The Real Story

By BBC World Service

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 Feb 5, 2019

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Excellent in-depth explorations of contemporary issues from a range of perspectives. Always enlightening.


Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story.

Episode Date
Imran Khan and Pakistan's political turmoil
Clashes this week between police and supporters of former cricketer-turned-Prime Minister, Imran Khan, show once again the deep divisions within Pakistani politics. Mr Khan was ousted as prime minister last April in a no-confidence vote but has kept up pressure on his successor, Mr Sharif, with demonstrations calling for early elections and blaming him for an assassination attempt - an accusation the government denies. Mr Khan faces multiple court cases, including terrorism charges, but has cited a variety of reasons for not showing up to hearings. Meanwhile Pakistan is in the middle of one of the worst economic crises ever seen. The country is awaiting a much-needed bailout package of $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund - a loan that has been delayed over issues related to fiscal policy. The security situation is also deteriorating with a spate of deadly attacks on police, linked to the Pakistan Taliban. So what, if anything, might resolve the political stand-off? What impact does ongoing instability have on Pakistan’s economic situation and could this all play into the hands of Pakistan’s Taliban? How much support does Imran Khan really have from the military - or could the army’s longstanding hold on Pakistan finally be challenged? Owen Bennett-Jones is joined by: General Muhammad Haroon Aslam, a retired army general. He was a Corps Commander in the Pakistani army and served in the military for 40 years Hammad Azhar, a former finance minister for Imran Khan's party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Atika Rehman, London correspondent for Dawn newspaper Also featuring: Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, senator for the The Pakistan Muslim League, part of the ruling coalition, and a former prime minister Shuja Nawaz, Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington Khurram Husain, business and economy journalist based in Karachi Ahmed Rashid, journalist and author of Descent into Chaos and Pakistan on the Brink (Photo: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks with Reuters during an interview in Lahore, Pakistan 17 March, 2023. Credit: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters)
Mar 24, 2023
Is the asylum system broken?
Millions of people around the world are on the move today in search of a safe and better life. It’s estimated over 100 million people were displaced last year. Over 30 million are refugees and 5 million are asylum seekers. The UN body for refugees says 72% of the refugees originate from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Ukraine, Afghanistan and South Sudan. These refugees are often fleeing persecution, conflict, violence, natural disasters and human rights violations. They make the dangerous journey across land and sea to seek asylum in other countries. Over the years, thousands have died or gone missing in the the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe. While, with help from the UNHCR and host countries, many get legal status and are settled, thousands are held in processing centres and camps, often for years. We discuss problems with the current international asylum system and ask what would a fair global asylum system could look like? Owen Bennett Jones is joined by: Gerald Knaus - the founding chairman of German think tank The European Stability Initiative. Jeff Crisp - former head of policy development and evaluation at the UNHCR. Dr Ashwini Vasanthakumar - author of The Ethics of Exile: A Political Theory of Diaspora. She writes on the ethics and politics of migration. Also featuring: Ahmed - a migrant, an asylum seeker and a refugee, who fled Syria in 2015 and is now settled in the UK> Alexander Downer - Australia's former foreign minister. Ylenja Lucaselli - A member of the Italian Parliament for Fratelli d'Italia. (Photo: The number of people crossing the English Channel has risen in recent years. Credit: PA) Producer: Rozita Riazati and Rumella Dasgupta.
Mar 17, 2023
Will the Windsor Framework finally get Brexit done?
A new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland has been announced. The Windsor Framework replaces the Northern Ireland Protocol - that was deemed unworkable, but does this new deal solve Northern Ireland's trading arrangements? In his speech in Windsor, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his new framework agreement had "removed any sense of a border in the Irish Sea". It is true that Northern Ireland consumers should certainly have no sense of a border when it comes to buying food, plants and medicines or taking their dog on the ferry to Scotland. But it will still be a trade border of sorts. Moving goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland remains conditional: it will require signing up to trusted trader schemes, providing information on what goods are moving and having the correct labelling. But given the constraints the UK set itself back in 2017 - a hard Brexit with no land border on the island of Ireland - that may be as good as it gets. Rishi Sunak and EU chief, Ursula von der Leyen, seemed comfortable together in Windsor but it’s still unclear whether the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland will back the agreement and bring back the power-sharing government. So, is the Windsor Framework a feasible solution? How did Mr Sunak make such progress where his predecessors failed to? If the DUP do reject it, does this mean Brexit can never truly be ‘done’? And what would be the implications for Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the EU if the wrangling over the border continues indefinitely? Chris Morris is joined by: Raoul Ruparel, special advisor on Europe to former UK Prime Minister Theresa May from 2018-19. Tony Connolly, Europe Editor for Ireland's national broadcaster RTE. He is the author of Brexit & Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response. Professor Danuta Hübner, a Polish MEP and a member of the European Parliament’s UK Contact Group . Also featuring: Sammy Wilson, Democratic Unionist Party MP for East Antrim and DUP chief whip Image: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen during a press conference at the Guildhall in Windsor, Berkshire, following the announcement that they have struck a deal over the Northern Ireland Protocol. Credit: PA Producers: Imogen Wallace and Pandita Lorenz
Mar 10, 2023
What will China’s declining population mean for the world?
Last year China's population fell for the first time in 60 years with the national birth rate hitting a record low. China's birth rate has in fact been declining for years but an older population will pose a real challenge for China economically, politically and strategically. So, what will the consequences be for China and the rest of the world if this vast economy - the second largest in the world – of a waning workforce and an ageing population? The ruling Communist Party is introducing a range of policies to try to encourage couples to have more babies. But it was only seven years ago that the Chinese government scrapped the controversial one-child policy, replacing it with the two-child policy in 2016 and the three-child policy in 2021. The government is also offering tax breaks and better maternal healthcare, among other incentives, in an effort to reverse, or at least slow, the falling birth rate. Nothing so far has worked. So how concerning is population decline for China and the rest of the world? How much of an issue is gender inequality and the cost of raising a child? What will an older, frailer population do to the Chinese economy? And, as climate change intensifies, is population decline really a problem? Chris Morris is joined by: Yun Zhou - a social demographer, family sociologist and an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. Isabel Hilton – a journalist and founder of the bilingual website China Dialogue - an organisation dedicated to promoting a common understanding of China’s environmental challenges. Yasheng Huang - professor of global economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of the forthcoming book on China, The Rise and the Fall of the EAST. Also featuring: Victor Gao - Vice President of the Beijing-based Centre for China and Globalisation, a think tank with links to the Chinese Communist Party. Producer: Pandita Lorenz and Ellen Otzen (Photo: China's Sichuan province shifts birth control policies, Shanghai, 31 Jan 2023. Credit: Alex Plavevski/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock)
Mar 03, 2023
What does the future hold for President Erdoğan?
The earthquakes that struck south-eastern Turkey and northern Syria on 6 February were deadly and devastating. Tens of thousands have died - many more are unaccounted for. It's not the first time that Turkey has been blindsided by a major earthquake. In 1999 the Turkish government was caught off-guard by an earthquake that killed more than 17,000 people. It sparked major public outcry that helped bring Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) into power for the first time in 2003. Back then Erdoğan blamed poor governance and corruption for the huge number of casualties. But now he is the one in power - and this earthquake is even deadlier still. There has been criticism of the speed and effectiveness of the Turkish government's response to the earthquake and anger at periodic building amnesties that legalised poorly built homes - despite Turkey’s history of earthquakes. So could Turkey’s response to the earthquake have been better and what were the limiting factors? With elections on the horizon and an economy in trouble, will the shock of this earthquake loosen President Erdoğan's grip on power? President Erdoğan has cast himself as a key player on the international stage so what might all of this mean for the wider region? Ritula Shah is joined by: Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat and director of the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies, an independent think tank based in Istanbul. Tarık Oğuzlu, a Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Istanbul Aydin University. Ayla Jean Yackley, a freelance journalist who has been covering the earthquake for the Financial Times. Also featuring: Ilnur Cevik, special advisor to President Erdoğan Ilan Kelman, Professor of Disasters and Health and University College London Photo: Turkish President Erdogan visits Hatay province in the aftermath of a deadly earthquake / Credit: Murat Cetinmuhurdar/Presidential Press Office/Handout via REUTERS Producers: Imogen Wallace and Pandita Lorenz
Feb 24, 2023
Can Lula fix the Amazon?
Brazil’s newly-elected president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has pledged to protect the Amazon and to reach zero deforestation by 2030. During a recent meeting with US President Biden, Lula said the rainforest had been "invaded" under the previous administration. His predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, relaxed environmental protections, encouraging mining and logging in the Amazon that he said would help economic development. Voters will now be waiting to see if they can trust Lula to follow through on the promises he has made so far for the Amazon. But Lula faces huge challenges: The Brazilian Congress elected in the October polls is still largely dominated by conservatives, with Bolsonaro’s PL the largest party in the lower house. Lula’s government will also have to contend with widespread violent crime and illegal mining and logging taking place across the region, even in the protected territories of indigenous communities. The Amazon has been under increasing pressure recently with Brazil setting a new deforestation record last year for the amount of trees cut down in the rainforest in one month. So what needs to happen to save the Amazon? Can preservation and economic development go hand in hand? How important is the conservation of the rainforest for the rest of the world? And will Lula live up to his promise to end deforestation by the end of the decade? Chris Morris is joined by: Carlos Nobre is a climatologist who is chair of the Brazilian Panel on Climate Change. He's also a senior researcher at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Federal University of São Paulo Christian Lohbauer is a political scientist and founder of the political party - Partido Novo (NOVO) Richard Lapper is the former Latin America editor for the Financial Times and the author of Beef, Bible and Bullets: Brazil in the Age of Bolsonaro published in 2021 Also featuring: Ricardo Salles, Minister of the Environment from 2019 to 2021, under Jair Bolsonaro Photo: A member of the Xikrin indigenous group fighting deforestation in the Amazon, Para, 20 September 2019. Credit: European Photopress Agency
Feb 17, 2023
How do you stop police brutality?
Five ex-police officers have been charged with second-degree murder after beating Tyre Nichols, 29, who was black, during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee. He died three days later. Nichols’ death has sparked protests and fresh calls for reform of the police in Memphis and nationwide. Over the past years, the US has been in the spotlight for police brutality. Public outcry against the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks - to name a few - at the hands of the police led to Black Lives Matter protests across the globe. It's not just the US grappling with the problem of police brutality. We take a global look at the problem. Which countries are getting it right? Can policing ever be effective without violence? And is reform or a more radical rethink needed? Ritula Shah is joined by: Dr DeLacy Davis is the founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality and the author of Black Cops Against Police Brutality: A Crisis Action Plan. He is a retired New Jersey police sergeant who served for 20 years in the East Orange police department and commanded the Community Services Unit. Alex Vitale is a Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College - part of the City University of New York. He is also the coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College and the author of a number of books including The End of Policing Zoha Waseem is Assistant Professor in Criminology at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick and author of Insecure Guardians: Enforcement, Encounters and Everyday Policing in Postcolonial Karachi Also featuring: Rune Glomseth, Associate Professor at Norway’s Police University College in Oslo
Feb 10, 2023
Why is violence escalating between Israelis and Palestinians?
The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, visited Israel this week after days of increasing violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Last week, 10 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank city of Jenin, when Israeli forces mounted a raid against a cell which Israel said was planning to carry out an attack. The next day, six Israelis and a Ukrainian were killed when a Palestinian opened fire near a synagogue in East Jerusalem. The deaths triggered rocket fire into Israel from Gaza and air strikes from Israel. Secretary Blinken says the immediate priority is to restore calm, but how realistic is this, and why has the situation become so violent and volatile again? Tensions have been bubbling beneath the surface for years but, after the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel now has the most radically nationalist governing coalition in its history. Meanwhile, Palestinians are dealing with the near collapse in control by the Palestinian Authority in parts of the occupied West Bank, with an ageing leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who has been in power for 18 years with no successor on the horizon. So how much is this a factor in the escalating violence? What possible solutions might any party bring to the table? And, as the situation gets bloodier, is there any chance of a peaceful compromise? Ritula Shah is joined by: Martin Indyk has held a number of key diplomatic posts, including as President Barack Obama's special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations from July 2013 to June 2014. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 1995 to 1997, and again from 2000 to 2001. Nour Odeh is a Palestinian political analyst and former journalist, based in Ramallah. Prof Efraim Inbar is the president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, a think tank with a conservative outlook. Also featuring: Boaz Bismuth, member of Knesset for the Likud party Hosam Zomlot, head of the Palestinian mission to the UK (Photo: Israeli settlers (back) carry an Israeli flag as Palestinian and Israeli activists (front) march during a protest against the eviction of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, Jerusalem. Credit: Atef Safadi/EPA-EFE/Rex/Shutterstock) Producers: Pandita Lorenz and Ellen Otzen
Feb 03, 2023
Is it getting any easier for women in politics?
