by a sense of creeping silence. In Ramallah, a military trial has begun this for 14 members of the Palestinian security forces, charged in connection with the death of a prominent critic of the president. Nizar Banat – who was known for his outspoken Facebook posts alleging corruption among the Palestinian political elite – was badly beaten and died shortly after he was taken into custody in June. The official line was that he'd died of natural causes. But his death sparked some of the biggest protests against the Palestinian Authority in years.. Yolande Knell reports on the case - and the public anger it's triggered. Since 2017, Mozambique has been trying to stop a shadowy insurgency in its northern province, Cabo Delgado. The rebels there claim to be affiliated to the Islamic State – but little is known about the group. It started with small-scale, isolated attacks, but the conflict escalated last year, driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. It is estimated that 2,500 people have died in the fighting so far. This March the militants gained the world's attention when they launched attacks in the gas-rich area of Palma, forcing French petroleum giant Total to shut down its operations there. To fight back, Mozambique has called on help from military forces from Rwanda – who now say they've retaken 90% of the province in a month-long operation. The rebels have now been pushed deep into the area's forests - but Mozambique says it is not claiming victory yet. Anne Soy has been to the region with the Rwandan forces. A court in the Netherlands has been hearing emotional testimony from those whose relatives died aboard flight MH17, which was brought down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014. Dutch prosecutors have brought charges against three Russians and a Ukrainian citizen: they are all suspected of having key roles in transporting the missile system used to launch the rocket which hit the plane. None of the men have appeared in court; only one has appointed a team of lawyers. Two-thirds of MH17's passengers were Dutch citizens, and the Netherlands blames Moscow for the attack. Anna Holligan has seen and heard some of the evidence submitted by the bereaved. Armed conflict can break out for all kinds of reasons. But a row over car number plates seems one of the more unlikely flashpoints. Yet in the Balkans this summer, that's exactly what prompted Serbia to put its troops on high alert, Kosovo to deploy its special police – and NATO to step up its peacekeeping activities in the area. As Guy De Launey knows from long experience – it's always important to consider what's on your number plate before you set off on any journey in the region. Producer: Polly Hope

    Anxiety over Afghanistan

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 30, 2021 28:56

    More than six weeks after the Taliban announced their full takeover of the country, Afghanistan is still up against huge challenges. The economy is contracting fast, there's a punishing drought, and many people are finding it harder to find food, even if they can afford to buy it. The news on human rights and security has been worrying. Journalists have been arrested and beaten up; women's and girls' right to education appears to be eroding; and former critics and enemies of the Taliban have been targeted for threats and violence. Jeremy Bowen first went to Afghanistan more than thirty years ago and reported on many cycles of its wars since then. Back in Kabul again, he reflects on the deeper tides of history. On La Palma in the Canary Islands, the volcanic eruption that started last week is still threatening homes and lives. It's produced a spectacular display of dramatic images. After destroying more than 700 properties, the lava has now reached the sea - which means a risk of toxic gases and dangerous projectiles. The Spanish government has declared a disaster zone and promised ten million Euros to help reconstruction and rehousing efforts. What will the eruption mean for La Palma in the long term – and how might its altered landscape change even more? Dan Johnson saw the destructive power of the Cumbre Vieja at first hand. While it's now clear that Chancellor Merkel's CDU party suffered a historic defeat in Sunday's elections in Germany, the rest of the picture is a little paradoxical. Everything looks a little more complicated than before. The smaller, newer parties have certainly gained momentum – and the old left-right divide doesn't define voters' world views as much as it once did. There are still regional loyalties, but also signs that other divides – of age and outlook – are emerging among voters. Are there whole new political tribes being formed? John Kampfner followed the election campaign as the opinion polls swung wildly - and ran into a few surprises along the way. Lausanne in Switzerland, is an ancient place – first put on the map as a Roman military encampment a in the second century AD – and the Celts had a settlement there well before that. It's also kept a good deal of its heritage restored and on show, with one of the best-preserved medieval old cities in Europe. Respect for the past isn't just about architecture – or even tangible relics – though. There is intangible heritage too. Heidi Fuller Love recently spent a night shift with a man whose job might be described as public service broadcasting the really old-fashioned way: the nighwatchman, who cries the hours as well as looking out for danger. And like many a British late-summer traveller, Paddy O Connell recently got back from a charming but occasionally nerve-wracking break spent motoring through France. He has a lesson to share for anyone venturing onto the roads … Producer: Polly Hope

    A tight race in Germany's elections

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 25, 2021 28:59

    This weekend's elections will determine the makeup of Germany's parliament - and set the country's course for a new, post-Angela Merkel era. German politics tend to be less adversarial, less personal and polarised than in many European states – although there's still plenty to be argued over. So far the campaign has stuck to the issues – there have been no notable gaffes or dramatic confrontations. But it is a close race and opinion polls have swung wildly. After this year's catastrophic flooding and the economic shocks of the pandemic, voting for “more of the same, please”, is not really an option. Jenny Hill seizes up how many fresh ideas are on offer for German voters. There's an epidemic in the USA which has cost around half a million lives. Not Covid - this is a drug epidemic. And it was caused by an addiction brought into American homes by major, reputable pharmaceutical companies; They sold opioids as painkillers, despite – as it has transpired in court - being aware that they could be highly addictive. So, patients prescribed them wanted more and more. If their supply of prescribed opioids ran out, some were so hooked they used heroin to ease their withdrawal symptoms. Oxycontin was the drug implicated in many of the cases of opioid addiction. But now the company which made Oxycontin has been told it won't be prosecuted. Indeed, the Sacklers, who own it, will remain one of the wealthiest families in America - protected from prosecution. Daniel Thomas has followed the Oxycontin story and has met some of those caught up in it. The long years of armed struggle in Colombia are supposed to be over – with many of its rebel factions and paramilitaries officially demobilised and their recruits sent on their way. The largest guerrilla force, known as the FARC, is now signed up to a peace deal with the government it had fought for decades. But the ghosts of the country's insurgencies are still everywhere: there are over eight million people in the country who've had to flee their homes in areas controlled by armed groups. Many thousands more went missing during the conflict, whose fate may never be known. But some of their relatives never give up looking for them. Mathew Charles heard the story of one woman's life in a time of violence. With a growing population of more than 1.3 billion, and a burgeoning middle class, India is facing an energy crunch in the near future. Its needs are set to rise more than any other nation's during the next 20 years, according to the International Energy Agency. India is currently the world's third-largest emitter by country and it still relies heavily on coal to keep its industries running. As other nations are urged to phase it out, how easy will it be for such a fast-growing AND fast- developing nation to ditch one of its favourite fuels? Rajini Vaidyanathan explores the dilemma in Odisha state. Ireland has always been renowned for its conversation – the ease with which people, often complete strangers, fall into talk, relate stories or debate the issues of the day. One recent topic has been the latest population statistics: in Ireland, unlike many European Union countries, the population is increasing - with numbers topping five million for the first time since the middle of the nineteenth century, when famine caused millions to emigrate. There's been many a boom and bust since then. But now many Irish exiles are coming home. Kieran Cooke, having a drink at his local bar, came across some interesting returnees. Producer: Polly Hope

    China's New Rules for Society

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 23, 2021 28:33

    The Chinese government is, as ever, staying busy by devising new regulations. It's unleashed a raft of regulatory changes on everything from the limits on how much debt property developers are allowed to build up, to changes in the tax code and the breaking up of tech giants. But the Communist Party has also launched a series of rather paternalistic moves, reaching right into family homes, with measures designed to tackle perceived problems of laziness, or even what the state calls “spiritual pollution.” As Stephen McDonell reports from Beijing, it's as if there is nowhere that the Party doesn't know best - and no aspect of life where it's not prepared to take charge. The French government has expressed its fury after the decision by Australia to scrap a contract to buy French submarines. Canberra chose instead to enter a nuclear security pact for the Indo-Pacific with the US and the UK. “We've been stabbed in the back!” is how the French foreign minister put it – and off the record you can imagine that the comments were even stronger. Hugh Schofield has been following the events and says there is nothing confected about French outrage. When it was part of the Soviet Union, Lithuania played host to stocks of nuclear missiles – huge ICBMs, which could have destroyed cities around the world. Back then, Lithuania's geography gave it great strategic importance. When it became fully independent in 1991, it found itself a rather small nation, of about three and a half million people, and with of lesser international interest. And yet, Lithuania has been rather punching above its weight lately - particularly in recent disputes with China and Belarus. On a recent visit to a small Lithuanian village, Sadakat Kadri, found relics of the country's past, with important lessons for the present. When the Spanish conquistadors first landed in the Americas they brought new and terrifying beasts with them – from ships' rats to warhorses – not to mention lethal human diseases. But there was one sort of creature the indigenous Americans DID recognise on the European ships: the dogs. Dogs had already been tamed and kept by humans all over the continent for thousands of years. And they're still there – maybe not the original breeds, but thriving wherever there are people. In fact, in Chile, Jane Chambers has found them hard to avoid… People who'd love a career in the arts end up doing other things to earn a living – just think of all those aspiring actors waiting tables in restaurants or would-be novelists working away in offices. But some do manage to break through against the odds – and it helps to have a globe-trotting life story as well as a deep well of inspiration at home to draw from. The painter Kojo Marfo has rocketed to fame after years spent working away from his home town in Ghana. Andy Jones has been exploring his career - and how he went from butcher's assistant to art world sensation.