Jacinda Ardern’s resignation as New Zealand’s PM this month came as a surprise to millions around the world. When she came to office in 2017, she stuck out as a contrast to populist leaders that dominated the global scene at the time. To some, she was a progressive female icon. She had to contend with intense public scrutiny throughout her journey, from announcing her pregnancy just months after taking office to her decision to take six weeks of maternity leave, which sparked debate on whether it was too short. Former prime minister Helen Clark, New Zealand’s first female elected leader, said Ardern faced “unprecedented” attacks during her tenure. Only 26% of the world’s politicians are women. The three most commonly held portfolios by women ministers are still: Family, children and youth. So what are the challenges of being a woman at the top of politics? Are female political leaders under more scrutiny than men? And what can be done to encourage more women into top roles in government? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts: Rosie Campbell, professor of politics and Director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at Kings College, London. Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Also featuring Ruth Davidson, former leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. Photo: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addresses the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, July 7, 2022. Dean Lewins/Pool via REUTERS Producers: Pandita Lorenz and Ellen Otzen
Jan 27, 2023
Has Germany been holding back the war effort in Ukraine?
Russia's invasion of Ukraine has led to one of the biggest shifts ever seen in Germany's post-war foreign policy. Vladimir Putin managed to achieve what NATO allies spent years trying to: a massive increase in Germany's military spending and a commitment to NATO's spending target of 2% of GDP. As the conflict escalated, Germany's longstanding relations with Russia cooled, there was an end to Russian energy imports and Germany began sending some weapons direct to Ukraine. But back home Germans remain deeply divided about investing in their military given the long and painful shadow cast by the World Wars. A strand of pacifism has become deeply woven into German society and there are strong threads running through many of the political parties in power, including Chancellor Olaf Scholz's party, the Social Democratic Party. This week defence ministers meet at the military base in Ramstein in Germany to discuss what they will do next in Ukraine. Chancellor Scholz is under increasing international pressure to give the go-ahead for German-made battle tanks to be sent to Ukraine. So will the German Chancellor do what many of his Western allies want or will he continue to favour diplomacy in an effort to avoid provoking Vladimir Putin further? And, if Europe cannot agree, what does this mean for the future of European security and the EU project as a whole? Photo: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz looks at weapons during a visit to a military base of the German army Bundeswehr in Bergen, Germany, in October 2022. Credit: REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer Producers: Ellen Otzen and Pandita Lorenz
Jan 20, 2023
Prince Harry: Dealing with grief in the public eye
Prince Harry's bombshell memoir, Spare, leaves few royal stones unturned. From a physical confrontation with his brother Prince William to his own drug taking, one of the threads that runs through all of these startling revelations is the long shadow that the sudden death of his mother, Princess Diana, cast when he was only 12. Prince Harry claims he never properly dealt with - or was helped to deal with - his profound grief. In his memoir he claims he only cried once after his mother’s death and was never hugged by his father on the day he found out. The Royals have, so far, not commented on any of the book’s revelations but how hard is it to deal with bereavement and grief in the public eye? What do Prince Harry’s recollections tell us about his experience of dealing with grief in this unique family or the modern world more generally? Does privilege help or hinder the process? What role has the media played? And, ultimately, is there ever a right way to deal with grief? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts: Catherine Mayer is a writer, activist and the co-founder of the Women's Equality Party. She is also the author of Good Grief: Embracing life at a time of death published in 2020 and Charles: The Heart of a King published in 2015 but both with newly update material. Dr Elaine Kasket is a psychologist, an expert on death, and author of All the Ghosts in the Machine: The Digital Afterlife of your Personal Data published in 2019 Angela Levin is a journalist, royal commentator and biographer. Her books including Harry: Conversations with the Prince published in 2018 and Camilla: From Outcast to Queen Consort released last year. Credits: Spare by Prince Harry / Audible Bryony Gordon’s Mad World, a podcast by Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021 Photo: Britain's Prince Harry follows the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II during her funeral procession in 2022. Credit: Stephane de Sakutin/Pool via REUTERS Producers: Alba Morgade and Pandita Lorenz
Jan 13, 2023
Andrew Tate: Why is misogyny so popular online?
The arrest of controversial British-American influencer Andrew Tate in Romania as a part of a human trafficking and rape investigation has pulled his brand of online misogyny back into the headlines. Tate, who denies the allegations against him, is a former kickboxer who rose to fame in 2016 when he was removed from TV show Big Brother over a video which appeared to depict him attacking a woman. He claimed at the time that the video had been edited and was “a total lie”. He is among a group of influencers who have gained popularity - or notoriety - by advocating a lifestyle in which women are reduced to being subservient to men. The language can be harsh and explicit -- but the ideas appear to be gaining traction with a generation of teenagers and young men. Does the appeal of a more aggressive stance against women and equality suggest there is a crisis of masculinity? Has feminism made its claims at the expense of men? Or is this simply the effect of social media amplifying attitudes that have always existed? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts: Richard Reeves - Senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Author of the book Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters and What to Do About It (2022) Natasha Walter - Feminist writer and activist, author of several books, among them Living Dolls - The return of sexism Frank Furedi, Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Kent Also featuring Sophia Smith Galer - Senior news reporter at Vice World News and author of the book 'Losing It: Sex Education for the 21st Century' (2022) Producers: Paul Schuster, Pandita Lorenz and Ellen Otzen.
Jan 06, 2023
A tough winter for Ukraine as Russia exploits the cold
As the war continues and winter sets in, Russia is targeting Ukraine's energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone strikes, at times cutting off electricity for millions of civilians. How are the Ukrainian people coping? Does Ukraine’s military have enough weaponry and manpower to defeat the Russians? Or could the war become a more drawn-out conflict, with neither side capable of making a decisive breakthrough? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts: Natalie Jaresko - Ukraine's minister for finance from 2014 – 2016. Currently chair of the Aspen Institute, Kyiv Kataryna Wolczuk - Associate fellow of Chatham House think tank’s Russia and Eurasia programme and professor of East European Politics at University of Birmingham Retired Major General Gordon ‘Skip’ Davis - NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment Division from 2018-2021. Also featuring : Alexei Sandakov, a resident of Kherson & Andrei Soldatov, a Russian investigative journalist and security expert Producers: Rumella Dasgupta and Ellen Otzen (Photo: A Ukrainian armored vehicle is seen on the streets in Bakhmut; Credit : Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Dec 16, 2022
Are protests changing Iran?
The anti-government protests sweeping Iran are now in their third month, with no sign of ending, despite a bloody crackdown. Women have been at the forefront of the unrest that began in mid-September following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was detained by morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab, or headscarf, "improperly". The protests have spread to more than 150 cities and 140 universities in all 31 of the country's provinces and are seen as one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. What are the protesters calling for? What is Iran’s leadership planning to do to end the unrest - and what does this mean for Iran’s relationship with its neighbours and with the West? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts: Azadeh Moaveni - Iran expert, writer and associate professor of journalism at New York University. Esfandyar Batmanghelidj - founder and CEO of the Bourse & Bazaar economic thinktank specialising in the Middle East and Iran. Sanam Vakil - deputy director of Chatham House’s Middle East North Africa programme in London. Also featuring : Sadegh Zibakalam - writer and Professor of political science at the University of Tehran Producer: Ellen Otzen and Rumella Dasgupta (Photo: A woman in a street in Tehran, Iran. Credit: Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters)
Dec 09, 2022
Qatar’s World Cup gamble
The Gulf state of Qatar is currently hosting the most expensive Fifa World Cup ever having spent an estimated $220 billion on the event. Seven of the eight stadiums have been built from scratch with new railways, motorways and dozens of new hotels also adding to the cost. It’s the first time the tournament has been hosted in the Middle East, a source of pride to many. But human rights groups say thousands of migrant workers have died during construction of venues and associated infrastructure - a claim the Qataris reject. Campaigners say not enough is being done to support gay people in a country where homosexuality remains illegal. But many across the Middle East believe the criticisms are unfair and that rich, Western nations are insulting a history-making event. So once the football is done, what will be the legacy of Qatar 2022 for the country, the region, its Western allies and the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. James Lynch - A former diplomat based in Qatar and a founding director of FairSquare Research and Projects, which works to prevent human rights abuses. Alistair Burt – UK Minister of State for the Middle East 2017-2019. Also featuring … Dr Nayef bin Nahar - Director of the Ibn Khaldon Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Qatar University, based in Doha. Dr Nasser Mohamed - A gay Qatari, now living in the United States. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Dec 02, 2022
Is India ready to become the world's most populous country?
This month the world population reached 8 billion people - and India is leading the charge. It's set to overtake China as most populous country in the world next year. India is currently home to more than 1.39 billion people. By April, the UN says it will hit 1.42 billion. What’s caused this rapid population growth, what does it mean for India, its economy and its neighbours? The growth has already put an enormous amount of pressure on India’s resources and economic stability. The country is on the frontline of climate change and is struggling with extreme weather events 80% of the year. Should the Indian government be doing more to slow population growth or is in fact an opportunity for economic development? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Poonam Muttreja - executive director of Population Foundation of India (PFI). Colette Rose - sociologist and researcher at the Berlin Institute for Population and Development. Dr Shatakshee Dongde - associate professor at the School of Economics, Georgia Institute of Technology. Also featuring : Shaina NC (Shaina Nana Chudasama) - Indian BJP government spokesperson. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Rumella Dasgupta (Photo :People walk through a congested road of a wholesale market in the old quarters of Delhi, India; Credit: EPA/RAJAT GUPTA)
Nov 25, 2022
War and starvation - Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict
After two years of civil war, Ethiopia and Tigray have agreed to terms for a peace deal which stipulates that both parties will begin to lay down their arms The plan is to create a humanitarian corridor to Tigray which will offer food relief to more than 6million civilians in Tigray who have been under blockade by government forces for most of the conflict. The war in Africa's second-most populous country has seen abuses documented on both sides, with millions of people displaced and many near famine. Several sticking points remain. Will the Eritrean forces - who have fought alongside Ethiopian troops and have their own territorial claims - also lay down their arms? Without sustained attention from US, African and other donor nations, could the cease-fire quickly fall apart again? Can famine in Tigray be avoided? Chris Morris is joined by a panel of expert guests. Alex Rondos - Former European Union’s Special Representative to the Horn of Africa. Tsedale Lemma - Ethiopian journalist and founder of the Addis Standard publications. Alex De Waal - Author and Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation. Also featuring: Getachew Reda - Spokesperson for the Tigray People's Liberation Front Producers: Ellen Otzen and Rumella Dasgupta (Photo: Internally displaced women and children in Ethiopia; Credit: Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Nov 18, 2022
Russia, France and the battle for influence in West Africa
President Macron this week announced that France's anti-jihadist military mission in the Sahel region of Africa has ended. The departure of troops from the former colonial power and the end of Operation Barkhane comes at a challenging time for the region which is in the grips of a security crisis fuelled by Islamist extremists. Both Mali and Burkina Faso face jihadist insurgencies and the countries have seen a combined four coups d’état since 2020. Mali's ruling junta, which has been in power since 2020, has brought in Russian operatives it says are military trainers, but western nations describe as mercenaries from the pro-Kremlin Wagner Group. Could Russia become the new big player in West Africa? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Jean-Hervé Jezequel - Project Director for the Sahel at the International Crisis Group. Niagalé Bagayoko - Chair of the African Security Sector Network, a think tank based in Ghana. Paul Melly - Journalist and Consulting Fellow in the Africa Programme at the Chatham House think tank. Also featuring: Yéah Samaké - A Malian politician and the country’s former ambassador to India. Sergei Markov - A former member of the Russian parliament for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and former adviser to the Kremlin. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Nov 11, 2022
Daunting challenges for UN climate conference
Delegates are gathering in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the COP27 UN climate change conference beginning on Sunday 6 November. But a lot has changed in the 12 months since attendees of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow promised bold action to tackle global warming. Russia invaded Ukraine sparking global inflation and rising energy prices. Relations between the United States and China have continued to sour. And extreme weather events have caused thousands of deaths across the planet. Last week a UN report concluded there’s no longer any "credible pathway" to keeping the rise in global temperatures below the key threshold of 1.5C and that the world will warm by around 2.8C this century if current policies remain in place. So, what’s on the agenda at COP27? Can the conference come up with solutions to the growing number of challenges posed by climate change? And how can we judge whether the meeting will be a success or a failure? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Mohamed Nasheed - Former President of the Maldives, now an ambassador for the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF). Dr Jessica Omukuti - Research Fellow on net zero emissions, climate finance and climate justice at the University of Oxford. Nick Robins - Professor in Practice for Sustainable Finance at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics (LSE). Also featuring ... Dr Michael E. Mann - Professor of Earth & Environmental Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of 'The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet'. Dr Michal Meidan - Director of the Gas Research Programme at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies think tank. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Nov 04, 2022
Why the US midterm elections matter
The United States will hold midterm elections on 8 November, votes that could have a major impact on the remaining two years of the Biden presidency. Join The Real Story and our US Public Radio partners in Michigan, Arizona and California as we delve into some of the key issues driving this year's race - the cost of living, abortion rights and perceived threats to democracy. Ritula Shah is joined by Rick Pluta, Senior Capitol Correspondent at Michigan Public Radio Network MPRN, Ben Giles, Senior Editor KJZZ Phoenix 91.5FM and Marisa Lagos, Political Correspondent for KQED in California. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster
Oct 28, 2022
What caused the turmoil in British politics?