    From Our Own Correspondent with Kate Adie

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 18, 2021 28:24


    Refugees have been fleeing Iran, as the economic situation there worsens, with food prices going up, and shortages of clean water and power. Meanwhile, there are fears among some people that the country is about to become more oppressive, with a new, hard-line president in charge. It is these conditions which have prompted many Iranians to escape. Iranian Kurds in particular have been seeking sanctuary in the Kurdish part of Iraq. But life there is not always easy. And among this community in exile are armed groups, determined to overthrow Iran's Ayatollahs. Some of these groups have now come under aerial attack as Lizzie Porter explains: Have they changed or not? That remains one of the crucial questions about The Taliban, as they secure their hold on Afghanistan. Last time they ran the country in the late 1990s, women were excluded from most public roles, and forced to cover up from head to toe. Music was banned along with most other forms of entertainment. With the Taliban now back in power, some detect a new tone: they give news conferences, they have said they want to work with the international community. But this week, the Taliban said that women would not be allowed to study alongside men, nor can they take part in sport. And there've been reports of revenge killings, carried out against those who worked for the previous government. For Sahar Zand, this has all brought back memories of the time she met a senior Taliban representative, one who did at least admit to having watched TV: It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Last month, Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, called a snap election. Polling suggested he was popular among voters, with many crediting him for a relatively smooth handling of the Covid crisis. This, it seemed, might be the moment to go to the country and perhaps win a majority of seats, something which eluded him last time round. But the election takes place on Monday, with some predicting the Prime Minister will lose power altogether. One particular area where he's having to defend his record is on the environment, which is proving to be an unusually important issue in this contest, as Jatinder Sidhu now reports, from Canada's west coast: There was a time when Papal visits were relatively simple affairs. The Pope showed up in a country, held a mass or two for some of his flock, and glad-handed all the right people, both religious and secular – perhaps expressing his admiration for whichever country he was in, and his best wishes for those who run it. But it's not quite so simple with the current Pontiff. Pope Francis has a reputation for speaking his mind with unprecedented frankness, and that's what happened this week when he travelled to Hungary. The Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, does also have quite a reputation for plain speaking, with hardline views on Islam and immigration in particular. So what happened when the two met? Nick Thorpe was in Budapest finding out. September may sound too early to be thinking about Christmas, but for some people, September is precisely the month when it's most on their minds. These are the pine seed pickers of Georgia – every year at this time, they climb their country's giant fir trees, to get hold of the pine cones which grow on them. Inside, are seeds which are then planted to make Christmas trees. In fact, most of the Christmas trees in Europe are grown from seeds that come from Georgia – it's a huge business. And yet as Amelia Stewart found out, the work of those who do the actual seed-picking is often poorly paid, and can also be very dangerous.


    Brazil's Embattled President Tries to Rally his Supporters

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 11, 2021 29:02

    There is only one power Jair Bolsonaro thinks can remove him from power, and that is God - at least that's what Brazil's President, told his audience at a rally on Tuesday. He had called on people to come out and support him at events across the country - and come out they did, though not perhaps the million he had hoped would attend. Mr Bolsonaro clearly wanted to demonstrate that he still has voter pulling power, what with his poll ratings tumbling ahead of elections next year. Many blame him for the huge toll from Covid, a disease the President famously once dismissed as "the sniffles." Now, there are more than half a million Brazilians dead from coronavirus, yet he remains unapologetic. Tuesday's rally saw the President on full throttle, railing against the Supreme Court, which is currently investigating him in response to various allegations - the judges, he said, were communists. Watching all this in Sao Paolo was Andrew Downie. When you hear that a country has declared a state of emergency, you might wonder what kind of calamity has befallen it – a natural disaster perhaps, or invasion by a foreign army. Poland declared a state of emergency this week, but not for any of these reasons. Rather it was a fear that thousands of refugees and illegal immigrants are about to come pouring across the country's border from next door Belarus. Hundreds have arrived already - most it seems originally from Afghanistan and Iraq. Belarus's President Aleksander Lukashenko, stands accused of encouraging these people to cross from his country into Poland – as a way of provoking the Polish government. Meanwhile, caught in the middle, are the new arrivals themselves, many trapped in no-man's land on the Belarus-Polish border, as Adam Easton explains. It was “farewell Mutti” from German MPs this week – “Mutti” being the German word for “mum,” and the nickname given to the country's chancellor, Angela Merkel. She made her final speech to the country's Parliament, two weeks before Germany holds national elections. The result of that contest is still very hard to predict, with polls showing the different political parties yoyo-ing up and down in popularity. However, there is one outcome which is certain: Chancellor Merkel will no longer be Chancellor – she will stand down at the end of the process, after nearly sixteen years in power. She was famously Germany's first female leader , and also the first from the formerly communist East Germany … and yet, not all these labels are quite as straightforward as they seem, according to Damien McGuiness. The attacks of September 11th twenty years ago marked the beginning of what was called the “Global War on Terror.” This was conducted in many countries and in different ways – western countries fearing they may be targeted, just as New York's Twin Towers and the Pentagon had been. And it was fought against countries accused of harbouring terrorists, most notably Afghanistan. With US troops pulling out of Afghanistan last month, there's no sign of that “War on Terror” abating. One place that it continues to be fought with particular ferocity is in Africa – from Tunisia in the north, which has seen horrific bomb and gun attacks on civilians, to Mozambique in the continent's southeast, where a relatively new Islamist insurgency has cost many lives. Catherine Byaruhanga has been to many of these hot-spots, and reflects on how Africa has fared since 9-11.

    Lebanon's Medicines Emergency

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 4, 2021 28:44


    Lebanon was once the embodiment of glamour: its capital, Beirut, was nicknamed the “Paris of the Middle East” and enjoyed as an international playground. Today those glory years seem long gone. A political crisis has left the country without a properly functioning government – and its economy has imploded. The currency has lost more than 90% of its value and poverty has skyrocketed. There are shortages of fuel, water and food - and as Leila Molana-Allen explains, even essential medicines are getting harder and harder to find: It's a scenario found in so many places around the world: the war is over, no more shots are being fired, no bombs dropped, and yet people are still dying. And why? Because of all the landmines which have been laid during the conflict – which don't recognise ceasefires or treaties, and can still maim or kill anyone who treads on one. During last year's fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno Karabakh region, thousands of mines were buried in its hillsides. Efforts to defuse and remove them have already begun – but it's slow, painstaking, and above all, terribly dangerous work. Colin Freeman has been hearing from some of the men trying to clear up the mess. As the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America approaches, it's a particularly difficult time for those who lost friends and family. Almost three thousand people were killed when Al Qaeda hijackers flew planes into the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. One of the dead was David Berry, who was killed in the south tower of the World Trade Center. He was 43 years old and had young children. His widow, Paula Grant Berry, has been talking to Laura Trevelyan. Travelling through Italy you're bound to run into Mazzini, Garibaldi and Cavour – the key historic figures in the country's unification. From the Alps to Sicily, there are endless roads, piazzas and monuments named in their honour. But new roads call for new ideas - and the choices made about who to commemorate can be surprising. In Ozzano dell'Emilia – a village of 14,000 people near the northern city of Bologna - they've decided to dedicated a new road to a rather unexpected – and flamboyant – personality. Dany Mitzman's been to walk the freshly-rolled tarmac of Via Freddy Mercury. They say that in big cities like London or New York you're never more than a few metres away from a rat. Hugh Schofield now has proof positive that it's true - and has an alarming tale of a most unwelcome visitor to his home in the French capital. Producer: Polly Hope


    Forever wars – and how they can end

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 28, 2021 28:56

    The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has serious implications for global security. Western governments are concerned about the prospect of more attacks on their own turf. But there's also particular worry that jihadist movements in Africa and Asia could gain ground. Might the news from Kabul attract new recruits to their ranks – especially in those places where international forces have been deeply involved in fighting them back? The various armed groups allied with Al Qaida and the Islamic State across the Sahel and east Africa have been wreaking havoc for more than a decade now. Andrew Harding has reported on many of those wars, and recent events have brought back vivid memories… and hard questions… In Afghanistan itself, some among the Taliban now in charge of the country again have grievances of their own, after losing relatives and comrades killed in airstrikes and night raids over the past twenty years. So how will they rule, and treat their old enemies? Kate Clark was the BBC correspondent in Kabul in the final years of the last Taliban regime, where she witnessed the fall of the city in 2001 – and she has done so again in 2021. She's seen rulers come and go – and how after each change of regime, cycles of revenge have been fed, prolonging the conflict. After a week of chaos, she considers a longer view of four decades of war. Reporting from Israel often inevitably revolves around the politics of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even the basic, day-to-day issues – town planning, health care, education – are complicated by this central problem. So imagine the challenge of policing in such a divided setting. For some time, Palestinian citizens of Israel have reported rising violence within their communities – not politically motivated, but driven by organised crime. The mobsters' trade in drugs and weapons, and their vendettas, have blighted many areas – and left many families bereaved. Yolande Knell has spoken to several families trying to cope with the aftermath. In Spain, paying the rent is often a political issue – and there's a long history of squatting. After the property crash of 2008, many families fought to stay on in homes that did not belong to them, because they couldn't afford their mortgages any more. In cities like Barcelona, while prices slumped, speculators moved in and bought up buildings at knock-down prices. Thousands of flats are still standing empty. Some have been illegally occupied by people who just can't afford a market rent and needed a roof over their heads. But not all squatters actually live in the homes they take over. Criminals have spotted an opportunity: why not just move into a property and demand a ‘ransom' of thousands of Euros from the owner before they will leave? Linda Pressly recently met a man who claimed to be a professional extortionist in Barcelona… And Patrick Muirhead takes a gruelling hike in the Seychelles, on the trail of its fabled Jellyfish Tree. It's not just rare, but a botanical mystery: no-one yet understands how it manages to reproduce. In the teeth of climate change and rapid development for the islands' tourism industry, there are fears the species may not last much longer. If a proposed dam is built to supply water for the growing population of Mahé island, it could engulf one of the last remaining outcrops of the plant. Producer: Polly Hope

    Afghanistan: Questions, Doubts and Fears

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 21, 2021 28:38


    It's been a week of searing and surreal images from Afghanistan after the Taliban's lighting takeover of Kabul. The spectacle of an official Taliban news conference, televised live from the capital on Tuesday, was proof of how just how fast events have moved. The Taliban leadership may have promised forgiveness, reconciliation and protection of women's rights. But the mood is fearful and there are still thousands of Afghans desperate to get out of the country by any means possible. Lyse Doucet has been hearing from many of them. As the West's twenty-year mission to Afghanistan comes to an end, there are questions around the world about how the international intervention, and the new political structures set up after 2001, went so desperately wrong, so fast. Paul Adams has also been covering events and searching his own memories of time spent with foreign forces in the country for clues. The latest earthquake in Haiti has inflicted more losses on a nation that's endured plenty of them. The shocks and aftershocks last Saturday caused at least 2,200 deaths, injured more than 12,000 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. After the far more devastating quake back in 2010, more than 200,000 Haitians ended up living in squalid encampments in the capital, Port au Prince. This time around, the plan is to encourage survivors to stay put and rebuild, rather than run to already overburdened cities. James Clayton has been to some of the worst-affected areas in the southwest of the country. Imagine that one ordinary day you find out that - although you feel perfectly normal - you're officially dead. That's the experience of a surprising number of people across India. Thousands of men and women who are very much alive are being registered as dead, often by their own relatives who are angling to inherit their property. Covid restrictions prevented Chloe Hadjimatheou from going to India to investigate in person - but she's been on the trail of these extraordinary stories. Finding out how easily this could happen to anyone brought home to her the extraordinary power which bureaucrats can have... The cultural history of Paris has a vivid streak of lowlife as well as high art. From Edith Piaf, the “little sparrow” belting out songs on street corners, to Gavroche, the plucky but doomed urchin of Les Miserables – there's often a deep affection for those characters who must live by their wits on the streets. But the city's wiles and its tricksters have caused many an unsuspecting visitor to come unstuck. Some come away with more vivid memories of time spent in police stations, embassies and travel agents, trying to untangle their misadventures, than of great meals or cultural highlights. Christine Finn's been keeping an eye out and her wits about her ... Producer: Polly Hope


    A Summer of Fires in Greece

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 14, 2021 29:02


    Greece has been ravaged by almost six hundred wildfires in recent weeks. Thousands of firefighters have struggled to contain the raging flames which have destroyed hundreds of thousands of hectares of land; more than 60,000 people so far have had to flee their homes to safety. The Greek government has promised compensation payments for those affected and a massive drive to reforest the burnt areas “We saved lives, but we lost forests and property”, the Prime Minister admitted this week, calling it ‘an ecological catastrophe'. Bethany Bell reports from Athens, the island of Evia and the Peloponnese. Across Afghanistan, the country's national army and security forces have been losing ground to the Taliban. The insurgents' fighters have pushed forward and major provincial capitals including Herat, Kunduz and Zaranj have now been taken over. The Taliban also announced they were in control of the town of Ghazni, only 93 miles from Kabul. Before they moved into the centre of Kandahar, in the south, Shelly Kittleson had managed to get into the city. Since a rare outbreak of street protests in Cuba a month ago, its government has been arresting and jailing many of those who dared take part. Cubans are also still suffering the triple impact of a Covid surge, a serious economic crunch and frosty relations with the Biden administration in the USA. Power cuts and shortages only add to the discontent. Will Grant recently returned to the island after a while away, and sensed a definite change in the atmosphere. Amid Libya's civil wars, rival governments and militia groups, there are also foreign players: backers, influencers and fighters. One particular group of Russian mercenaries, operating in the east, has been accused of war crimes against civilians. Allegations that the group has links to the Russian government have been strongly denied by President Vladimir Putin himself. Nader Ibrahim has been investigating connections between Russia and Libya for a long time and recently heard a fascinating story one night in Tripoli. Would you rent out a holiday hut which was built for a leading Nazi collaborator? Perhaps surprisingly, it's something you can do in Norway. During the Second World War, the Germans installed a local sympathiser as the country's leader: Vidkun Quisling. His surname itself has become a synonym for a lackey, traitor or bootlicker. The Scottish writer and novelist Ben McPherson has lived in Norway for many years, and he was surprised to learn Quisling's summer cabin in the fjords was available for bookings … Producer: Polly Hope


    The price of dissent in Belarus

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 9, 2021 23:23

    The repressive tactics of the Belarusian state have been back in the news this week – and all over the map. The Olympic Games in Tokyo were shaken by sprinter Krystina Timonovskaya's row with her coaches – she ended up seeking asylum in Poland. In Ukraine, the head of a group helping Belarusian emigres was found hanged in a park in Kyiv; his death is still being investigated. In Belarus itself, it's nearly a year since the disputed election of August 2020 - which sparked mass protests over the result. Since then the government of Aleksandr Lukashenko has been going after people who were involved in the demonstrations with every means to hand. This week, one of the main ‘faces' of the protests went on trial. Sarah Rainsford was in Minsk and has been speaking to family and friends of Maria Kolesnikova. In Nigeria, the mass abduction of children has become a tragically recurring kind of news story: eighty taken in one incident, over 120 in another – just in the past few months. But it's not just crime which is destabilising Nigeria right now. There is the continuing insurgency of the jihadist group Boko Haram in the north, and a crop of separatist movements around the country. As Mayeni Jones reports, the insecurity is now touching even people who'd previously managed to shield themselves from the worst: It sounds like the stuff of a military dictatorship: troops will be out on the streets, enforcing a curfew, with people forbidden to leave their homes except on essential business. But this is Sydney, Australia - where yet another lockdown has been enforced, in in an effort to halt a surge in Covid cases. Different parts of this vast country have adopted their own rules – but one thing all parts of Australia share is a reverence for the traditional character of the “larrikin” – a rebellious, anti-establishment type who doesn't take kindly to rules or regulations of any sort. So, Phil Mercer asks, how has a larrikin-loving nation reacted to such draconian measures? Costa Rica gets a lot of good press for its efforts to preserve nature. It's got an extraordinary array of micro-climates and species, and it's a leading voice in international efforts to tackle climate change. So it's also a hotspot for nature tourists – from bird spotters to those who want to wander into a real live rainforest. But not everything about Costa Rica's government is green – and not all its life forms are friendly. Michelle Jana Chan went for a night walk which shed light on all sorts of wonders… and horrors. Producer: Polly Hope

    Tunisia's Unfinished Business

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 9, 2021 28:35

    The political crisis which broke out in Tunisia last weekend is still simmering. Of all the countries in North Africa and the Middle East which toppled their dictators a decade ago, only Tunisia emerged as a full, multi-party democracy. Its free and fair elections, featuring candidates and groups of all ideological stripes, have been an exception in the wider region since then. But discontent has still mounted over the state of the economy, pandemic response and police tactics. Plenty of Tunisians don't necessarily see their country as a model for others - and President Kais Saied's recent moves to freeze Parliament and remove the Prime Minister were welcomed by many. Rana Jawad explores why the situation looks rather different from Tunis. Next week it will be a year since the chemical explosion that devastated the Lebanese capital, Beirut. It was one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history – which killed more than 200 people and left more than 300,000 homeless. One of the worst-hit neighbourhoods was the close-knit district of Karantina, right next to the port. Survivors who've gone back to their rebuilt homes there hope that its special character can be preserved. But there are also some visionary, larger-scale proposals to redevelop the city – and as Tim Whewell found, the new plans might not leave room for everyone. This November, Barbados is planning to celebrate its 55 years of independence and become a republic – meaning the Queen will no longer be its head of state. It's seen as a turning point in the country's history - and a chance for Barbados to move even further on from its colonial past. Other historic legacies may be harder to unpick, though. Barbados was Britain's first slave-holding society abroad; and the economic impact, and the debts, of the slavery era are still much discussed across the Caribbean. Zeinab Badawi recently visited a surviving 17th century mansion in the north of this island, which is now a museum. The UNHCR estimates that there are probably at least ten million individuals worldwide with no identity or nationality documents issued by any country. For them, the most basic challenges – registering a birth, getting childhood inoculation or exam certificates, applying for jobs or loans - can be insurmountable. But some countries are now deciding to make it easier to get legal status. In Kenya, hundreds of people from a Shona-speaking religious community with roots more than a thousand miles south, in Zimbabwe, were recently given a fresh chance. Vivienne Nunis saw several moments of pure joy at a ceremony to grant them citizenship. There's never been a summer Olympic Games quite like Tokyo's... and Covid restrictions also apply to the journalists who are meant to cover the event. Their task is even more important when the crowds of spectators aren't around to witness the sporting triumphs at first hand – but this time they definitely can't just wander around looking for athletes to speak to. Or soak up the atmosphere inside the Olympic village or on the streets of Tokyo. Alex Capstick has covered more sporting contests than he'd care to remember – but this time it's different… Producer: Polly Hope

    Aftermath

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 24, 2021 28:51

    The destructive power of water is often underestimated… until it's too late. Large areas of Europe and China are still reeling from the damage left by some of their worst floods for decades. Across Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, there were over 200 deaths and billions of euros' worth of damage done. Now there are questions over whether this disaster will make voters more concerned about the effects of climate change. Although the Netherlands was least affected by the latest floods, water management is an existential threat for such a low-lying country. Anna Holligan has seen the worry – as well as the wreckage - on the ground there and in Germany. Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro was recently briefly admitted to hospital after intestinal problems made him hiccup uncontrollably. He appears to have recovered and has been out and about, talking to the media and to the public. But his political worries are not over – in fact they're only growing more acute. Many of his former allies are beginning to peel away. The country's Senate is now investigating his government's record of decision-making on Covid, from refusing to lock down to failure to procure medical supplies and vaccines. There are allegations swirling of corrupt vaccine-purchasing deals. Yet Mr Bolsonaro can still count on solid support from some of those who helped to elect him. Orla Guerin heard from them in Brasilia. The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of Nagorno Karabakh, is over - for now. The conflict there has flared up repeatedly over more than thirty years, with both countries insisting that the region is legally and historically theirs. In late 2020 Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive – and came out on top this time around, capturing towns and territory with significant help from its regional ally, Turkey. Colin Freeman recently returned to one town which he'd last seen at the centre of a fierce battle. South Africa is counting the costs of a mass outbreak of looting and destruction. In and around the cities of Johannesburg and Durban, businesses and homes were burned and ransacked. The police were fiercely criticised in some places for not doing enough to stop the violence. As well as criminal investigation, the country is now also doing plenty of soul-searching about the root causes of such widespread chaos. Gregory Mthembu-Salter and his family share the national concern, as his wife's side of the family live where the looting was worst, in Kwa Zulu -Natal. The Mexican state of Sinaloa is deeply enmeshed in the drug trade. Profits from organised crime are an important driver of the local economy, especially in the state's capital. In Culiacán , luxury cars can often be seen cruising the streets. Restaurants, bars, and designer fashion outlets all depend on the cash brought in from narcotics. And there's another expensive consumer fixation fuelled by narco culture – widespread plastic surgery. Linda Pressly talked to one of the city's busy cosmetic surgeons. Producer: Polly Hope