After the resignation of Liz Truss the UK will soon have its third prime minister this year. Britain has long been considered a politically stable nation. So has something changed? The governing Conservative Party is divided on many issues, including the country’s future direction post-Brexit. The opposition Labour Party has also struggled to accommodate different views on economic and social policy. Meanwhile the two-party system is being challenged by shifting demographics, a rural-urban divide and strengthening support for Scottish nationalists. So what lies at the heart of the turmoil in the British political system and where does it go from here? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Professor Tim Bale - Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London and author of the upcoming book The Conservative Party After Brexit: Turmoil and Transformation. Polly Toynbee - Guardian columnist and co-author of The Lost Decade: 2010–2020, and What Lies Ahead for Britain. Sir John Curtice - Professor of Politics at the University of Strathclyde and a leading expert on public opinion. Also featuring: David Blunkett (Lord Blunkett) - Former UK Home Secretary in Tony Blair's Labour government. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Oct 21, 2022
What is economic growth and why does it matter?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has this week downgraded its forecast for global growth warning “the worst is yet to come and, for many people 2023 will feel like a recession”. The fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased inflation, forced central banks to raise interest rates and exacerbated the cost of living crisis. Britain’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss says her economic priority is “growth, growth and growth”. But the IMF says that while the tax cuts her government has announced may boost growth in the short term they’ll likely "complicate the fight" against soaring prices. So, what is the best way of boosting economic growth? Can it be done without increasing inequality and harming the planet? And is growth always good for you and your quality of life, whether you live in a rich country or a poor one? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Vicky Pryce - Economist and former director general for economics at the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Desmond Lachman - South African born economist, former deputy director in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Policy Development and Review Department, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). David Pilling - Africa editor for the FT and author of The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty, and the Well-Being of Nations. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Oct 14, 2022
Xi Jinping’s plan for China
This month China’s President Xi Jinping is expected to secure a further five years as the country’s leader after the Communist Party abolished two-term limits. It opens the door to Xi continuing to rule for the rest of his life. His time in power has seen the country take a more confrontational approach to many of its neighbours as well as to the West. China’s GDP continues to grow and living standards for most citizens have risen, but some fear the ‘economic miracle’ of recent decades may be coming to an end and that rising tensions over Taiwan and Hong Kong could lead to conflict. So, who is Xi Jinping? What makes him tick? And what are his plans for the future of China? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Daniel R. Russel - Former US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (2013 - 2017), currently Vice President for International Security and Diplomacy at the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI), New York Lucy Hornby - visiting scholar at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, formerly of Reuters and the FT Steve Tsang - Director of the China Institute at SOAS, The University of London Also featuring: Victor Gao - Vice President of the Center for China and Globalization, a think tank based in Beijing Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen
Oct 07, 2022
What should we make of Russia’s nuclear threats?
The US has warned Russia of “catastrophic consequences” if it uses nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine. The statement comes after Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted he’d use “all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people”, adding this is “not a bluff”. The threat of escalation feels more acute after Moscow reported four self-styled referendums held in Russian-held regions of Ukraine showed near universal public support for joining Russia. So, if Ukraine continues to try to wrest back full control of the regions, is it possible the Kremlin could respond with the use of small ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Sep 30, 2022
What next for the Commonwealth?
The Queen was seen as a unifying force in the Commonwealth. With her death, will the organisation re-invent itself for the next generation, or fade away? Questions are being asked about whether the Commonwealth is a neo-colonial project and what it can actually do for its members. Others argue that while the Commonwealth has its roots in empire, it is a crucial forum for smaller countries to amplify their voice and work with more powerful allies. We'll look at what the Commonwealth is for and what challenges lie ahead for King Charles III as he takes the helm. What would change if the organisation ceased to exist and what does it mean for Britain's place in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Zak Brophy
Sep 23, 2022
Boris Johnson is out, Liz Truss is in
Liz Truss has taken over as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and has therefore also become Prime Minister. She won the internal party race to succeed Boris Johnson by promising that she’ll cut taxes and deliver economic growth. But the country is facing strong economic headwinds with soaring energy prices, relatively low productivity and the highest inflation rate of any G7 nation. Post-Brexit trade frictions between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK remain a sore point among Tory MPs, a result of the deal struck with the European Union aimed at avoiding a hard border between The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Does Liz Truss have the political skills and policies needed to reverse a sharp decline in support for the Conservative Party? And what will facing a new PM mean for the country’s opposition Labour Party? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Sep 09, 2022
Are sanctions on Russia working?
It’s been six months since the West imposed an array of sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Around half of Russia’s $640 billion worth of foreign exchange and gold reserves have been frozen, major Russian banks have been barred from the international financial messaging system Swift, the selling of key technology to the country has been prohibited, and the assets of some wealthy individuals have been seized. But Europe is still buying large amounts of Russian gas, a commodity it depends on to keep its citizens warm and its industries running. So, what are the main aims of the sanctions regime? Are the measures working or is Russia finding new ways around restrictions? And what does the future hold for an economy that’s increasingly cut off from major world markets? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Rozita Riazati and Paul Schuster.
Sep 02, 2022
Nasa's plan to go back to the Moon
Nasa's first step in their plan to send humans back to the surface of the Moon is fast approaching. The programme, called Artemis, is costing tens of billions of dollars and will begin with Artemis I, scheduled to launch on 29 August. The uncrewed mission will send the Orion spacecraft to orbit the Moon. Subsequent missions in the coming years aim to return humans to the Moon’s surface for the first time in over 50 years and will include a woman and a person of colour. Nasa sees a return to the Moon as a way to prepare for a mission to Mars. But what exactly are they hoping to learn and what difference will any of it make to all of us back here on Earth? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Aug 26, 2022
Salman Rushdie and the fatwa
The Indian-born British writer Salman Rushdie was recently stabbed on stage at an event in New York state more than three decades after Iran issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. He is currently recovering in hospital. The novelist spent years in hiding after his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, prompted accusations of blasphemy. So why did a novel provoke such an strong reaction? Ritula Shah looks back at the story of the author, the book and the fatwa.
Aug 19, 2022
Is the US getting serious about climate change?
This week the US Senate passed the biggest package of climate change measures in American history. The Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to be passed by the House and signed into law by President Biden, includes $369bn in funding for climate and clean energy policies. Its backers hope it will reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. But the bill had no Republican support in the Senate, raising doubts about just how long-lasting its impacts might be. So, is the US getting serious about climate change? And why do the political divisions about what to do about it run so deep? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Aug 12, 2022
Italy’s right-wing nationalists on the rise
Italians go to the polls on 25 September after the collapse of the country’s 69th government in just 77 years. Polls suggest a conservative coalition - likely led by the right wing nationalist Brothers of Italy party - may form the next government. Critics accuse Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) of having fascist roots, a claim it rejects. The beating to death of Ogorchukwu Alika, a Nigerian street trader in Italy last week, has shone a spotlight on growing anti-migrant rhetoric from a number of the country’s right-wing parties. So, is Italy about to elect a hard-right government? If Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni does become the country’s next Prime Minister what kind of leader will she be? And how could a more nationalist government impact Italy’s relationships with the EU, Nato and the US? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Aug 05, 2022
Bolsonaro v Lula: The race to lead Brazil
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro this week officially launched his campaign for a second term in office. The election in October will likely come down to a race between the right-wing populist leader and his main left-wing rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula has been president before but was barred from running in 2018 due to corruption convictions that have since been overturned by the courts. The incumbent is behind in the polls as the country is buffeted by global economic headwinds exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, which saw Brazil experience one of the highest rates of deaths in the world. So, which issues will decide the election and what impact will the result have on Brazil and the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster
Jul 29, 2022
Can our cities survive climate change?
Europe was this week hit by an extreme heatwave exacerbating drought conditions and sparking wildfires in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. The UK also broke its record temperature exceeding 40C. All this just weeks after flooding caused widespread disruption in Sydney, Australia. Scientists agree that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is key to limiting the severity of climate change. But the planet has already warmed by 1.1C above pre-industrial levels and temperatures are expected to continue rising. More than half of the world’s population live in cities and that figure is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. Extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, storm surges and flooding - both inland and along coastlines - will increasingly cause damage and deaths. So, how can we make cities more resilient to the inevitable impacts of a warming planet? What obstacles are preventing greater action? And will the rich world protect itself while poorer communities are left to fend for themselves? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.
Jul 22, 2022
A new phase in the Covid pandemic
After two-and-a-half years of Covid rampaging across the planet, causing millions of deaths and transforming billions of lives, everyone is keen to move on. But this week the head of the World Health Organization warned the public that the pandemic is “nowhere near over” and that with cases rising 30% over the past fortnight we must collectively “push back”. This assessment comes after many governments have pulled back on testing and removed restrictions such as the requirement to wear masks in certain public spaces. England’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer says the lethality of Covid-19 is now getting closer to that of the seasonal flu, so how should we adapt to the next phase of the pandemic? Vaccines have prevented many people from getting seriously ill and dying, but only in countries with ready access to jabs and high vaccination rates. The UN estimates roughly 72% of people in high income countries have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but the figure for low-incomes nations is roughly 18%. How much progress has been made in the fight against Covid-19 and what will the next phase of the pandemic look like? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Jul 15, 2022
How the Supreme Court is reshaping the US
Abortion, environmental protections and gun ownership rights are among the controversial topics the US Supreme Court has ruled on over recent weeks. The highest court in the land has the final say on interpreting laws and deciding what’s constitutional and what isn’t. Now - with a clear conservative majority at the helm - the court’s move to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing abortion rights across the country (Roe v. Wade) signals it’s willing to re-visit previous judgments many had considered ‘settled law’. Campaigners fear past decisions on other subjects, such as gay marriage, the right to contraception and even the way elections are run, may now also be overturned. So, what is the role of the Supreme Court within the United States’ system of government and is it changing? How will its rulings impact politics federally and in individual states? And is the system set up by America’s founding fathers working as designed, or is political polarisation undermining the very principles it was built around? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.
Jul 08, 2022
Afghanistan's challenges after US withdrawal
A 5.9 magnitude earthquake last week in Afghanistan destroyed hundreds of homes and left around 1,000 people dead - including at least 155 children. The country, now ruled by the Taliban, was already struggling to feed and provide health services to its people just 10 months after the United States and its allies completed their hasty withdrawal. The UN says millions are going hungry and the hospital system is on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile the Taliban are subject to global sanctions and Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen after the fall of the Western-backed government. The Taliban’s decision in March to bar teenage girls from schools has divided opinion in the group and created headaches for organisations keen to work more closely with the Afghan government in order to improve the lives of citizens. So, is it possible to help the people of Afghanistan without helping the Taliban? Or is that approach wrong and should donors and governments just work alongside them? Owen Bennett-Jones is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Jul 01, 2022
From rebel to president: Colombia’s new leftist leader
Colombia this week elected a former rebel as its first left-wing president. Gustavo Petro’s win on Sunday represents a rejection of the establishment in a country facing strong economic headwinds, high levels of inequality, and continuing gang violence fuelled by the cocaine trade. Mr Petro and his running mate Francia Márquez - who will become the country’s first black vice-president - plan to reform taxes, phase out new oil exploration projects, and rethink the war on drugs. Colombia has long been a close partner to the United States in the region, recently designated by Washington as “a major non-NATO ally”. The new leadership team in Bogotá want to take a fresh look at trade relations with both the US and Venezuela. So, who is Gustavo Petro and what does he stand for? What will his historic win mean for Colombia’s place in the region and the world? And can the new president deliver on his promise of sweeping change without control of the country’s congress? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Ritula Shah with a panel of guests. Producers: Rozita Riazati and Paul Schuster.
Jun 24, 2022
The repatriation of precious artefacts
The King of Belgium this month handed back a Congolese mask, one of about 84,000 artefacts taken during the colonial-era which the country has agreed to return. In 2018 a report commissioned by the French government recommended the return of thousands of African artworks taken from the continent during colonial rule. This week the director of the V&A museum in London, Tristram Hunt, told The Real Story that he’d like to see a review of decades-old UK laws which prohibit historical pieces being returned to their countries of origin. The clamour for the return of objects which may have been taken, stolen or bought during the colonial era is growing louder. The people and communities who want them back say it's about preserving their cultural identities. So, is it time for some of the planet’s biggest and most visited museums to repatriate many more of the items they’ve acquired from around the world? And how can the educational value of so-called ‘encyclopaedic museums’ continue to educate millions if the number of artefacts they have on display is diminished? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Jun 17, 2022
The rocky road ahead for Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week narrowly survived a confidence vote within his own party, but more than 40% of Conservative Members of Parliament thought he should go. His premiership has come under pressure after investigations into parties in Downing Street during pandemic lockdowns concluded he broke the rules he introduced. His government was elected in December 2019 with a large mandate to “get Brexit done” and his supporters insist that only he can hold the party together and deliver victory in the next election. But given the large number of Tory MPs who now think he’s an electoral liability rather than an asset, will Mr Johnson be able to survive and govern? And what will Boris Johnson staying on in Number 10 mean for the UK and its place in the world? Presenter: Ritula Shah Producer: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster
Jun 10, 2022
China v the West in the Pacific
China’s foreign minister Wang Yi this week held a meeting with 10 Pacific nations aiming to reach agreement on a region-wide trade and security pact. Consensus wasn’t reached but bilateral deals – like the one China’s already signed with Solomon Islands – are under discussion. The United States and regional allies, led by Australia, see the idea of greater security cooperation between China and Pacific island countries as a threat to Western security. Beijing says it’s offering help in the areas of policing, infrastructure, trade and resilience from disaster. Fiji’s Prime Minister, who's one of those who hosted Mr Wang this week, called on China to increase its efforts to tackle climate change, an existential threat to many of the nations meeting this week. So, what do Pacific states want from their partnerships with China and the West? And could the Pacific quickly become a new front line in growing tensions between East and West? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Jun 03, 2022
How do we stop high inflation?