    The Meaning of Home

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 17, 2021 28:35

    In the eastern Mediterranean there are far fewer refugees and migrants arriving by boat than in recent years - but the moral dilemmas of dealing with migration are still acute. In Greece, the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has tightened its asylum laws, built new walled camps and pushed back boats at sea. Over his reporting career, Fergal Keane has followed many global waves of migrants and refugees, from their home countries, along their journeys and to their various end points. A recent visit to the Greek islands got him thinking about the big picture again. Life has been good to King Mswati III of Eswatini. He has ruled over a small, peaceable country for decades as an absolute monarch. But his historic privileges are now in question. It seems some of his people have had enough; recently protests and looting broke out, and were met with a violent response. At least twenty seven people have been killed. Shingai Nyoka has met the King in person, and talked to some of his restive subjects. The situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia is still looking grim. Apart from the armies of Ethiopia and Eritrea and the armed forces of the TPLF, armed forces from other regions of Ethiopia have also become involved. Outside observers have warned of a possible impending famine. But it's been very hard for journalists to find out exactly what's happening inside Tigray itself, as the Ethiopian government has tightly controlled access. Fred Harter managed to get there earlier this year, and since then he's been trying to keep up with events from afar. In France this week, President Macron sent signals of a distinctly tougher official approach to vaccination. From now on, if you can't produce a pass showing you're Covid-safe, daily life could become significantly more complicated. Hugh Schofield wonders whether the French may secretly like a bit of strong-arming from their leader. Over the long months of lockdown many people have taken to walking with new fervour – particularly when it was the only legitimate pretext for leaving the house. In Transcarpathian Ukraine, Nick Thorpe recently joined a group of local enthusiasts who are assembling their own route for a very long hike indeed - a new footpath winding 250 miles through the mountains from the Slovak to the Romanian border. Producer: Polly Hope

    Cubans' patience wears thin

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 15, 2021 29:01


    The combined miseries of an economic crunch, a spike in Covid infections and simmering long-standing frustration drove hundreds of people to speak out in public last weekend. The Cuban government often brings out the crowds for mass demonstrations of revolutionary will – but it cracks down hard and fast on any shows of organised dissent. Will Grant has been sensing the pressure mount for months. The world was horrified by scenes from the pandemic in India – but there was less global attention paid to Bangladesh. Covid has utterly changed daily life and families' fortunes there, too – especially since the country imposed its strictest lockdown yet at the start of this month. New infections and deaths are now at record levels and still rising – and there's fear that people fleeing the restrictions in cities will be soon spread the virus in the countryside. Akbar Hossein has been considering the balance of risks. Clearing out a property after relatives have died can be a bittersweet experience, fusing nostalgia with grief. It's harder still when the house is in a different country. Lesley Curwen has back been to the villa in Valencia where her mother and stepfather used to live – and noticed that many of the old certainties of their comfortable ex-pat circle in Spain are eroding. This summer, Russia has been staging dozens of official events to mark 800 years since the birth of a national hero: the warrior prince and later saint Alexander Nevsky, renowned for his military success and tactical genius. There's a clear message being driven home as his relics journey across the country from church to church - as Francis Scarr saw in the city of Tver. We've all had to rethink what balance between isolation and social contact suits us best over the past year and a half. But perhaps not many people have reconfigured their professional and domestic set-up as Stephanie Theobald. She's been living in a cave - as part of an experimental commune in the California desert. Producer: Polly Hope


    What NATO leaves behind in Afghanistan

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 10, 2021 29:01


    This week sees the end of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. These are the last days of a 20-year military presence of British and other forces – and the growing Taliban insurgency is moving quickly into the territory they're leaving behind. The BBC's Security Correspondent Frank Gardner made numerous reporting trips to the country , four of them in a wheelchair; he reflects on some of the more poignant moments and what the future holds. The killing of Haiti's President Jovenel Moise has convulsed a nation all too accustomed to natural and political disaster. President Moïse had been ruling by decree after elections planned for 2019 didn't happen - sparking mass protests and accusations that he illegally stayed on past his term. Amid the political chaos, in recent months many Haitian cities have also been facing a state of near-anarchy and escalating gang violence. David Adams met and interviewed the late President and weighs up the dangers and the appeal of power in the country. Cyprus is assessing the damage of its worst forest fires in decades. It's yet another place on earth challenged by the consequences of rising temperatures. Many of its farmers have already had to adapt to hotter, drier weather by changing what they grow. Some hope there might be a revival of the island's neglected carob industry. Until the 1970's carob exports were a major component of the economy. But as Charlotte Ashton found out, the crop and its products may not be to everybody's taste…. One of the En's smallest member states took over the presidency of the European Council at the start of the month. Slovenia – a nation of just over two million people, formerly part of Yugoslavia - will perform the role until the end of the year. But the outspoken personality of its prime minister, Janez Janša, has been causing some concern. The BBC's Balkans Correspondent Guy De Launey lives in Ljubljana and explains some of the awkwardness. The landscape of Ireland is dotted with churches and shrines – but you don't have to enter a building to connect with the spiritual. There are also around three thousand holy wells across the Republic where natural springs and streams have attracted pilgrims for centuries - both before and after the arrival of Christianity. In County Clare, there's a particularly rich heritage of going to take the waters and make your prayers. Trish Flanagan has been to one such spot to explore the source of its power. Producer: Polly Hope


    Face to face with Abiy Ahmed

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 8, 2021 28:48

    Two weeks ago Ethiopia held a parliamentary election billed as the first truly ‘free and fair' vote in its history – after nearly 20 years of continuous economic growth. It should have been a success story – but the election was only held in some parts of the country, as war was still raging in the Tigray region. There have been over eight months of armed conflict there as the central government moved to re-establish control; and there have been many reports of atrocities – and of hunger. Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly claimed government forces were close to victory and described the rebels as “like flour blown away by the wind”. But after a shock reversal as Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital, Mekelle. Catherine Byaruhanga wonders how much longer Mr Ahmed's confidence can hold. The South China Sea contains some of the world's most hotly-disputed waters - with particular strife between the Philippines and China over the rights to some of its reefs and atolls. These are not just useful places to park military assets - but also particularly rich spots to fish. Given the diplomatic tension between Beijing and Manila over the area, Howard Johnson decided to board a fishing vessel and see more for himself. The Dalmatian pelican is something special in the bird world – the largest pelican on earth and one of the heaviest things on wings. It's huge: just as big as the very largest swans, with a wingspan nearly as wide as an albatross's. The global range of the species is also vast – from the Mediterranean shores of Turkey, all the way across central Eurasia, as far east as China. But there are only about 5,000 breeding pairs left in the world, with around 450 of those in the delta of the River Danube. Abdujalil Abdurasulov waded out with a pair of Ukrainian conservationists trying to make the birds feel more at home. New York City – once the epicentre of the pandemic in the USA - is emerging from the nightmare of last spring. Hospital admissions are at a record low; restaurants and bars are serving again; the theatres on Broadway are due to reopen in September. But the city has lost a million jobs and many businesses – and it's still losing New Yorkers. 187,000 households packed up and left in 2020. Lucy Ash has been considering the city's longer-term future – and seeing how it hopes to lure people back. Money might still talk – or even shout – on Wall Street, but on a global level it's not as much of a physical presence as it used to be. Cash was king once, but these days debit cards or smartphone apps are often more welcome. Yet in many countries around the world, the number of banknotes in circulation is still rising. Kevin Peachey was recently given rare access to a site where millions of these notes are printed and - for one brief moment - thought he might be in for a windfall... Producer: Polly Hope

    Russia's Vaccine Paradoxes

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 3, 2021 28:46

    Attitudes to Covid in Russia have been very different to those in western Europe. At its government played down the risks and scoffed at ‘pandemic panic' in the West. That changed as the virus swept across the country and its healthcare system creaked under the pressure – especially in regions far from Moscow. Russia makes its own vaccine, Sputnik V, which it has shared widely with other countries and is now promoting heavily at home. But as Sarah Rainsford explains, the drive to get people jabbed must contend with public cynicism, scepticism and fear. Everything in Hong Kong these days points to tighter control from Beijing. The draconian national security law recently introduced in the territory is being applied to stifle protests, criminalise dissent and to get its previously lively press working within stricter limits. China's government calls this “restoring stability”. Danny Vincent has seen the process unfold. . Western Canada is still reeling from a week of record temperatures on the Pacific coast. A freakish heatwave caused snowmelts, which in turn triggered flood warnings; tinder-dry forests burst into flame; and deaths spiked in cities simply not built for the heat. Neal Razzell lives on Vancouver Island and reports on life under the 'heat dome.' The lockdown is working - that seems to be the message from India. Daily case numbers and death rates are now far lower than just a few months ago. As very few people have yet been vaccinated, the dip in new cases is being put down to strict lockdown measures imposed in states across the country. But isolation is far from easy to sustain – even if you're in a rural area. Writer and poet Tishani Doshi has spent the time in a secluded spot in Tamil Nadu where even grocery shopping has become a complex process. Governments everywhere have been warned about the global rise in obesity – and its likely costs to public health. But how far can they really change what individuals choose to eat? Chile introduced laws a few years ago to limit the advertising of junk food and to ensure healthy school meals. But three out of four adults - and more than half of all children - in the country are still overweight or obese. In Santiago, Jane Chambers has seen just how resistant some Chileans can be to well-meaning efforts to cut their calories… Producer: Polly Hope

    Risk of Collapse

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 1, 2021 28:43


    Although final numbers of the dead and missing have still not been tallied, the collapse of the Champlain Towers South building in Surfside, Florida may prove to be the most lethal building failure in American history. Although 37 survivors were pulled from the wreckage in the hours soon after the twelve-storey condominium tower fell, there have been very few rescues since. Now there are questions over whether warning signs of damaged concrete in the twelve-storey structure were taken seriously enough when they were reported – and how safe residents might be in other high-rise structures in Miami and beyond. Will Grant spoke to the families of some residents still unaccounted for. The results from France's regional elections seemed to be pointing to many political currents at once. The sitting government was drubbed – some called it an “implosion” for Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron's party La Republique en Marche. Traditional parties on the left and at the centre-right did unexpectedly well. The turnout was dismal – a record low of around 35% . But there was particular disappointment for the hard right Rassemblement National (formerly the Front National) which saw none of its predicted gains materialise in Provence and the south. Fleur McDonald is in one town near Avignon where the party of Marine Le Pen had expected to do well. Eastern Australia is still struggling to contain a cyclical natural plague… of mice. Apart from the danger to human health, the surge also means serious financial losses for Australian farmers - some properties still have thousands of rodents rampaging across their grain stores every night. But the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has just rejected an application from the government of New South Wales to allow the use of one of the most effective poisons available. Steve Evans reports from Canberra. From day to day, citizens of Lebanon watch how their crumbling pound is doing against the dollar, and fret over the cost of basic essentials like food and petrol. Many of them also wonder whether their leaders will manage to form a new Cabinet and a functioning government. Lebanon is now one of the world's diaspora nations, with more citizens living outside the country than within it. Many of them were driven to distrac tion – and then driven out – by the frustration of having to deal with a dysfunctional state. Mo Chreif [went home to investigate the causes of the huge blast which rocked Beirut ten months ago, and uncovered even more than he'd suspected. And following the historic result of the England-Germany game at Wembley, might both countries start reinventing their stereotypes of each other? Damien McGuinness has been thinking it over in Berlin. Producer: Polly Hope


    America's Border Camps for Children

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 26, 2021 28:42

    On the United States Mexico border, the dilemmas of how to treat migrant families arriving without papers are still acute. A BBC investigation has found hundreds of undocumented children were being detained in a camp in the Texan desert that's been ridden with disease, overcrowded, and plagued by a shortage of clean clothes and medical care. Hilary Andersson has been investigating the conditions inside Fort Bliss, El Paso. Spain's Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez took a momentous decision this week: to pardon nine Catalan pro-independence leaders who were jailed for their role in a bid to break away from Spain in 2017. The pardons are meant to soothe national tensions over the issue, but as Guy Hedgecoe reports from Madrid, the reactions to them reflected some deeply-held feelings across the country. As Afghanistan's leaders met Joseph Biden at the White House on Friday the mood in Kabul was edgy. The Taliban are still extending their reach and hold on Afghan territory, gaining new ground each day. For the Afghan media it's a particularly nervous time after a spate of targeted killings of journalists. During such dangerous days, a recent invitation to the corridors of power in Kabul got Karim Haidari thinking. In late December last year a black man was killed by police in Dublin. George Nkencho was followed home after he assaulted someone in a shop and pulled out a knife. He was shot near his front door. The Irish police are mostly unarmed, and this was the sixth fatal shooting by a member of the force in 22 years. But there are questions over whether race may have been a factor in the incident. Stephanie Hegarty met George Nkencho's family as they were pushing for an independent inquiry into his death. Hasankeyf in southeastern Turkey is one of humanity's oldest urban settlements - inhabited for at least twelve thousand years. Or at least old Hasankeyf was - until it was flooded by the waters built up behind the controversial Ilisu Dam. Some original monuments – its bathhouse and remnants of a 14th-century mosque, as well as over 500 graves - were rescued, but many local people wonder whether too much of its special character has been lost forever. Michelle Jana Chan went to see what remains. Producer: Polly Hope

    Denmark's deportation dilemma

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 24, 2021 28:49


    The government of Mette Frederiksen in Copenhagen is getting tough on migration - and has even started to rescind the residency status of some asylum-seekers where it deems the situation in their home countries 'safe' or at least improved. Adrienne Murray reflects on the signs of resistance she's seen on the streets, and the questions these moves raise about Danish policy. Amira Fathalla has spent the last decade monitoring every twist and turn of Libya's apparent disintegration - and reflects on whither this week's peace conference in Germany can really strengthen its current, fragile government of national unity. Is this a final moment of truth for the post-Gaddafi order and a chance to get free and fair elections organised before the end of the year? South America is currently the epicentre of the global Covid pandemic, with some of the world's highest death rates and infections with all variants spreading extremely quickly. Anxiety's particularly high in Argentina, where by some measures things are even worse than in Brazil at the moment. Natalio Cosoy reports from Buenos Aires on the consequences for sport, socialising and the country's self-image. Although NGOs often express concern about illegal logging, mining and poaching in Liberia, there are parts of the country which are still thickly forested and full of animals - some of them edible. Lucinda Rouse went into the woods with a couple of hunters who catch creatures for cash - or for their own tables. Sadly, one of the most sought-after meats is the sweet flesh of several endangered and threatened species of pangolin. And Hugh Schofield leaves us both shaken and stirred by his adventures through the pages of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels - which, as it turns out, are packed full of photographic detail about the authors' travels in France. Retracing the steps of the spy and his adversaries, he finds there is plenty which can still be recognised from the books Producer: Polly Hope


    News Management in Belarus

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 19, 2021 28:52

    The crackdown on dissent and reporting in Belarus goes on, and its authorities are keen to present their version of events to the world. At a recent press conference in Minsk, Jonah Fisher was presented with a dilemma when detained blogger and protester Roman Protasevich was brought out to speak to assembled journalists and diplomats. High in the Himalayas, Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries, with a weak and under-funded health system, particularly in rural areas. Rajini Vaidyanathan travelled there to report on the impact the pandemic is having on families across the country. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was one of the most infamous drug cartel heads in Mexico for years - though he's ended up jailed for life in a supermax prison in the USA. Tara McKelvey covered his trial in New York in 2019, where she saw one of his former mistresses give dramatic testimony - and met his wife in the courthouse cafeteria. Two years on, the two women's fortunes have very much reversed. Bukhara is one of the most renowned of the ancient cities along the ancient Silk Road linking China and the West - a storied place with millennia of artistic and intellectual history embedded in its mosques, madrasas and mausoleums. Sara Wheeler chose a more intimate kind of building to get a feel of its history. And Andrew Harding recalls moments on the road across Africa - from Libya to Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire to Zimbabwe - when it took a team to get the job done. While the joke goes that reporters get the credit and camera operators get the fun, what is the producer's lot? Some of them - like his colleague Becky Lipscombe, now leaving the BBC - really can make all the difference. Producer: Polly Hope

    Lasting tensions in Jaffa

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 17, 2021 28:44

    Israel's new coalition has been sworn in, drawing on the support of parties from across the political spectrum. It includes the first party in an Israeli government to be drawn from Israel's 21% Arab minority - Palestinian heritage, but Israeli by citizenship. One major challenge will be dealing with the tensions sharpened by the worst outbreak of intercommunal violence for a generation. Last month, Jewish and Arab mobs took to the streets of Israel's mixed cities - attacking passers-by, looting shops and desecrating religious sites. As Yolande Knell reports from Jaffa, these incidents opened up divisions that will be hard to heal. Iranians are due to vote in their next President - but not all of them are likely to turn out to the polls. Public apathy seems to be a growing problem; but there have also been open calls for people to boycott the election. Parham Ghobadi works for the BBC's Persian Service from London, and has been trying to gauge voters' opinions about their limited options. The pandemic has hit Romania hard – the country has endured several rounds of lockdowns and re-openings and two significant spikes in deaths in December and April. They all exposed failings the struggling Romanian health system - particularly in rural areas. Stephen McGrath lives in Transylvania and recently lost a neighbour who was a friend not only to him, but to the whole village. On both sides of the Atlantic, there can be no refuge from present controversies in burying yourself in the past - as even matters of historical fact have become incendiary. As a history graduate from Cambridge with a PhD in American politics from Oxford, who's also spent decades reporting from around the world, Nick Bryant is well used to taking the long view. He looks back on his hectic years in New York City covering everything from the rise of Donald Trump to the goings-on at the United Nations HQ - and walks through the many histories of his adopted home. Producer: Polly Hope

    North Korea cracks down on outside influences

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 12, 2021 28:45

    Recent reports from Pyongyang have hinted at an intensified effort to root out foreign fashion, slang and media in North Korea. Its regime has repeatedly punished people who smuggle in DVDs of South Korean TV and film dramas, but the penalties are now even harsher. Laura Bicker reports from Seoul on the risks for North Koreans who try to break their isolation, whether by consuming forbidden culture or even escaping the country themselves. As Joe Biden meets other world leaders at the G7 summit in Cornwall, there are still many Americans who aren't yet convinced he is the legitimate President of the United States. Gabriel Gatehouse has been to Texas, where he attended a QAnon gathering. Press freedom in Pakistan is a touchy issue - and more so now after a string of incidents where reporters have been physically attacked. Secunder Kermani analyses where the 'red lines' lie for broadcast media, and the allegations that the country's security services have been directly pressuring journalists. Turkey's Sea of Marmara is enduring a mucilaginous ordeal - as a slimy, choking layer of so-called "sea snot" smothers its shores. It's a catastrophe for local fishing villages; President Erdogan has launched a clean-up this week. Neyran Elden of the BBC Turkish Service happens to be an experienced scuba diver - so she suited up to go beneath the surface and take a look at the sea bed. What she saw wasn't pretty. Citizens of EU countries in the UK are being strongly encouraged to sort out their residency status before the end of this month. For British citizens living abroad, the experience of getting their own paperwork has varied by country. Luke Tuddenham recently had a surprising brush with bureaucracy in Lower Saxony in Germany. Producer: Polly Hope

    Thailand's youth protest movement stalls

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 10, 2021 28:46

    Not long ago, a wave of unprecedented public protests in Thailand over royal privileges and youth concerns made some Thais feel they were on the brink of change. Now the picture is very different: many of the movement's leading figures are in jail or awaiting trial and their dreams seem to have been deferred. Jonathan Head considers what the youth protest movement has achieved, and what sort of a precedent its fate sets for others in Southeast Asia - most notably for Myanmar. Colombia is currently living through its own wave of street protests - over everything from tax policy to austerity, job opportunities to racism. Demonstrators and police have faced off in cities across the country, sometimes with lethal results. Daniel Pardo reports from Cali, one of the focal points of the the nationwide 'resistance' - and hears worries that the country's sliding back into division. In the Czech Republic, moves to abolish the rules dictating the correct form for women's surnames are gaining ground. From Praque, Rob Cameron explains the grammatical and gender issues at stake - and the social change reflected in the proposed reform. Ferrara, in Italy's Emilia Romagna region, is a famously prosperous and beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage - but whatever its visual splendour, its greatest arts of all might be the culinary ones. Julia Buckley has been getting a taste of its edible history via recipes from a cookbook first put together in the 1540s, by the man who served as master of ceremonies at the palatial court of the Este family. And in Georgia, Mark Stratton delves into the extraordinary qvevri - the giant earthenware jars traditionally used to store and age some of the the country's renowned wines. These immense, amphora-like clay pots encapsulate Georgia's ancient identity and are key to the special flavour of many of its most treasured reds, whites - and ambers - as well as the extremely potent liquor known as chacha. Producer: Polly Hope