Business leaders meeting this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have warned that high levels of inflation are likely to cause a global recession, or worse. Financier George Soros told the annual gathering that ongoing coronavirus lockdowns in China mean “global inflation is liable to turn into global depression”. Meanwhile the head of the World Bank, David Malpass, told a business event in the US that given the rising cost of energy, food and fertiliser prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s now difficult to “see how we avoid a recession”. Government and central bank spending aimed at cushioning the economic shock of the pandemic is also being blamed for the rising cost of goods and services. So, why have authorities so far failed to get rising inflation under control? If increased spending is contributing to prices going up, what can officials do to cushion the economic impact on the poorest without making things worse? And is another recession likely and perhaps even necessary? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
May 27, 2022
What is the 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory?
The suspect in Saturday’s killing of ten people at a Buffalo supermarket allegedly wrote a document endorsing the Great Replacement Theory. It’s a racist far-right conspiracy theory that falsely states there’s a secret plan to replace white people through increased immigration and other means. In the United States some politicians and mainstream media figures like Tucker Carlson of Fox News are accused of pushing a version of the theory when they insist Democratic Party immigration policies have the same aim. In Europe too, fears that white, Christian culture is being undermined have been stoked by far-right politicians across the continent. So how has Great Replacement Theory evolved? Is the basic philosophy behind it going mainstream? And what can and should be done to address the fears of people concerned about demographic change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
May 20, 2022
North Korea spooks its neighbours
This week as North Korea continued to test new ballistic missile technology, a new president took charge in South Korea promising to take a harder line with the north. Yoon Suk-yeol used his inaugural speech to call on Kim Jong-un to pursue a genuine path to rid his country of nuclear weapons. If he does, Mr Yoon promised he'd present an "audacious plan" to boost the impoverished North’s economy. Meanwhile in Japan, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for his country to re-think its post-WW2 ban on nuclear weapons. As the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack, public opinion strongly supports laws prohibiting nuclear weapons on Japanese soil. But some analysts now believe the increased military threat from North Korea and China - including the testing of hypersonic missiles that in theory will be harder to intercept - mean that not only should Japan begin permanently hosting American nuclear warheads, it should even consider developing an nuclear deterrent of its own. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
May 13, 2022
Ukraine war impact on climate pledges
The war in Ukraine has prompted a global reordering of energy markets as Europe looks to replace gas and oil imports from Russia. A few days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the UN issued a dire warning about the devastating consequences of climate change. The war has complicated the picture further. So, will events in Ukraine derail the green energy transition countries signed up to at COP26 just six months ago? Some African countries would like to step in as Europe scrambles for alternative sources of energy. But much of the energy they'd provide is carbon based. So, are these just short term setbacks that could be overshadowed by a longer term move away from cheap Russian energy supplies? And what happens to climate change cooperation if the war is driving a wedge between the West and Russia? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss how Russia's war in Ukraine will impact efforts to fight climate change.
May 06, 2022
Sweden’s hardening stance on immigration
Sweden has experienced days of violent protests against a far-right group. Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan’s anti-Islam party Hard Line says it will burn copies of the Quran as part of a tour of cities with large immigrant populations. Sweden has traditionally welcomed refugees, taking in Jews during WW2, Iranians fleeing the revolution, and a large number of people from the former Yugoslavia. But is that approach changing? Per capita Sweden accepted more refugees from the war in Syria than any other EU country. But after the arrival of more than 160,000 refugees in 2015 alone, government policy began to evolve – seeing the introduction of border checks, a reduction in access to permanent residency, and more stringent rules around family reunions. Voters increasingly complain that core government services like health and education are struggling to cope and many migrants still find it hard to secure jobs. The far-right party Sweden Democrats has seen a surge in support and is now the third most popular party nationally. So is Sweden changing? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.
Apr 22, 2022
The appeal of the French far-right
This week the first round of the presidential election in France has shone a spotlight on the tectonic shifts taking place in the nation’s politics. President Emmanuel Macron, who shocked the world five years ago by winning the presidency as an outsider, has firmly established his party as the only centrist force - peeling off support from the traditional left and right. His main challenger, Marine Le Pen of National Rally, has proved the enduring appeal of the far-right by once again receiving the second highest number of votes. They will face each other in a run-off on 24th April. Analysts believe Ms Le Pen would have performed even better had she not faced stiff competition from another far-right figure, former TV personality Eric Zemmour. So what's behind the popularity of right-wing politics in France? Are policies that used to be confined to the more extreme ends of the political spectrum now becoming commonplace? And what might a far-right president mean for France’s place in Europe and the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Apr 15, 2022
Are workers back in the driving seat?
Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York have successfully set up Amazon's first ever union in the country. Staff at dozens of other US locations are said to be interested in unionising as well. There are signs workers are now increasingly in the driving seat. The pandemic has galvanised American employees with a tightening labour market providing them with more leverage. An increasing number of workers around the world are drawn to new, more flexible ways of working. But campaigners argue that while gig workers enjoy greater control over the hours they put in, the conditions and benefits they receive make them second-class citizens. And while many high-skilled staff have used the pandemic to demand greater flexibility to work from home or work over fewer days, that’s a benefit many in lower-paid professions have been denied. So as the world emerges from the economic upheavals caused by Covid-19, are workers better off? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Natalia Rolleston and Paul Schuster.
Apr 08, 2022
Israel's Arab allies
History was made this week when, for the first time, the foreign ministers of the UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Bahrain travelled to Israel on an official visit. For decades Arab leaders have criticised Israel for its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which appeared to rule out closer ties. But not anymore. After the meeting Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan told his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, “you are not only a partner, you are a friend,” adding that the countries have lost decades that could have been utilised, “knowing each other better, of working together, and of changing the narrative that many generations of Israelis and Arabs have been living.” The United States has spent recent years working to improve relations between its Israeli and Arab partners, an effort that burst into the public consciousness with the signing of the Abraham Accords under Donald Trump. The new allies share a distrust of Iran and a desire for greater economic ties across the region. But the Palestinian leadership has criticised the rapprochement, describing it as “a free reward for Israel”. So what’s been the benefit of the Abraham Accords? Will a new Iran nuclear deal push the parties even closer? What kind of support will these countries require from the United States at a time when US interest in the region is declining? And how many of the government-to-government ties are being translated into people-to-people contacts? Julian Marshall is joined by a panel of experts. Producers Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
Apr 01, 2022
Who are Russia’s friends?
In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 141 of the UN’s 193 member states voted to condemn the action. But the Kremlin isn’t without its allies. Four nations voted with Russia against the resolution (Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea) and another 35 abstained. China is the most prominent of these, but India also sat out the vote. The world’s largest democracy has not only failed to criticise the invasion but has also shied away from introducing sanctions. That’s prompted President Biden to describe Delhi’s response to the war raging in Europe as “somewhat shaky”. But India isn’t alone. Israel too is hoping to stay neutral; it says so that it can facilitate talks between Moscow and Kyiv – with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisting “the way to stop the war is to negotiate”. So how much are current relationships based on ties dating back to the Cold War? How many countries still need Russia to maintain their own security and energy supplies? And can these partnerships survive in the face of harsh Western sanctions? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Mar 25, 2022
War in Ukraine transforms Germany
Within days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Germany announced a number of significant changes to its economic and security policies. Chancellor Olaf Scholz described it as a Zeitenwende – or watershed – moment for Europe. The country would remove a self-imposed restraint on its armed forces - in place since the Second World War - and invest billions of dollars upgrading its military hardware. The government pledged to increase its defence spending to two percent of GDP making it the biggest military power in Europe. It also broke with tradition and began to supply arms to Ukraine and deploy troops on Nato's eastern flank. There is a shift in Germany's energy policy too. The country is heavily dependent on Russian oil, gas, and coal; but it has begun to cut these ties starting with the cancellation of Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Analysts say regardless of the outcome, the war in Ukraine will bring about profound and long-lasting changes to Germany and its place in Europe. So how significant is Germany's plan to re-arm its military? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
Mar 18, 2022
Can Russia’s economy survive?
Just two weeks after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine the conflict has already begun reshaping the world. The bombardment of Ukrainian cities has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians and forced millions to flee the country. But the war has also completely upended the global economy. Russia is paying the heaviest economic price, as it grapples with Western-led sanctions on its banks, major industries and individuals associated with President Vladimir Putin. There are growing fears in Moscow that basic supplies of essentials like food and medicines may be disrupted. But attempts to cut Russia off from the global economy are impacting nations and industries across the planet. Oil and gas prices are up, as are the cost of key commodities such as wheat. Global supply chains have already been disrupted by the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine - and the inflation it’s causing - is adding to the woes of some of the poorest people on Earth. So how long can the Kremlin hold out? As the threat of Russia defaulting on its debts increases, what does the future hold for the country’s economy and its workforce? And how high a price will we all pay as a result of the conflict now playing out in Eastern Europe? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Mar 11, 2022
Europe's energy future beyond Russia
The war in Ukraine has cast a spotlight on Europe's energy dependency on Russia. Nearly half of Europe’s gas, along with petroleum and coal, come from the Russian Federation. But with no resolution to the war in sight, there is concern that Moscow will reduce its gas supply in retaliation to the tough sanctions imposed by the EU. Countries like Germany, Austria and Bulgaria would face severe economic consequences. Gas prices are already at record high and any supply shortage will have a direct impact on households and businesses. Despite the uncertainties, the president of the European Parliament has called for an accelerated transition to greener energy as an alternative to the bloc's reliance on Russian gas. The EU wants to shore up strategic fuel reserves, build more Liquid Natural Gas terminals and streamline its power grids. So how did Europe become so dependent on Russia and what are its options as it tries to build a new energy network? Join Ritula Shah and a panel of experts as they discuss energy security in Europe away from Russia.
Mar 04, 2022
The global debt crisis
This month the G20 came under criticism for failing to deliver a promised $100bn of additional funds to poorer countries to help with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Many of these countries suffered a significant financial crunch as their exports dropped while the price of imports went up. The World Bank says the recession of 2020 led to the largest single-year surge in global debt in decades. The Bank says the debt burden of 70 low income countries has risen by more than 12 percent. Countries that are considered middle-income and have relatively stable economies have also been hit. Last month Sri Lanka appealed to China, one of its biggest creditors, to reschedule its debts. Its foreign reserve shortage has led to a sharp reduction of oil imports, resulting in regular power cuts and further undermining economic activity. So how did the pandemic worsen the debt crisis? How much of the problem can be blamed on long-term economic mismanagement and corruption? And what should be the role of creditors like China, which has been criticised for the way it negotiates debt relief. Join Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed
Feb 25, 2022
Why is China supporting Russia on Nato?