    A new coalition in Israel's Knesset

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 5, 2021 28:36


    Benjamin Netanyahu has outsmarted many attempts to drive him from power - but a new alliance is manoeuvring to unseat him. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem on the unusual array of parties now teaming up in coalition - ranging from right-wing Jewish nationalists to a religious party for Muslim Israelis of Palestinian heritage. Sarah Rainsford has reported on several waves of repression in Belarus for the BBC. But her most recent visit to Minsk revealed a pall of fear settling over the country's news media, dissidents and protesters. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently visited Costa Rica to talk migration and development aid with the foreign ministers of Central America. What changes in policy is the Biden administration considering - and what does it have to offer the region to deter people from trying to make it to the Mexico/US border? Will Grant was in San Jose to see what was on the table. Japan is a nation famous for its team spirit, its hospitality, and its love of a big event. But as Rupert Wingfield Hayes comments from Tokyo, there's little public enthusiasm for the Olympic Games - as the opening ceremony in July draws closer, even as new doubts arise over pandemic safety and travel restrictions. For more than twenty years the late Milan Bandic served as mayor of Croatia's capital, Zagreb - and some citizens say he treated it as a personal fiefdom. He had many colourful run-ins with the law, but there was also a far wider range of accusations that corruption and cronyism were spoiling the city's reputation and driving young Croatians abroad. Guy De Launey explains why nearly two-thirds of voters just chose a young, Green candidate to clean up their surroundings.


    Somaliland's can-do spirit

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 3, 2021 28:56

    Somaliland claims to be an independent republic, though it is not internationally recognised and Somalia still claims the territory. It issues passports, has its own army, flag and president - and this week it held long-delayed elections. Mary Harper, a regular visitor, explains what the polls meant to Somaliland's people - especially some of its most marginalised. This weekend, Peruvian voters have to choose between two candidates for the Presidency - after a fragmented and confusing first round, the contest is now a neck-and-neck race between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori. In Lima, Dan Collyns senses the mood polarising - and hears how heated the rhetoric has become. Iraq's Jewish community was once hundreds of thousands strong - but it's been whittled away drastically since the 1940s by persecution, emigration and ageing. Lizzie Porter has witnessed how Jewish sites across the country have changed, and how many are crumbling into disuse and neglect. But there are also people working to preserve this unique heritage. The pandemic meant many Singaporeans haven't been able to travel far for months, so there's been a surge of interest in the city-states last remaining wild spaces - the green areas where birds and tropical plants still flourish. Sharanjit Leyl is a keen birdwatcher herself, and says her fellow twitchers are worried over the future of their forests. And in southwestern France, Chris Bockman recently met a village mayor with unusual powers. Nothing to do with local government guidelines; rather, he's believed by many to be capable of healing illnesses, lifting curses - and even exorcism. Producer: Polly Hope

    Zuma on Trial

    Play Episode Listen Later May 29, 2021 28:51

    Former President Jacob Zuma's long-delayed fraud trial saw a surge in interest this week as the accused arrived to plead not guilty to all charges. Andrew Harding has been following this intricate case for years and was in court in Pietermaritzburg. The worst of the pandemic may have passed in India's megacities, but the virus is still spreading fast in rural areas - and leaving lasting grief and trauma across the country. Rajini Vaidyanathan reflects from Delhi on the sadness now permeating all levels of society. Chinese consumers have been knocking back Australian wine with gusto in recent years, even as political relations between Beijing and Canberra have grown ever more strained. But the export boom might not last. Shaimaa Khalil reports from the Barossa Valley in South Australia, where they're bracing for the impact of new Chinese tariffs on imports. In Canada, a Catholic archdiocese has been found liable for damages to be awarded to several survivors of physical and sexual abuse in a Church-run orphanage. Greg Mercer talked to one man who grew up in the Mount Cashel home. The city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo is surrounded by dangers - armed rebel groups, a lake with dangerous levels of dissolved CO2 and methane - and now an erupting volcano. Olivia Acland was one of the tens of thousands who had to join a mass evacuation as Nyiragongo rumbled. Producer: Polly Hope

    Caught in the crossfire along the Thailand/Myanmar border

    Play Episode Listen Later May 27, 2021 28:49

    : Laura Bicker reports from a remote corner of Thailand’s border with Myanmar, where villagers’ lives are being disrupted as the Burmese military pursues insurgent groups. Since the generals' takeover in February, hundreds of people have died in Myanmar's cities after mass protests. In rural areas, several rebel militias – most formed by ethnic minorities – which have been resisting the military for decades are renewing their fight. Last weekend the diversion of a Ryanair flight to Minsk in Belarus – though it was meant to be going to Lithuania – caused generalised outrage. After an alleged bomb threat, the plane had to land straight away. But it seems the real target on board was a young critic of the Belarusian government, James Landale analyses the shock felt across Europe as other countries judge how to respond. After Idriss Deby, Chad's longtime head of state, was reportedly killed in battle in April, many hoped his death might offer a chance to hold free and fair elections. Instead Mr Déby’s son, a general, now rules the country. Activists fear that their window for change might soon slam shut. In N'Djamena, Mayeni Jones found those in power don’t always share the priorities of ordinary Chadians. In recent days, several thousand migrants crossed from Morocco into the Spanish city of Ceuta. It's happened before but the numbers this time were unprecedented. Guy Hedgecoe reflects on the backdrop to this incident and complex history binding Spain and Morocco. As Chileans’ household budgets have grown tighter, they’ve also grown more worried about their country’s once-emblematic pension system. Now a new breed of politician is seizing the limelight by suggesting voters should just go ahead and raid the kitty, says Jane Chambers in Santiago. Producer: Polly Hope

    The bravery and anger of Afghanistan's schoolgirls

    Play Episode Listen Later May 22, 2021 28:55


    The attack on a Kabul school on May 8th heightened fears about what will happen when US and NATO troops fully withdraw from the country. More than 80 people were killed – most of them schoolgirls. It was in an area west of the city, home to many from the minority Hazara community, often targeted for attack. Lyse Doucet talked to some of the survivors and heard of their anger at the failure to protect them. In East Jerusalem, a battle over property has channelled long-held tensions and unresolved grievances. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, protestors have been trying to stop Israel evicting eight Palestinian families. Israel’s Supreme Court has delayed a hearing on the evictions, but the case, along with complaints of heavy-handed policing of the Al Aqsa compound during Ramadan, ignited the recent round of violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Paul Adams visited the streets at the heart of the dispute. Indonesia's capital Jakarta is one of the world’s most polluted cities. Now some of its residents have launched a court case trying to push the government to clean up its atmosphere. Rebecca Henschke, who lived in the city for over a decade, reports on their fight to breathe more easily. For now, Portugal is one of the places British tourists can go without quarantining and the hospitality industry in the Algarve is eager to welcome them back. Nick Beake spoke to local businesspeople hoping to get back in gear. Emma Jane Kirby has reported for the BBC from across Europe and beyond – in settings ranging from the glitz of the Cote d’Azur to the squalor of Sangatte. She's covered big stories and described plenty of dramatic scenes, from shipwrecks to furious street protests. But she’s now working in a different world … the fictional universe of the Archers. Producer: Polly Hope


    A change of pace in the White House

    Play Episode Listen Later May 20, 2021 28:45

    President Biden’s administration has plenty to do – and has gone about doing it at a less hectic pace than its predecessor. The Democrats say their plans are all about ‘rebuilding America’ with proposals for huge infrastructure projects as well as social care reform. Senior Republicans have called it “the most socialist agenda” Congress has ever voted on. Anthony Zurcher has been feeling a different mood in DC. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh last year cost Armenia dear, in territory and lives. A truce deal, backed by Russia, was meant to get all prisoners of war back home. But Armenia says around 200 of its citizens are still in captivity. Rayhan Demytrie reports. Nick Thorpe, the BBC’s correspondent in Budapest, is no stranger to the River Danube. He’s travelled its length twice, has written a book and made a series of documentary films on it. But this week, he met his match - a hardy couple of adventurers who've been paddling upstream for weeks, only leaving the water to sleep. The buzz over the Eurovision Song Contest is a little quieter this year in Rotterdam – though we can still expect blaring power ballads. Singing indoors is a high-risk activity these days. Covid restrictions don't make the easiest conditions for a festival of unity. But Steve Rosenberg’s enthusiasm is undampened. The work of Claude Monet is deeply rooted in nature. For him, plants and landscapes weren’t simply pretty things to be observed, but the core of his inspiration. From 1883, at his home in Giverny in Normandy, he cultivated specific views to contemplate. His gardens are usually a major visitor attraction but languished unseen through much of 2020. As they got ready for a limited reopening, Christine Finn had an early look. Producer: Polly Hope

    A Spiral of Violence

    Play Episode Listen Later May 15, 2021 28:57

    As missiles have rained down on Gaza and on Israel, violence at street level has also been at its worst for years. There have been clashes between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel within Israel’s own borders. There have been confrontations between security forces and Palestinians in the West Bank. On a far greater scale, Gaza has been under heavy rocket fire as the Israeli Defence Forces struck back against what they identify as control centres for Hamas. Jeremy Bowen weighs up the damage. In Brazil, Congress is conducting an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. But the president still has keen backers, who admire his energy and instinct for confrontation. Mark Lowen is just back from Brazil and reflects on Jair Bolsonaro's playbook - and its echoes of another leader whose tactics he knows well. The number of boats carrying migrants keen to reach the shores of Europe is on the rise again. Enforcement is stricter across the Mediterranean so other routes are getting busier. But the journey via the Atlantic and Spain’s Canary Islands can be lethal. Bruno Boelpaep reports on a tragedy at sea and a moving reunion. Mexico’s Sea of Cortez is home to the most critically endangered sea mammal on earth: a small porpoise called the vaquita . There are fewer than a dozen left and they risk getting tangled in the nets cast out for fish. Those fish, in turn, are also under threat – even though they’re legally protected. Linda Pressly saw the pressures at work in the town of San Felipe. And a historic collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture is back on public view for the first time in decades. The new display of the Torlonia marbles delighted David Willey, who has lived in Rome for nearly fifty years. He remembers them looking rather different… Producer: Polly Hope