This month President Putin of Russia was the star guest at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. But his trip to China was not just about showing support for the host country. He and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping issued an unexpectedly long statement pledging friendship with 'no limits' and no 'forbidden areas of co-operation'. Beijing and Moscow have maintained a stable relationship since the 2000s, a far cry from the bitter days of the Sino-Soviet split during the Cold War. China has increased its gas imports from Russia and Russia has in turn allowed more Belt and Road investments in its territory. The two conduct joint military exercises, co-operate in exploring Arctic sea routes, and support each other on the world stage. Now, breaking with its previous ambiguity, China has expressed support for Russia's concerns over the potential future expansion of Nato, giving Moscow a significant boost in its border standoff with Ukraine. Russia meanwhile backs China's claims over Taiwan. Even though no formal alliance has been announced, experts see the new Sino-Russia pact as a clear challenge to the United States. So how important is the agreement between Russia and China and what are the countries' longer term goals? Does Russia risk being dominated by China, which is soon to become the biggest economy in the world? And how will the evolving relationship between the two powers impact the future of the democracy-based world order envisioned by President Biden? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster
Feb 18, 2022
France's place in the world
This week the French president Emmanuel Macron travelled thousands of kilometres across Europe in a diplomatic effort to avert an escalation of the war in Ukraine. He met Presidents Putin and Zelensky in Moscow and Kyiv, as well as German and Polish leaders in Berlin. Diplomats say Mr Macron has made himself a key interlocutor between the EU and the US on one side and Russia on the other. The crisis in Ukraine has galvanised France's alliance with the United States which was at a low point just months ago when Paris lost a lucrative Australian submarine contract to Washington and London. But at home - where the president is facing re-election, there’s scepticism over France’s close alliance with America. So what are President Macron's foreign policy goals? As the EU’s only nuclear-armed state, what role should France play in representing Europe’s broader interests on the world stage? And will Mr Macron’s diplomatic achievements improve his chances of winning a second term in April? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Feb 11, 2022
China’s zero-Covid conundrum
As the Beijing Winter Olympics get underway in China this week the host city has reported its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in more than a year. The authorities have put in place a strict 'closed loop bubble’, isolating more than 60,000 athletes, officials and service providers from the rest of the country. China's firm approach to quashing transmission of the virus has been in place ever since the first outbreak in Wuhan. Detection of the virus typically prompts mass testing and can even result in entire cities being placed into snap lockdowns. Only essential travellers are allowed to enter the country and even then only after weeks of strict quarantine. Only a few thousand Chinese citizens are said to have died of Covid-19, a fraction of the number of lives lost in many other nations. But a recent report from the IMF has warned of an economic slowdown in China, blamed in part on the country’s zero-Covid policy. The approach has been welcomed by most citizens, but could public attitudes change if more of the country is forced to stay at home in order to combat outbreaks? Can China follow in the footsteps of other countries that have transitioned towards 'living with the virus'? And will the country have to wait for the next generation of vaccines before opening up? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
Feb 04, 2022
Why Putin has his sights on Ukraine
Growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have prompted the US and UK to pull the families of staff at their embassies in Kyiv out of the country. Moscow’s forces have been amassing on Ukraine’s border for months prompting fears of a major escalation in a war that’s been underway since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Vladimir Putin says the Russian and Ukrainian populations are 'one people' and has blamed Nato’s expansion east for rising tensions. Joe Biden has warned Russia that an invasion of Ukraine would result in severe consequences for the Kremlin. So how likely is full-scale war? What is President Putin's strategy? And what is the likely end-game? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Jan 28, 2022
The future of the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is the world’s oldest and largest public service broadcaster. But as it prepares to mark its 100th birthday the organisation finds itself at a crossroads. The UK government has begun a review of the BBC’s long term funding structure with an aim of ending its dependency on television licence fees – effectively a tax on British owners of TV sets. The broadcaster's Director General Tim Davie says services and shows will have to be cut as a result of a funding gap arising from the latest licence fee deal. There are other challenges too. Young people are consuming less BBC content than their parents, preferring to rely on an array of different sources for their news and entertainment. So what should be the role of public service broadcasters in a world where information is curated by search engines and consumers gravitate towards streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime for their entertainment? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Jan 21, 2022
Climate change: A risk to food security?
While agriculture remains one of the biggest contributors to climate change, it is also most exposed to its adverse effects. Scientists say that extreme weather events will become more frequent and more intense as global temperatures continue to rise. In 2021, harsh winters, unseasonably warm summers, and sudden changes in rainfall affected food production around the globe - from the farmlands of Europe to the grasslands of Africa. There has been a jump in the prices of essential commodities like wheat and maize and traders are braced for more fluctuations. Climate risk is not only affecting farmers and their livelihoods, it is also exposing more people to food shortages. So what are the most pressing dangers and how can we protect our food supply from extreme weather events? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Ellen Otzen
Jan 14, 2022
The Beijing Winter Olympics: High stakes for China
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will begin in 4 weeks’ time with more than 2,000 athletes from across the globe expected to take part. Officials have set up a bubble to keep arriving athletes and officials separate from the general population, all part of attempts to prevent coronavirus infections. Some health officials fear the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant will pose a severe challenge to organisers and athletes can expect to face tougher restrictions compared to last year's summer Olympics in Tokyo. The games are also the subject of a diplomatic boycott by the United States and some of its allies. The White House says it wants to send a clear message that it disapproves of China's human rights record, including its treatment of Uighur Muslims and a crackdown on dissents in Hong Kong. China described the move as an attempt to politicise sport. So what will success look like for the Beijing Olympics? How effective will the Covid protocols be? And how much of an impact will the diplomatic boycott have on the event’s credibility? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Jan 07, 2022
Do digital currencies need policing?
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the stability of some countries’ financial systems could soon be at risk because of unregulated crypto assets. Cryptocurrencies and other digital financial products created using blockchain technology are proliferating. They’re largely free from the controls of governments and central banks, but also free from any significant regulation. The IMF believes “comprehensive, consistent and coordinated” global regulation of the sector is now needed to prevent contagion if major crypto assets begin to collapse. Myanmar’s opposition-led shadow government this week announced that it will accept Tether, a so-called stablecoin, claiming to be pegged to the US dollar, as an official currency - a way of bypassing the control of the country’s military rulers. Meanwhile, across the border in China, authorities are cracking down on crypto and pushing ahead with plans for the country’s own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) which critics fear could mark the beginning of the end of anonymous transactions. So, is global finance undergoing a transformation? And are more stringent rules of the road necessary to protect consumers and avoid economic calamity? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Zak Brophy and Paul Schuster.
Dec 17, 2021
What's going wrong in the Balkans?
It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia ended. It remains one of the darkest chapters in modern European history and cost over 100,000 lives. Since the Dayton Agreement was reached in 1995 a fragile peace has held, but last month the international community's chief representative there - Christian Schmidt - warned that conflict might return and the country is in danger of breaking up. Bosnia-Herzegovina's senior ethnic Serb politician, Milorad Dodik, has threatened to pull the territory he governs inside Bosnia out of state-level institutions including the army. The issue that drove so much of the war - Serb nationalism - now appears to be on the rise across the Western Balkans. Serbia has deployed armoured vehicles and aeroplanes along its border with Kosovo and is accused of stoking religious tensions in neighbouring Montenegro. So how dangerous is this moment in Balkans history? Are the EU and the US doing enough to diffuse tensions? And how much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Serbia’s ally Russia? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Dec 10, 2021
Omicron: Did Africa get a raw deal?
The emergence of the Omicron variant has once again highlighted the difficulty in preventing the pandemic from spreading across the globe. Health experts have long argued that regions like southern Africa, where the variant was first detected, are prone to dangerous mutations of the virus when large groups of people are left unvaccinated. Only a tenth of Africa's billion plus population have received their first dose and the continent is yet to create its own Covid vaccines. African nations are reliant on vaccines from the international alliance Covax but the supply is far less than what's required. Meanwhile many on the continent have opted to pursue traditional remedies, with some denying the existence of the virus altogether. So what's the road ahead for Africa as it tries to overcome the pandemic? What sort of public engagement is required to reduce vaccine hesitancy? And how is the fight against Covid made more difficult by other health emergencies? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
Dec 03, 2021
Hunger in Afghanistan: Time to work with the Taliban?
It has been 100 days since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan and the country is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. More than half of the country’s 39 million people face acute food insecurity as prices skyrocket. Severe drought, the pandemic and the damage caused by decades of war have all helped to bring the economy to its knees. With winter approaching the World Food Programme has warned that Afghans are at risk of being isolated from life-saving assistance. Previously international aid represented around 40% of the country’s GDP, but since the Taliban takeover the World Bank, the IMF, and the United States have cut off access to more than $9.5 billion in foreign reserves and loans. With the banking system frozen, aid organisations are struggling to pay their staff on the ground and calls for the United States and its allies to ease sanctions are growing. The international community is now asking itself whether it is possible to prevent the Afghan people from starving while at the same time minimising any benefits to a repressive Taliban leadership. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed, Paul Schuster and Marie Sina.
Nov 26, 2021
Fortress Europe: Who gets to come in?
The European Union is at loggerheads with Belarus over the arrival of thousands of migrants. It alleges that President Lukashenko has created a deliberate crisis by facilitating the migrants' travel into Belarus and onwards to the country's borders with EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Belarus says the EU is breaching its humanitarian obligations by blocking the entry of those seeking asylum. The question of what to do with migrants is one of the most divisive issues within the EU. Its southern and eastern member countries - where the bulk of migrants arrive - are calling for a more equitable distribution of refugees among member states. They also want more money to support for processing of new arrivals. Meanwhile in western and northern European states, the rise of far-right groups is being seen as a warning to politicians not to be too accommodating to newcomers. So how does the EU fulfil its international obligations around migration while keeping a lid on populist opposition to it? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Nov 19, 2021
The future of Chinese capitalism
The Chinese Communist Party has held a high level meeting that will help propel President Xi Jinping to a level of power not seen since Chairman Mao. The gathering was essentially a celebration of Mr Xi's time in office, with a new emphasis on establishing him at the core of the party's identity. Despite the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic China's economy has continued to grow. But there now appears to be a renewed emphasis on reducing inequality across society. The government has taken measures against property developers, tech giants, and even banned private tuition - all part of President Xi's message of 'common prosperity' which envisions a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth. So what influence will market forces have in communist China moving forward? How much control will the state impose on the private sector? And can the government reduce private and public debt without harming economic growth and hurting consumers? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed
Nov 12, 2021
Who pays to fix climate change?
The UN Climate Conference in Glasgow is being described as a make-or-break moment for humanity. The purpose of the gathering is to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Currently the world is way off target, with temperatures still projected to rise higher than is sustainable. A big part of the problem is the huge cost involved. Developed countries have confirmed they have failed to meet a pledge made in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. Developing countries say the money is needed now. They require defences to protect their populations from the growing effects of climate change, and to move away from carbon energy and towards renewable sources. So what is climate finance, what's been promised and will it be be delivered? Join Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests from the UN summit in Glasgow as they discuss who pays to fix climate change.
Nov 05, 2021
Why do military coups still happen?
Defiant protesters have been on the streets of Sudan this week after the country's armed forces launched a military coup. On Monday coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and declared a state of emergency. It wasn't meant to be like this. After long-time Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019, civilian leaders and their military counterparts entered a power-sharing agreement designed to encourage democratic reform. So why has the fragile arrangement broken down and what does history tell us about the broader challenges countries face when trying to move beyond military rule? Is democracy possible without strong institutions? Why do countries like Pakistan continue to flirt with military rule despite having elections? And how have others - like Argentina - managed to break away from military rule altogether? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Produced by: Zak Brophy and Paul Schuster.
Oct 29, 2021
Nato and China: A new rivalry?
This week in an interview with a British newspaper the Secretary General of Nato repeated his desire to widen its mandate to include China. His comments coincide with reports that Beijing has tested a hypersonic missile potentially capable of breaching US and European defences. There are concerns about China's cyber activities against Nato member states, as well as the country's increasing presence in the Arctic - raising fears over the security of Atlantic sea lanes. But some argue that Nato is in danger of going beyond its founding remit. That view is echoed by the likes of the French president who's warned that China has "little to do with the North Atlantic." So what should be the future shape of Nato? In the aftermath of its controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan, should the alliance focus more on events closer to home? And with the United States focusing its resources in Asia, is there a case to look beyond Nato and think about a broader European defence mechanism? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Produced by: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
Oct 22, 2021
Climate change: Lessons from Denmark
Denmark is at the forefront of the global effort to fight climate change. It has committed to cut emissions by 70% below 1990 levels by 2030. It also wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 and end all fossil fuel exploration. Denmark was an early adopter of climate friendly policies and successive governments have taken a consensus driven approach to putting the green transition into motion. Danish start-ups are among those driving innovation to reduce carbon dependency in the cities and in the country. There is even a plan to build artificial “energy islands” in the sea. As governments grasp for solutions to the growing challenge of climate change, can the success enjoyed by a small, rich, northern European nation be scaled up and applied elsewhere in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts in Copenhagen. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster
Oct 15, 2021
Empty shelves and clogged ports
The world has emerged from pandemic lockdowns more optimistic about the direction of Covid, but the sudden surge in demand for goods is creating new economic shocks from London to Los Angeles. Factories and ports are not functioning as they once did due to the pent-up demand for goods and broken supply chains. Energy prices are surging and some shelves are empty. So is this a temporary blip or a new normal? Who will be the winners and losers of the post-pandemic global economy and what opportunities do new economic landscapes provide for fighting the climate crisis? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed
Oct 08, 2021
How green is nuclear energy?
Is nuclear energy ‘sustainable’ and deserving of tax breaks? It’s a question dividing member states of the European Union which is considering what role nuclear should play in efforts to wean the continent off fossil fuels. Germany announced it would phase out its existing nuclear power plants after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan in 2011. But others are pushing ahead with plans to extend the life of existing power stations and even build new ones. But with the cost of renewable energy plummeting, critics say money invested in nuclear could be better spent upgrading power grids and improving the resiliency of cleaner forms of energy. Nuclear enthusiasts say new, smaller nuclear reactors will soon become available and could help keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. There’s increasing private sector money going towards the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors, plus Russia and China continue to invest heavily in a sector which provides export opportunities - particularly in the developing world. So, what role will nuclear play in the future and will the technology help or hinder attempts to avert catastrophic climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.