    India’s pandemic politics

    Play Episode Listen Later May 8, 2021 29:05


    The pandemic’s impact on politics is being picked over in India after a disappointment for the BJP in West Bengal's state election. Mark Tully was born in India in 1935 and reported from across the subcontinent for the BBC for many years - working as the chief of its Delhi bureau for some of that time. He still lives in the city and has recently been shielding at home – and sent us this long view of how Narendra Modi’s government has dealt with this emergency. After a sluggish start – and some concerns about public reluctance - Germany’s vaccination campaign is gathering pace. The government has agreed to lift some restrictions for vaccinated people. But the new social divide between the vaxxed and the un-vaxxed is sparking some awkward new emotions — and some new German words to describe them. Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin. During the last twenty years, a new generation of Afghan girls have grown up aspiring to work outside the home – some even daring to start up their own businesses. But the past year has been tough for them, and there are fears of what increased Taliban influence may mean for their enterprises. Charlie Faulkner met one young woman wondering how long she can stay afloat. The Galapagos Islands off Ecuador are a showcase of marine life in all its variety - but the country's fishing fleets are fuming over plans to extend the limits of environmental protection zones. Dan Collyns examines the delicate balance between saving the fishing industry and protecting the planet. And in the week that France commemorated one of its greatest sons – Napoleon Bonaparte, who died 200 years ago - Julia Buckley gleans some personal insights into the man behind the myth in an unexpectedly intimate museum of his belongings in the Dordogne.


    Iran’s internal rivalries

    Play Episode Listen Later May 1, 2021 28:48


    A leaked recording has startled observers of Iran’s government and military. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was caught out when an interview meant for the archive of a state-sponsored think-tank found its way to the media. Jeremy Bowen explains what it revealed about how the country really works. President Biden has issued an official statement that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks from 1915 onwards were a “genocide” - a term that's always enraged Turkish nationalists. Biden’s statement was welcomed in Armenia and by the Armenian diaspora, but roundly rejected by Turkey’s President Erdogan. Orla Guerin reports on the impact of the White House’s verdict on history. It has been three weeks since the volcano in St Vincent, La Soufriere, erupted. Ash rained down on the northern part of the island; more than a tenth of its people had to to shelter elsewhere and most crops have been ruined. Will Grant reached the red zone and saw how much needs to be rebuilt. Chile has had one of the world’s most successful vaccine rollouts, with over 40% cent of its people having had at least one jab. But infection rates haven’t fallen as rapidly as was hoped. Some experts say the country’s experience is proof vaccination alone can’t keep whole populations free of Covid. Jane Chambers detects some disillusion in Santiago. The self-declared Islamic State attracted around 40,000 foreign fighters to its territory, and many brought wives and children with them. Josh Baker spent years following the story of one American woman who travelled to Syria with her husband, taking her young son, Matthew, too. The boy survived more than two and a half years there and is now back in the US. Tracking him down took Josh to several unexpected places along the way.


    The US and China edge closer on climate

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 24, 2021 28:59

    Relations between the US and China are going through a rough patch. On trade, diplomacy and military matters the superpowers are at odds; they still have entirely different visions of the world and its future. Yet the world’s two biggest carbon emitters have pledged to cooperate more closely on cutting their emissions. Celia Hatton explores how the promises were hammered out and what it means for the rest of the planet.; Early in 2021 many hoped India might escape the worst of the pandemic, with a vaccine roll-out under way and infection rates dropping. But Covid cases and deaths have soared. The surge in patient numbers, and severe shortages of oxygen, have overwhelmed the health system in some places. In Delhi, Rajini Vaidyanathan sensed a marked shift in mood.; Brazil is also hard hit. Its President Jair Bolsonaro has scoffed at the virus, and clashed repeatedly with regional governors who wanted to impose stricter lockdowns and other measures. In the northeastern town of Lencois, Richard Lapper gauges the political fallout. Thousands of people gathered last week calling for the release of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. But Russia’s laws on public protest have tightened recently, and attending unauthorised rallies these days can mean a beating, a sacking or a prison sentence. Sarah Rainsford talked to some who still feel it’s worth speaking out. Idriss Deby, leader of Chad for more than 30 years, embodied the African "military strongman" until his death, apparently in the thick of fighting with rebels. The son of a herdsman, he faced down many uprisings and regional crises and was often considered an indispensable ally by the West in stopping jihadist groups in the Sahel. Andrew Harding considers the dilemmas he's left behind. Producer: Polly Hope

    A Taliban show of force in Afghanistan

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 17, 2021 29:03

    The White House has announced a deadline for US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the government in Kabul looks isolated. The Taliban are in control of large parts of the country, running a parallel administration. Secunder Kermani visited a Taliban-controlled zone in Balkh province to hear how Talib commanders and fighters have reacted to the American plan. Russia seems to be concentrating military resources along its border with Ukraine, but why? And how can or should Ukraine prepare to respond? Jonah Fisher has been to the trenches and artillery-damaged villages of eastern Ukraine and sensed a nervy game of 'wait and see'. The city of Minneapolis has been at the centre of continuing debate over race, crime and policing in the United States. Just as the world's media moved in to cover the trial of Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd in 2020, news came on Sunday of the death of Daunte Wright, aged 20, shot and killed by a police officer. Larry Madowo reflects on how much anger and sadness there is to go around. The South China Sea is dotted with reefs, atolls and islets coveted by rival neighbours, including Vietnam, Brunei, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Tensions have risen recently over an outcrop called Whitsun Reef., The Philippines claim sovereignty there - but it's currently bristling with ships from mainland China. Howard Johnson reports on the latest chapter of a long dispute. And Joe Myerscough reveals what it's like to travel in the shadow of Greta Thunberg. While filming with one of the world's youngest and best-known climate activists, he saw her dealing with the demands of a global public image as well as fighting global climate change. Producer: Polly Hope

    Jordan’s palace intrigues

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 10, 2021 29:18

    Jordan is often portrayed as a stable, moderate country whose royal family have guided it wisely through turbulent times in a dangerous neighbourhood. But that royal family has rifts of its own and they burst into full view in recent weeks, as a public feud broke out between King Abdullah and his half-brother, the former Crown Prince Hamza. The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, has his own memories of the country’s intimate power struggles – past and present. In Rwanda, a man once seen around the world as a hero is now standing trial accused of terrorism. Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager, sheltered hundreds of people from the killers during the 1994 genocide. But he became a critic in exile of the government of Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame - and apparently a target for Rwandan intelligence. Michaela Wrong has spent years investigating the complex background to the story. As the military crackdown on strikers and demonstrators goes on in Myanmar, journalists are also being targeted as they try and cover the situation. Ben Dunant has just returned to the UK after years spent reporting in Myanmar and reflects on the prospects for the colleagues he left behind. As you might expect, the residents of Paris have been particularly pained by the closure of their restaurants and cafes. But for those in the know, there were still some illicit ways to eat out: networks of private dining rooms and functions. Recently some of those secret arrangements were revealed to the French public – and many who hadn’t been invited were outraged. Joanna Robertson reports.

    Merkel’s Balancing Act

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 3, 2021 28:37

    The German Chancellor is widely respected as good at crisis management, but public confidence in her government's pandemic policies is ebbing away. How will her party, the CDU, campaign during this autumn's general election - is it possible the next Chancellor could be a Green? Jenny Hill reports from Berlin on power struggles and shifting opinions. While the Christian Democrats confront their future, the German state is still carrying on talks with the government of Namibia about its colonial past. Land rights, official apologies and reparations have all been discussed . So has the treatment of the Herero and Nama peoples in the early 1900s, which some historians now consider "the first genocide of the 20th century". Tim Whewell met black and white Namibians still viewing their heritage though very different lenses. In Armenia the public mood is mutinous, in the aftermath of the most recent round of conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. A ceasefire agreement is holding, but there's grief and anger on the streets of Yerevan. Mark Stratton has friends in the disputed territory and hoped to revisit them, to see how they had survived the fighting. Millions of people in Iranian and Kurdish communities around the world recently celebrated Nowruz - the Persian New Year, a joyful festival full of the symbolism of rebirth. But it's enjoyed particularly passionately in the ancient town of Akre in the Zagros mountains in northern Iraq. Leila Molana Allen climbed its stone ramparts and steep hillsides to witness the spectacle. In eastern Romania, there's a village like no other: Tichilesti, home to Europe's last leprosarium - a facility where people with Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy, were once sent for life. Nick Thorpe shares some of the stories he heard there.