Oct 01, 2021
How powerful is China's navy?
China has reacted angrily following this month's announcement of an alliance that will enable Australia to possess and deploy nuclear powered submarines in the region. Australia says the partnership with the USA and the UK, or Aukus, is not aimed at China. But most analysts agree that the initiative is hoping to counter Beijing's rapidly expanding naval capabilities. Chinese patrol boats have clashed with neighbouring vessels in disputed waters, home to billions of barrels of untapped oil and gas. The country has created artificial islands in the South China Sea and there are concerns it may use its growing amphibious capabilities to invade Taiwan. So how important is the Chinese navy to the country's overall strategic and economic plan? How does its expansion affect maritime disputes in East Asia and the safe passage of trillions of dollars worth of commodities each year? And is China right to accuse the West of a 'Cold War mentality' when it criticises the country's military investments? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster
Sep 24, 2021
Canada votes: Is Trudeau in trouble?
On Monday Canadians will vote in a snap election called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just two years after they last voted. He hopes to turn his minority in parliament into a majority having previously enjoyed favourable reviews for his handling of the pandemic. But since calling the election, a fourth wave of Covid infection has gathered pace in parts of the country prompting claims that he is putting his own political interests ahead of the public’s by going ahead with the vote. Some polls even show the governing Liberal Party slipping behind its main rival the Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole. The PM also faces a strong challenge from the left in the form of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, and Quebec-nationalist party the Bloc Québécois is also polling strongly. So, what are the main issues that will decide the election and are Canadians in the mood for change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Sep 17, 2021
What's ailing Japan?
Japan has received much praise internationally for successfully holding both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. At home, however, events have failed to generate much enthusiasm for the government. Analysts say a public backlash over the Olympics is one of the reasons prime minister Yoshihide Suga is not going to contest the coming elections. But it is not just the Olympics. The LDP government is also in trouble over its response to Covid vaccines, and its failure to modernise the economy, which remains sluggish. It is accused of having done little to expand employment opportunities for young people and to give greater rights to working women. So why does Japan find it so hard to bring about the changes necessary to end years of economic stagnation? How is its ageing population and its unwillingness to open up to greater immigration affecting its ability to increase growth? Plus, what does all this say about the cultural shifts taking place in the country? Celia Hatton is joined by a panel of experts. Producers Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Sep 10, 2021
Methane: The other greenhouse gas
The latest UN climate report concludes that while carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of global warming, another gas - methane - is likely responsible for between 30-50% of the current rise in temperatures. Methane is much more effective at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere than CO2 is, but it also breaks down much faster, raising hopes that quick action to curb emissions could aid efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 C. Methane is the largest component found in natural gas and is also emitted during the process of fracking and coal production. It’s produced in large quantities by farmed animals but also leaks into the atmosphere when organic matter decomposes in landfills. A report published earlier this year claimed that if existing measures and technologies were used more widely, human-caused methane emissions could be cut by as much as 180 million tonnes a year by 2030. But others argue that until CO2 emissions are dealt with, methane will remain 'a sideshow' and that attention paid to the problem must not distract from the bigger threat. So, is enough being done to prevent the leakage of methane? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.
Sep 03, 2021
The challenges facing the Taliban
The World Bank this week halted funding for projects in Afghanistan, following the lead of the IMF and US government which also froze payments and accounts. The increased financial pressure on the Taliban is just one of the many challenges they’ll face now they've taken control of the country. Thousands of professionals who’ve worked with foreigners are fleeing, prompting increasingly urgent calls from the Taliban for them to stay. Internal disagreements within the movement are also likely to make forming a stable government difficult, as will attacks from the Islamic State militant group and rebel forces amassing in the Panjshir Valley. So, does the Taliban have what it takes to preside over a relatively orderly transition? Is the group capable of keeping the lights on and the water flowing in cities that now have much more complex infrastructure than they did back in 2001? And when it comes to the potential for a humanitarian disaster to emerge, should Western powers help the new administration in Kabul or work against it? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.
Aug 27, 2021
America after Afghanistan
The speed with which the Taliban took control of Afghanistan surprised not just the world but even its own members. The group's rapid rise coincided with an equally fast withdrawal of US-led international forces. In a major speech this week President Biden rejected criticism that the manner of the American withdrawal contributed to the sudden collapse of the Afghan government. He also said that the mission was never about nation building. But critics argue that the events in Afghanistan have not just tarnished Washington’s reputation but they have also exposed the limits of its willingness to invest time and resources to achieve foreign policy objectives. So what does America's departure from Afghanistan tell us about its future engagement on global security issues? Is it an effort to concentrate on more pressing challenges from rivals like China and Russia? Or is it a continuation of Donald Trump's isolationist ‘America First’ policy? How will it affect Washington's international credibility and its desire to promote human rights and democratic values around the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Aug 20, 2021
Silencing dissidents
A year on from the disputed election in Belarus, the country’s president has denied claims his security services were involved in the death of dissident Vitaly Shishov, who was found hanged in neighbouring Ukraine last week. The death follows EU accusations that Minsk effectively “hijacked” a plane en route to Lithuania earlier this year, forcing it to land in Belarus where a journalist on board who was a critic of the president was arrested. Technology allows many dissidents to continue impacting events whether they live at home or abroad. But reports suggest spyware developed in Israel and sold to multiple governments may have been used to target rights activists, journalists and lawyers. The company behind the software denies any wrongdoing and says it’s intended for use against criminals and terrorists. But with surveillance systems proliferating and activists increasingly voicing fears over their safety, is the role that dissidents play under threat? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.
Aug 13, 2021
How do the Taliban keep going?
The Taliban is advancing in Afghanistan, launching major offensives to retake key cities as the last remaining US and international forces prepare to pull out. The group has taken more territory in the past couple of months than it has at any time since being ousted from power in 2001. Tens of thousands of Taliban fighters have been killed during twenty years of fighting, yet the militants remain a potent threat to the survival of the Afghan government, its military, and other institutions nurtured by global powers. So what’s the secret behind the Taliban’s longevity? The UN says the sale of opium and illegal mining provides them with a steady stream of income, as do local taxes. Officials in Kabul also allege that the organisation is being propped up by foreign governments and that it continues to welcome foreign fighters in its ranks. Global efforts to starve them of funds have failed and Taliban officials now openly speak of victory, insisting that the United States has ‘lost’. Who’s helping to prop up the Taliban and what does the last two decades tell us about their strength and potential after the last Western forces have gone? Ritula Shah is joined a panel of Afghanistan experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.
Aug 06, 2021
Why has Australia's Covid strategy faltered?
Australia has been seen as a success story when it comes to controlling the spread of the coronavirus and was praised by US official Dr Anthony Fauci as being a world leader in “containment and management of emerging variants”. The country had zero deaths from locally acquired Covid-19 infections during the first half of 2021 and has seen fewer than 1,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. But a new outbreak of the Delta variant has thrown Sydney into lockdown and cases continue to rise, prompting other states to accuse New South Wales of not locking down fast enough or hard enough. The national government in Canberra has been criticised for one of the slowest vaccine rollouts among industrialised countries and reports of rare blood clots linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab have left many confused as to which age groups should take it. So what went wrong with Australia's 'gold standard' response to Covid-19? As anti-lockdown protesters take to the streets, why is the policy failing to bring down cases in Sydney? Has Delta changed the game and could vaccine hesitancy delay any return to normal? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Jul 30, 2021
What's China doing to fight climate change?
This week a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days in China’s Henan province, flooding roads and public transport systems, killing dozens and displacing thousands. Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but this event is being linked to the climate crisis. China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world – and many of its most carbon-intensive sectors employ vast numbers of people. At the same time the country has led efforts to develop green technologies like solar and wind, bringing down prices and encouraging the global shift away from fossil fuels. China says it shouldn’t be expected to follow the same decarbonisation timetable as major Western economies. But the US Climate Envoy John Kerry this week insisted that efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be "essentially impossible" without faster action from Beijing. So how crucial is China to the fight against climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Jul 23, 2021
Cuba at a crossroads
Unauthorised public gatherings are illegal in Cuba and protests are rare. But this week the island nation has witnessed its biggest demonstrations in decades. People took to the streets calling for an end to President Miguel Díaz-Canel's government. They blamed him for food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Díaz-Canel described the demonstrators as 'counter-revolutionaries' and blamed the United States and its economic sanctions - in place in various forms since 1962 - for both the protests and Cuba's wider problems. So how big of a challenge do these demonstrations pose to Cuba's Communist government? Fidel Castro ruled for decades and was succeeded by his brother Raúl. How did their departure from the political stage change attitudes in the country and did it make protests more likely? And what is the Biden administration likely to do now? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss Cuba at a crossroads.
Jul 16, 2021
The pandemic brings more robots
The world’s major economies are moving again thanks to mass vaccination against the coronavirus. President Biden says a higher demand for workers will help them negotiate increased wages and better conditions. But instead of welcoming them back, many businesses are replacing workers with automation and artificial intelligence - often a much cheaper and more reliable option in the long term. Even before the pandemic, one influential think tank predicted nearly 25 percent of jobs are being lost to automation. And it is believed that the months of lockdowns have accelerated that shift, especially in routine low-skilled jobs that require minimal human interaction. So where is the shift happening and how has the pandemic affected trends? What jobs are under threat, what are educators and policymakers doing about it, and could it actually mean more people doing more creative and fulfilling jobs? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts to discuss how accelerated automation is changing the world of work.
Jul 09, 2021
Palestinians turn against the leadership
There is continuing anger in the West Bank over the death in custody of a vociferous critic of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Nizar Banat, an anti-corruption campaigner, was picked up in a violent night-time raid at his home in Hebron. The Palestinian Authority has launched an investigation into the circumstances of Banat's death and has promised action against anyone responsible. But that's done little to placate protesters who allege that the Palestinian security forces use extra-judicial force against anyone who questions or criticises the leadership. They say this behaviour is emblematic of a wider break down of law and order and a thriving culture of corruption in the West Bank, where elections were last held over 15 years ago. So why is corruption such a problem and where is it happening? Is there scope for reforms with the current leadership in charge? And how dependent is any change on the overall relationship with Israel and rival administration in Gaza, run by Hamas? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of Palestinian commentators.
Jul 02, 2021
Hydrogen: A climate game-changer?
With less than six months to go before the next big climate conference (COP26) in Scotland, the world's major polluters are under pressure to significantly increase their ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions. One of the solutions being discussed is to increase the production of clean hydrogen. At present most of the world's hydrogen has a high carbon footprint, but engineers are coming up with innovative ways to produce the gas with the help of renewable energy. They say it will allow for a faster reduction of carbon emissions without the need to overhaul existing industrial infrastructure. It’s also claimed that hydrogen-powered cells can drastically cut pollution from aviation and transportation. But others argue that using large amounts of wind and solar power to create ‘green hydrogen’ is wasteful and that governments should instead focus on improving the supply of renewables. So how clean can hydrogen get and how valuable could it be in the fight against climate change? Will the high costs involved in developing the industry pay off in the long run, or does the technology give us all false hope? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss the role of hydrogen in attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Jun 25, 2021
China's global project has a new rival
At their annual summit in Britain this year, the group of seven industrialised nations, or G7, has agreed to an infrastructure development plan for developing countries. The Build Back Better World – or B3W – is seen as an alternative to the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by China about a decade ago. The BRI has been a relatively easy source of funding for power plants, mining, road building and a range of other development projects, and more than 100 countries have partnered with Beijing as part of the scheme. But these projects are not without controversy and there are questions about China's long-term intentions in the countries taking part. The White House says its plan is not about confronting China, but about providing a better and more transparent alternative that reflects the democratic values of the countries involved. But critics say that without a consistent China policy across its member states the G7 plan is bound to face difficulties. What exactly is B3W trying to achieve and how will it benefit the developing world? Will it compete or compliment China's BRI? Can the G7 strategy be as consistent as China's? And how open will developing countries be to accepting the promotion of Western values? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Jun 18, 2021
Iran’s presidential election: What do the people want?
Iranians go to the polls next week to decide who’ll be the country’s next president. Hundreds of potential candidates were disqualified, some of whom represent the reform movement, leaving just seven men in the running. Whoever wins will inherit a dire economy, with one-in-ten Iranians unemployed, inflation running at roughly 50%, and growing queues to buy everyday items like chicken. The victor will also have to share power with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), and parliament. So what kind of mandate will he have? How democratic are the country’s elections? And what impact will the new leader’s policies have on Iran, its people and its place in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of Iranian guests.
Jun 11, 2021
Israel divided
Israel will soon have its first new prime minister in over 12 years if a freshly formed coalition holds. Benjamin Netanyahu is the country's longest serving leader, but in recent years he’s presided over an increasingly fractious political system. In a recent speech Israel’s largely ceremonial president repeated his warning that the country's population has evolved into four unique groups, often attending separate schools and living in separate communities. Israel’s had four elections in two years and there’s talk of another before the end of 2021. Mr Netanyahu has been criticised from the right for failing to stop rockets being fired into Israel by the Palestinian group Hamas, and is accused from the left of encouraging extremist nationalists. But internationally he’s forged new alliances with Middle Eastern countries through the Abraham Accords, successfully persuaded the United States to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, and celebrated the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. After 15 years of leadership by the man they call ‘Bibi’, Israel is at a crossroads - but where will it go next? Are the religious and cultural divisions making the country ungovernable? What changes are needed in order to encourage the formation of more stable governments? And what could such changes mean for the country’s Arab minority? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Jun 04, 2021
Why is corporate America getting political?
This week Exxon Mobil saw a board revolt over its stance on climate change. One of the energy giant's biggest shareholders supported rival directors to successfully replace two Exxon board members with more green-friendly candidates. This reflects a growing trend across the United States of corporations and investors being more willing to take a stand on climate, race and other social issues. Following the new and restrictive voter laws in Georgia, Major League Baseball pulled its All Star Game from the state. Nike announced a fund to help Black communities during the Black Lives Matter protests. While these moves are being welcomed by many activists and politicians, there's also been a backlash from those saying CEOs should focus on serving customers and not get involved in debates. So, what's behind corporate America's desire to delve into issues not necessarily linked to their companies' bottom line? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss why corporate America is wading into politics.
May 28, 2021
China in space
China has successfully landed and operated a rover on the surface of Mars, a feat only previously achieved by the United States. It follows Beijing’s successful robotic mission to the Moon to return lunar samples to Earth and comes just weeks after the launch into orbit of the first module of the country’s very own space station. China only sent its first human into space in 2003, but since then its technological capabilities have multiplied. But so too have the controversies. The mission to launch the space station module resulted in the uncontrolled return to Earth of debris from the Long March-5b rocket used, and a good deal of the ‘space junk’ currently orbiting the planet can be blamed on a Chinese missile test back in 2007. China says it has no intention of taking part in the militarisation of space and that its intentions are purely scientific. The country’s been banned from working with the United States and its partners on the International Space Station, but it is forming new alliances - with Beijing and Moscow agreeing to develop a joint base on the Moon. But what are the ultimate goals of China’s space programme? And as technologies needed to take humans to Mars are developed, are we about to witness a new ‘Space Race’? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests.
May 21, 2021
Ransomware on the rise in the US
A cyber-attack on an oil pipeline in the United States has caused widespread disruption and alarm. The Colonial Pipeline stretches thousands of kilometres from Texas to New Jersey and was shut down as a result of the attack, causing fuel shortages and price spikes on America's East Coast. This is the latest in a long list of recent ransomware attacks on US institutions and infrastructure, where groups have shut down crucial information networks or threatened to reveal trade secrets unless a fee was paid. President Biden has blamed a group based in Russia for the Colonial Pipeline attack; and while he did not hold Moscow directly responsible, he has blamed it and other nations for conducting cyber-espionage against America on a regular basis. Despite the advanced technological abilities of many US companies, and the investment of millions in digital security, hackers are continuing to find ways to break into government and commercial networks. So who are the hackers and how are their methods evolving? And how can the Biden administration ensure global cooperation in the fight against cyber-crime? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
May 14, 2021
Germany after Merkel
Angela Merkel is the longest serving leader in the European Union. Known as Mutti, or mother, to her supporters, Merkel is credited with keeping Germany stable in the midst of global and European crises with her steely yet non-confrontational style of leadership. But the German Chancellor is stepping down later this year when the country goes to polls. Voters will then decide whether to choose a successor who'll maintain her style, or back more dramatic change. Support for Mrs Merkel’s CDU has dropped after a series of unpopular lockdowns and a patchy coronavirus vaccine rollout. The Greens, who are promising more climate-friendly policies at home and a pivot towards Nato and the United States abroad, are polling well. And the far right still garners hundreds of thousands of votes. So what does the future hold for Germany after 16 years of Angela Merkel? Will it now enter a period of uncertainty after years of stability? Does it have the right leadership to navigate the uncertainties of a post-Covid economic recovery? And how will it balance the economic and strategic interests of the United States and EU on one side, and Russia and China on the other? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
May 07, 2021
Is the EU stifling AI innovation?
The European Commission has published draft proposals that will, if implemented, constitute the most expansive attempt to regulate the use of artificial intelligence. AI is becoming increasingly commonplace and automating jobs previously done by humans. From the algorithms that decide which social media posts to show you, to help desk chatbots capable of answering your questions, many AI applications make our lives easier and are set to receive fairly ‘light touch’ regulation. Others, such as computer programmes capable of reading thousands of CVs and drawing up a shortlist of job applicants to be interviewed, have been accused of bias and will face extra scrutiny. But under the plan some more controversial technologies could be banned altogether - such as the deployment of real-time facial recognition systems in public spaces. Some in the industry welcome clear rules of the road, but others fear that restrictions will hamstring companies and force innovators to flee. The United States is a global leader in the development of AI and the EU hopes it will adopt similar measures. But industry figures there are warning that Europe’s proposals go too far and would, if mirrored in America, result in China gaining dominance of the sector as it develops similar capabilities - but free from many of the regulations likely in the West. So, which AIs are good, which are bad, and how should they be regulated? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Apr 30, 2021
What is the cost of climate reform?
It’s been a week of tough talk on climate action. President Biden set out US plans for fighting climate change and called on the industrialised world to join his efforts to dramatically slash carbon emissions this decade. The global shift towards a greener world is transforming the way we work and live, but for many the changes are coming at a steep cost. Fuel taxes have increased the cost of farming, the shutting down of carbon-intensive industries is disproportionately affecting those in low-paid jobs, and while many big businesses have the resources to go green, levies for failing to reduce carbon footprints are increasing costs for many small and medium-size businesses. So how can the burden of a green transition be shared more evenly? Is the world at risk of leaving marginalised communities behind, and - if so - what can be done to minimise any increase in inequality that results from attempts to battle climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Apr 23, 2021
Why is Myanmar’s military killing civilians?
Over 700 people, including children, have now died during pro-democracy protests in Myanmar following a coup on 1 February. Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing has declared a year-long emergency and promised to hold fresh elections at some time in the future. The armed forces of Myanmar are guaranteed a minimum number of seats in the nation’s parliament, retain control over many of the country’s institutions, and profit from a sprawling domestic business empire. But the military says the 2020 vote - which returned the governing NLD party under Aung San Suu Kyi to power with a larger majority – was flawed. Many politicians, including Ms Suu Kyi, are under arrest. She’s been charged with criminal offences and if found guilty can be barred from contesting future elections. The coup has taken place at a time when Myanmar, also known as Burma, is continuing to battle the coronavirus pandemic, an economic crisis, regional insurgencies and is also facing an international investigation into alleged war crimes over the killing and expulsion of tens of thousands of minority Rohingya people. So, what's behind the military's decision to row back democracy and attack its own citizens? And what can the international community do about it? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the military in Myanmar.
Apr 16, 2021
Why is Russia massing troops near Ukraine?
The security situation in eastern Ukraine is flaring up again, seven years into a simmering conflict between Moscow and Kyiv that started with Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Increased numbers of Russian armed forces have been moved to the region, Ukraine says two of its servicemen were killed earlier this week, and Moscow is blaming Ukraine for the death of a five-year-old in a reported explosion in a region controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The European Union is ‘severely concerned’ about the situation and the United States has put its troops in Europe on high alert. So why is Russia massing forces near Ukraine now? Is it a test for new US President Joe Biden and – if so – could it exacerbate tensions between the old Cold War rivals? What do events tell us about the intentions of Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Zelensky? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the latest escalating tensions between Ukraine, Russia and the West.
Apr 09, 2021
What is the US plan for Africa?
US special operations forces have agreed to help “support Mozambique's efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”, with dozens of people reported killed during an Islamist attack in the north of the country this week. Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and other members of the global coalition against the Islamic State militant group have warned of a “serious and growing threat” from radical Islamists across Africa. But American’s interests in the region don’t end with security. Over recent years China has been extending its economic and military presence there and critics of Donald Trump’s presidency claim he failed to prioritise Africa policy - symbolised by the fact he didn’t visit during his 4 years in office. So, if the Biden administration is re-engaging with Africa, what does that mean? What should the priority be for US foreign policy across the continent? And what does China’s growing influence mean for America’s diplomatic credibility in the region? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Apr 02, 2021
Covid mutants: What are the risks?
A year into the Covid crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week announced her country was facing what amounts to ‘a new pandemic’. “The mutation from Great Britain has taken over,” she warned. “It is clearly more lethal, more contagious, and contagious longer.” Even in countries where attempts to vaccinate the population are continuing at pace, the threat from mutant variants that have shown a greater ability than the original pathogen to evade vaccines is threatening any recovery. The US Centers for Disease Control this week warned that variants now dominate cases in California, and that increased air travel for spring break - combined with a rise in the number of states easing mask and social distancing mandates - may result in another surge. The UK hopes to curb the spread of variants as part of its roadmap to reopening, but in the last week an adviser to Boris Johnson’s government warned that any return to international travel was “unlikely” given the threat new mutations pose. So how long will Covid variants rule our lives and what can be done to curb their influence? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts.
Mar 26, 2021
Why are Asian Americans under attack?
The killing of eight people at a number of massage parlors in Atlanta this week has brought fears that the crimes may have targeted Asian Americans. Six of the people killed were of Asian descent. Although it is not yet clear whether there was a racial motivation in the shootings, they come against a backdrop of a sharp rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic. An elderly Thai immigrant died after being shoved to the ground, a Filipino-American had his face slashed on the subway and a Chinese woman was slapped and then set on fire. These are just some of the thousands of cases reported in the US in recent months. Advocates and activists say they are hate crimes, and often linked to political rhetoric that blames Asian people for the spread of Covid-19. They point to the language used during last year’s election campaign by Donald Trump, who used terms such as the “China virus” and “kung flu”. During his first prime-time address to the nation last week, President Joe Biden denounced the attacks as un-American and urged federal agencies to fight “a resurgence in xenophobia”. Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests as they discuss the causes of these attacks, who is carrying them out and what should be done about them.
Mar 18, 2021
How dangerous are deepfakes?
When a series of chillingly convincing Tom Cruise deepfakes went viral on TikTok this month, it brought home how fast synthetic media technology is evolving. Deepfakes are like photoshop for video – using a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to create a realistic depiction of fake events. Are we entering an era where AI will let anyone make fake videos of anyone else? What will be the implications for individual dignity and privacy, and the shaping of public opinion and spreading disinformation? How might the technology bring new story-lines to filmmakers and joy to people who can now hear from their deceased relatives? What are the ethics of these developments and how do we regulate the technology as it continues to get better? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss how deep fakes might change the world – for better and worse - and what we need to do now to get ready.
Mar 12, 2021
Can Biden reset US Saudi Arabia relations?
It took President Joe Biden more than a month to schedule a phone call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, who chose the kingdom as his first foreign destination after the election. Even though Saudi Arabia is considered a key ally in a volatile region, Mr Biden took a tough stance on the kingdom during his campaign. He promised to end the sale of offensive weapons used in Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and accused its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, of directly ordering the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mr Biden also pledged to restart nuclear talks with Iran, and further reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels, putting Washington at odds with the political and economic priorities of Riyadh. Now, as his administration looks for a reset of relations, what are the friction points in the decade old alliance between the two countries? Will a push for recalibration encourage Saudi Arabia to seek out new alliances at the expense of the United States? And can US policies succeed in the region by antagonising one of the leading countries in the Muslim world? Join Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Mar 05, 2021
Has Covid rolled back democratic rights?
Countries around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic to 'crush dissent and silence independent reporting' according to the UN chief Antonio Guterres. He says some nations are using restrictions meant to halt the spread of Covid-19 to weaken political opposition. Governments say a tighter grip over freedom of expression is essential to curb disinformation and confusion at a time when societies are under lockdown. Countries with authoritarian tendencies aren't the only ones under fire - the criticisms are being leveled at governments with well-established democracies too. So what are governments trying to get away with under the cover of Covid? How have the changes taken away democratic rights, and can the trends be reversed? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss dissent in the time of Covid.
Feb 26, 2021
Who should pay for the news?
Google this week signed multi-million dollar deals with a number of major news providers in Australia, agreeing to pay for the journalism it features on its new ‘News Showcase’ pages. It comes as Australia’s parliament debates a proposed new law that would force tech giants to negotiate with news outlets big and small. Facebook, which like Google opposes the draft law, responded by blocking access to news content on the platform nationwide. But critics argue the proposed laws don’t go far enough and that the traditional business model of funding journalism through advertising revenue is broken. The pandemic has meant reduced income for many small newsrooms, despite an apparent rise in appetite for local information surrounding Covid-19. If access to reliable news is crucial to the smooth running of democracy, who should step in to pay for the journalism voters need? When it comes to paying the bills, what is the future of news? Join Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests.
Feb 19, 2021
Is China erasing Uighur culture?