    The EU and The Vaccine

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 27, 2021 28:32


    The EU’s vaccination programme has had several setbacks with repeated delays and safety concerns. The commission has blamed pharmaceutical companies for failing to deliver promised jabs, and has tightened export controls. Kevin Connolly reflects on the twists and turns of the vaccine saga – and how history may offer some insight into what happens next. Israel has held its fourth election in two years - yielding yet another inconclusive result. Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor his challengers secured a governing majority. Some analysts say the stalemate is further alienating Israelis from the political system. Joel Greenberg says the outcome could turn on an unlikely kingmaker. The recent shooting of six Asian Americans in Georgia has highlighted entrenched prejudice in the US. In the last year there has been a spike in reports of attacks and other abuse directed against people of Asian descent. Annie Phrommayon is in San Francisco and reflects on how racist attitudes have become normalised. Germany has gone to great lengths in recent decades to acknowledge its Nazi legacy. But the subject is still highly sensitive. In Berlin, Alexa Dvorson had an improbable conversation born out of a reader's courage to reach out to a stranger--and find out more about her grandfather's past as a Nazi Youth leader. We hear the story of Shirley - from her time as an editor on the Japan Times newspaper to her return to Canada, where, due to her insurance, she had treatment for her deteriorating health. In a cruel twist, the pandemic restrictions separated her from her life partner in the US, and prevented them from being reunited before she died. Hugh Levinson tells the story of what the experience meant for the couple. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling


    Poland’s LGBT Crackdown

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 25, 2021 28:28

    Rules have been tightening for same sex couples in Poland in recent years. Civil unions are not legally recognized and same sex couples are barred from adopting children, but a loophole currently allows applicants to adopt as single parents. Now the government wants to close that loophole. Adam Easton has spoken to the people affected, some of whom are now considering leaving. Lebanon's second city, Tripoli, gained notoriety for its flamboyant anti-government protests in 2019 over the severe economic decline seen across the country. Despite the extreme poverty, and the impact of the pandemic, some of the city's residents are keen to be part of an economic revival, finds Lemma Shehadi. In Taiwan, we hear the stories of couples who were married under the traditional simpua system. The practice, where a family would adopt a pre-adolescent girl as a future bride for their son, eventually phased out in the sixties and seventies, largely due to the economic boom. Sally Howard spoke to some of the men and women who married according to the tradition, with mixed results. On the Greek island of Corfu there's a small haven set on a hill above the main town - a cemetery set in a well-tended garden, where bougainvilleas, orchids and Cyprus trees line the path ... frequented by a few wild tortoises. The long-serving caretaker recently died and is now buried there. But Julia Langdon visited the garden when he was still alive - he took her for a tour. In Canada, the authorities have been encouraging people to look after their physical and mental health during the pandemic by getting outside. In Ottawa, this involves winter hikes and cross country skiing - and river surfing, as Sian Griffiths discovered. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

    Hong Kong’s Exodus

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 20, 2021 28:39

    Hong Kong is seeing a wave of departures amid concerns about the erosion of democratic freedoms. China's national security law, imposed in July last year, has been used to clamp down on dissent prompting many to considering leaving. The UK's visa scheme will allow many Hong Kong residents to start a new life in Britain. Danny Vincent spoke to some of the people preparing to leave the territory. One year ago, New York City was the one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak. Now a massive vaccination effort is underway. Restaurants are allowed to open at half capacity and, helped by the relief package, the city is gradually springing back to life. But some people are wary of the vaccine, says Laura Trevelyan. In Australia allegations of sexual assault in the corridors of power in Canberra are dominating headlines. Tens of thousands of people have protested in the major cities. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has so far refused to hold an independent inquiry, but the allegations have triggered a public reaction that is gathering pace, says Shaimaa Khalil. Each year, Afghanistan hosts an annual ski challenge, in the mountains of Bamiyan province. Organisers of this event are hoping the region can attract more tourists, despite the on-going threat of violence. They hope for a more peaceful future - and this event has provided much needed respite. Charlie Faulkner went to watch. The Netherlands has long navigated the threat posed by rising water levels. In 1953, a catastrophic flood claimed the lives of more than 1000 people. In response, the Dutch created an advanced network of flood defences. These are now being updated thanks to a new plan to climate-proof the country. Jane Labous reports. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

    Rebuilding Raqqa

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 18, 2021 28:51

    More than 380 000 people have been killed and over half the population has been uprooted from their homes in Syria's ten-year civil conflict. Residents of the city of Raqqa experienced terror and brutality under the control of so-called Islamic State. Meanwhile airstrikes and shelling destroyed civilian infrastructure and homes. Now the city is trying to rebuild. Leila Molana-Allen met with one of the original protesters , along with those who are working to restore the city. The Venezuelan diaspora stretches from Texas to Brussels to Nairobi, and those within it are now trying to help people back home battling the pandemic and a collapsing economy. Vladimir Hernandez lives in Nairobi, and describes how Venezuelan friends and relatives are issuing pleas for help via messaging apps. The murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall in 2017 on board a Danish submarine shocked the world. It was recently in the spotlight again when a television dramatization of the case, The Investigation, was aired on the BBC and other networks. Maddy Savage reflects on her experience of covering the trial of Kim Wall’s killer. Farming is the backbone of the Indian economy – and the government argues that it can make life better for farmers via a series of free-market reforms. But the plans set off a furious backlash. Minreet Kaur, who lives in the UK, has been hearing why the protests have been so widespread - and so heated. Switzerland’s system of direct democracy is famous for putting decision making firmly in the hands of voters. Gather 100,000 signatures, and you are guaranteed a nationwide vote on an issue. This led to the recent vote to ban face coverings – including the burqa and the niqab. Imogen Foulkes reports. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

    The Pope and the Ayatollah

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 13, 2021 28:51

    Pope Francis' recent visit to Iraq was the first by a pontiff to the country. It was aimed at boosting the moral of the persecuted Christian minority and promoting inter-religious dialogue. Mark Lowen travelled with the papal delegation and witnessed the moment the Pope met the most powerful Shia cleric in Iraq - the Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. In Mozambique the government is struggling to deal with armed groups whose motives are often unclear. So as reports started coming in, in recent years, of an Islamist insurgency in the far north –– it wasn’t easy to know who the players were. Since 2017 there have been repeated accounts of attacks – and military reprisals – in Cabo Delgado province. Andrew Harding visited the region. Singapore has taken pride in its track and trace technology throughout the pandemic. Now, it is in the midst of a mass vaccination drive and has chosen to prioritise workers in the aviation and maritime industries. Karishma Vaswani went to Singapore’s main airport which has dedicated a whole terminal to the vaccine roll-out. In Liberia, the business of farming sea cucumbers is proving profitable for some. The leathery marine animals are mainly sold to China where they are seen as an edible delicacy. But some species are becoming endangered. Lucinda Rouse met one man who runs a farming business - and watched a haul of sea cucumbers being brought in. The Pacific island of Kiribati is said to be only one of a dozen nations which hasn't reported any Covid cases. Authorities there want to keep it that way. Last year many thousands of sailors from Kiribati were unable to return home before borders were sealed off. Nick Beake met a group who were stranded in Germany. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

    Remembering Fukushima

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 11, 2021 28:39

    Ten years ago a magnitude 9 earthquake struck off the north east coast of Honshu, triggering a devastating tsunami which left 20,000 dead and more than half a million without homes. It also triggered a meltdown at the nuclear plant in Fukushima. There were fears the contamination would spread just as it did with Chernobyl. Rupert Wingfield Hayes revisited the nuclear zone. The mass kidnappings of children in Nigeria have made repeated headlines recently. In the past three months alone there have been four such abductions. This dramatic escalation has led many to conclude that kidnapping children has become a business in Nigeria. Mayeni Jones looks at whether the media is part of the problem. A fresh wave of sex scandals in France is forcing the country to confront widespread sexual abuse and, in particular, incest. There is now a push to reform laws surrounding rape and child abuse and, for the first time in France, to set a legal age of consent. Joanna Robertson reflects on the culture that has tolerated a long-standing problem. We’re in Pakistan where one young man has used the time spent in lockdown there to perfect his impersonation of Charlie Chaplin. He has now taken to the streets in his coat tails and bowler hat – to the alarm and entertainment of those on the streets of Peshawar. Rani Singh watched him. Malta has a rich history spanning thousands of years and influenced by a range of cultures. One of the official languages on the island, Malti, has its roots in Arabic, and, over time fused with the Sicilian dialect of Italian. Juliet Rix reports how the language reflects the history of the island, from the early Arab occupiers to European monarchs. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

    Brazil’s Long Battle Against Covid

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 6, 2021 28:36

    Brazil is facing the deadliest point of the pandemic so far – this week posting record death tolls as scientists warn the variant found in the country appears to be more contagious. For Katy Watson, who has been reporting on Brazil's outbreak throughout, it’s a story that’s become personal too. Meanwhile in Europe, some countries are cautiously re-opening. We're Germany, where hairdressers have opened again – and garden centres and bookshops will follow suit from next week, but plans for a wider lifting of restrictions will hinge on keeping rates low. With just six per cent of the country inoculated, scientists are warning a new wave is already underway. Jenny Hill visited a hospital in Dortmund. The small community of Africville in Canada was established by Black settlers more than two centuries ago, many of whom had fled a life of slavery in the US. The vibrant community lived there for generations, until their forcible relocation in the 1960s when authorities demolished the settlement for industrial use. Now, the local mayor wants to give the land back, finds Greg Mercer. In Somalia, there is political impasse due to delayed elections in February. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's four year term has officially come to an end but talks on the electoral rules have stalled. Nick Redmayne visited Mogadishu and found the cosmopolitan parts of the city belied a backdrop of uncertainty. And we hear about a life lived under Soviet rule – the recent death of his father-in-law led Martin Vennard to reflect on a remarkable life. Vladimir Davidovich was a scientist and musician whose story spans much of the twentieth century. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

    Crises in the Caucasus

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 4, 2021 29:16

    In the South Caucasus, Georgia and Armenia are facing challenging times as political crises in each country have intensified in the past week. In Georgia, the arrest of the opposition leader brought thousands onto the streets in protest. And in neighbouring Armenia, the country’s embattled prime minister accused the army’s generals of an attempting a military coup. Rayhan Demytrie explains the challenges of reporting on both events at the same time. In Peru, a scandal over vaccine distribution has shocked the nation. A local newspaper published a list of the names of hundreds of people who had secretly been inoculated well ahead of the vaccination roll-out: including the former President and several government ministers. Dan Collyns reports on "Vacunagate." In the United States, we follow the story of one woman who chose to forego her long-term job as a teacher in favour of a less predictable, nomadic way of life in her campervan. She is part of a growing community of so-called “van-lifers” in North America who have been depicted in the Golden Globe winning film, Nomadland. Sally Howard follows her story. Iceland has the least Covid restrictions in Europe on business and daily life. Prone to living alongside active volcanoes, citizens of this island in the north Atlantic are used to being kept safe with early warning systems and evacuation procedures. Tira Shubart reports on how Iceland is now getting ready to welcome summer visitors –with certain conditions. And we’re in Romania – home to a vast array of birdlife, brown bears, wolves, wildcats, and lynx. Stephen McGrath meets an ornithologist, and reflects on the wonders of the natural world and the destruction it all faces at the hands of humans. Presenter: Kate Adie Producer: Serena Tarling

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