This week, lawyers in London concluded that the genocide of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province by the Chinese government is a ‘very credible’ allegation. The London based court also said that it is ‘plausible’ that the country’s president, Xi Jinping, is driving that policy. The allegation of genocide - levelled by Uighur activists, international human rights groups, as well as the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken - stems from an industrial scale crackdown in China’s Xinjiang province which has seen more than a million Uighurs and other ethnic minority Muslims imprisoned in a vast network of camps, where people say they have been subjected to rape and torture. The Chinese government has vehemently rejected the claims. It says measures are necessary to put an end to violent attacks in the region and it describes the facilities as re-education centres. So, what do we know about what is really going on in Xinjiang? Is there any merit to China’s argument about the need to defeat violent extremism in the region? Why is the Communist party intent on assimilating Uighurs into Han Chinese cultural traditions? How much is Xi Jinping’s vision for China behind it, and to what extent is Uighur culture - with its unique history and traditions - at risk of being destroyed in Beijing’s plan? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether China is erasing Uighur culture.
Feb 12, 2021
Cryptocurrencies: Fad or the future?
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been back in the news this week after the endorsement of SpaceX and Tesla boss Elon Musk. His comments prompted the price of bitcoin to rise sharply. It’s thought that a perfect storm of inflationary coronavirus stimulus spending by governments, plus eroding trust in financial markets is pushing investors towards the volatile investments. Hundreds of so called ‘alt-coins’ have followed Bitcoin into the highly unregulated cryptocurrency marketplace and worthless coins are being marketed on social media with prices rocketing hundreds of percentage points in minutes. It all has institutional investors wondering whether to dip their toes in for fear of missing out - and regulators scratching their heads about what to do next. New US treasury secretary Janet Yellen says cryptocurrencies are of ‘particular concern’ and the Indian government is now seeking to prohibit private cryptocurrencies altogether. So what are they and how have they evolved since the early days of Bitcoin a decade ago? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss cryptocurrencies and what should be done about them.
Feb 05, 2021
China's advance into Latin America
This month, in a highly unusual move, an American government agency bought nearly $3bn of debt from Ecuador that was owed to China. The aim – in the form of fresh loans – was to help Ecuador pay off 'predatory Chinese debt', strengthen its alliance with the United States and exclude Chinese companies from developing the country's telecoms network. Although the deal came at the end of the Trump presidency, it may encourage other South American countries to reach similar arrangements in the future. According to the UN, Chinese companies have invested $10bn a year in Latin America. Although the amount is far less than that of the United States, Chinese companies have made rapid inroads into the heart of Latin American economies, including in crucial sectors such as mining, power grids and telecommunications. There's speculation that many leaders find Chinese investment attractive because it's rarely tied to anti-corruption measures. Others say countries are walking into a Chinese-made 'debt trap' which will have negative economic consequences over the long run. So is China viewed by those across the region with suspicion, or as a welcome alternative to the United States - which has a controversial history operating outside its own borders? What's been the tangible impact of China's economic advances in Latin America, and will President Biden seek to cooperate with China in the region - or treat it as a strategic threat? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss China's growing influence in Latin America.
Jan 29, 2021
Afghanistan: Hard choices for Biden
The future of US troops in Afghanistan could be Joe Biden's first major foreign policy decision. Less than a year ago the Trump administration reached a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all American troops from the country. The Taliban promised to stop targeting US and NATO forces as they wound down their presence. Now, with the May deadline fast approaching, President Biden will need to decide whether to honour the agreement at a time when the Taliban is being blamed for a string of deadly attacks targeting journalists, judges and police officers. The Red Cross described Afghanistan as the deadliest country for civilians in 2020, but despite the violence the government in Kabul is continuing discussions with the Taliban over a framework for peace negotiations. The presence of foreign troops has provided some level of security against an enemy that controls swathes of the countryside, so what will happen if and when they leave? And could advances in gender equality and religious freedoms be rolled back as part of any final agreement? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the state of Afghanistan and the tough decisions the Biden administration will soon need to make.
Jan 22, 2021
America's damaged democracy
Donald Trump is ending his presidency with the distinction of being the only president in American history to be impeached twice by the House of Representatives. The behaviour of his supporters in breaking into the Capitol Building, where a session was in place to certify the presidential election, has received widespread condemnation. Several people died. Democrats say the violence was the culmination of President Trump's history of riling up his supporters with misleading claims and outright lies, and it was an attempt to overturn the will of the people who voted for Joe Biden as the next president. Yet many, including some Republican politicians who fled the mob, say the protestors were right to challenge the legitimacy of Mr Biden's victory - even though the claims of mass fraud have been debunked by election officials and rejected by the courts. And despite events, Mr Trump remains popular with a significant portion of Republicans. President-elect Biden takes office under the theme ‘America United’, but it’s clear the country is anything but. So what lies ahead for America’s fragile democracy? With angry and polarised political groups, rampant misinformation, and an absence of dialogue, how dangerous a moment is this for country – and what might pull it back from the brink? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the impact of a tumultuous week in Washington DC.
Jan 15, 2021
Britain after Brexit: What’s its role in the world?
The Brexit transition period has ended and a new trade agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union is in effect. British PM Boris Johnson hailed “the dawn of a new era” saying it marked “a moment of real national renewal and change.” But there’s no consensus on what that change should look like and how it will impact the UK’s place in the world. The government in Westminster is now free to strike new trade deals, but US President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he’s in no hurry to enter negotiations, having opposed Britain’s exit from the EU from the beginning. Whatever deals the UK signs will involve offering concessions to trading partners and debate over how much to give up and to whom will be fierce. A new points-based immigration system is being introduced to allow Britain to manage the skills of arrivals, but there’s been little debate over who should be allowed in and whether people from Commonwealth countries should be given preferential treatment. Mr Johnson will host the G7 and UN climate conferences later this year and says the country will remain a key player on the world stage, staying in Nato and retaining its seat on the UN Security Council. But Britain’s political influence over its European neighbours has diminished and debate about potential future alliances has begun. Ritula Shah and panel discuss Britain’s new role on the world stage post-Brexit.
Jan 08, 2021
Big Tech under pressure
The European Union has this week proposed new rules that would police the practices of big technology companies, including US giants such as Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. As well as delivering greater scrutiny, the laws, if passed, would even allow for the forced break-up of businesses deemed to be anti-competitive. The long awaited Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act are seen as attempts to redefine the regulatory framework for a sector that will be key to the economy of the future. Meanwhile in the United States, the federal government and a large number of states have filed a case against Facebook alleging that the company is obstructing competition by buying up rivals. The interventions have been welcomed by those who’ve long argued for targeted measures aimed at the growing digital economy. But technology companies say they’re being penalised for their innovative business models. So have the titans of Silicon Valley become too big for the greater good, and - if so - should they be reformed or broken up? Ritula Shah and guests discuss the renewed focus on regulating global technology companies and what might come of it.
Dec 18, 2020
Is Macron marginalising France's Muslims?
French President Emmanuel Macron has described Islam as 'a religion in crisis.' This week he presented draft legislation to cabinet ministers aimed at tackling radical elements and propping up ‘republican values’. Among the proposed measures are curbs on foreign funding for mosques and imams, new rules making it harder for children to be home-schooled, and fresh attempts to root out and prevent forced marriages. While the government has planned the policies for some time, it is publishing details just weeks after a pair of deadly terrorist attacks, including the beheading of a history teacher - Samuel Paty - who showed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to his students, and the killing of three churchgoers in Nice. But with the French presidential election less than 18-months away - and with the far-right politician Marine Le Pen thought to be one of Mr Macron’s greatest obstacles to re-election - many French Muslims have accused the government of unfairly targeting their community and using the national tradition of laïcité - or secularism - as an excuse to do so. France’s Muslim population has grown significantly since Algerian independence in 1962, as has the debate over ‘French values’. So are Muslims now being exploited for political gain, or are the new proposals a common-sense response to serious problems? Ritula Shah and guests discuss whether the French government is marginalising Muslims.
Dec 11, 2020
Is Biden facing a new Middle East?
The assassination of the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh appears to have made life more difficult for President-elect Biden - yet another event to weigh up as he considers what to do about Donald Trump’s legacy across the Middle East. Over the last four years the Republican president withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran known as the JCPOA, shifted the US embassy to Jerusalem, withdrew almost all American troops from Syria and refused to support a bill that called for a ban on weapons sales to Saudi Arabia because of its role in the war in Yemen. Mr Trump’s 'maximum pressure' strategy did not prevent Iran from conducting nuclear enrichment and the country remains an influential player in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Meanwhile the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, plus Israel and Bahrain have not just normalised diplomatic relations, but also opened new commercial and economic channels between old foes. In an article this year Joe Biden wrote that his administration would stand up to authoritarianism and will place democracy back at the core of US foreign policy. But is that realistic in a region that has adapted to the policies promoted by Donald Trump? To what extent does the thaw in relations between Israel and its Arab neighbours impact America's influence in the region? How much Obama-era policy can or should the Biden administration bring back? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss whether Joe Biden is facing a new Middle East.
Dec 04, 2020
Covid vaccines: An opportunity for science?
The rapid development of coronavirus vaccines has heightened the hope for a world free of Covid-19. Governments have ordered millions of doses, health care systems are prioritising recipients, and businesses are drawing up post-pandemic plans. But despite these positive signs, many people still feel a sense of unease. One poll suggests nearly a quarter of the world’s population is unwilling to get a coronavirus jab. How much of the scepticism has to do with the record-breaking speed at which the vaccines have been developed? How much can be attributed to a wider ‘anti-vax’ movement that relies on emotion more than it does on facts? What can those promoting the vaccines do to alleviate the fears of those willing to be convinced, but who 'aren’t there yet'? And what opportunities do coronavirus vaccination programmes present when it comes to improving society’s trust in science? Join Ritual Shah and guests as they discuss what's behind the hesitancy of some to accept a Covid-19 vaccination, and what can be done about it.
Nov 27, 2020
Ethiopia crisis: High stakes for Africa
The fighting between Ethiopian federal troops and regional forces in Tigray has forced thousands of people to flee to Sudan for safety. The UN has warned of a full-scale humanitarian crisis. Ethiopia's Nobel Peace Prize winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, says there will be no let-up in his government's 'law enforcement' mission. His aim is to arrest and put on trial TPLF party politicians who he alleges have put the country's constitution in danger. Ethiopia plays a key role in maintaining security in the Horn of Africa. With a population of more than 110 million, and one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, what happens in Ethiopia will inevitably have a wider regional impact. So how did the TPLF - a group which once dominated Ethiopian politics - end up being accused of destroying national unity? Did PM Ahmed opt for a military confrontation before all avenues for negotiation were explored? And what role should Ethiopia's neighbours play in this conflict? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Nov 20, 2020
Climate change: Can Biden make a difference?
President-elect Joe Biden has said that one of the first acts of his presidency will be to return the United States to the Paris climate change agreement. His administration is proposing to make US electricity production carbon-free by 2035 and to have the country achieve 'net zero' emissions by the middle of the century. In 2015 the United States played a leading role in bringing together 195 countries that pledged to work together to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. But less than six months after taking office Donald Trump said he’d withdraw from the agreement, claiming it was putting American jobs and the economy at risk. By the end of the Trump presidency the US had left - and had also rolled back dozens of environmental protections and implemented plans to expand drilling for oil and gas into public lands. So what has four years of President Trump done to global efforts to tackle climate change? How will America's return to the top table under a Democratic leader change the picture? Will President-elect Biden have the support he needs from Congress and the American people to meet his ambitious targets? And what now for US leadership in persuading other countries to commit fully to fighting climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Nov 13, 2020
Is Trumpism here to stay?
Before this week's US presidential election, some predicted a landslide win for Joe Biden and a stark repudiation of the Trump years. That didn't happen. The intense criticism of President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic seems to have done little in changing the minds of his core supporters; and former Vice President Joe Biden's appeal for unity seems to have fallen flat in key states like Florida and Texas. Mr Biden called the 2020 election a fight for the nation’s soul. So what does the strong showing for President Trump say about the impact he has had on American politics? Is there such thing as 'Trumpism' and - if so - what defines it? How has he changed the relationship between the presidency and the other branches of government? His willingness to question democratic institutions has set him apart from predecessors - so how lasting will his style of leadership be? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether 'Trumpism' is here to stay.
Nov 06, 2020
US v China: A new Cold War?
The central committee of China’s ruling Communist Party has been meeting this week in Beijing to map out its priorities for the next five years. While Americans decide whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will set the direction of US foreign policy going forward, there is little doubt that Chinese President Xi Jinping will remain in his post for the foreseeable future - party leaders have already abolished his term limits. Whoever wins on 3 Nov, Beijing is likely to continue advancing its interests across the Asia-Pacific region and globally, often at odds with US goals. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned more must be done to avoid ‘a new Cold War’, adding: "our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture - each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities.” But as the Communist Party continues to successfully grow the Chinese economy and its influence overseas - while at the same time refusing to give ground on human rights or democratic reforms - is such a split inevitable? China’s military is expanding and the number of countries relying on investment from Beijing is growing too. As the country becomes more technologically and economically self-sufficient, are the chances of avoiding a global schism decreasing? Are we about to witness a new Cold War? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Oct 30, 2020
What next for US foreign policy?
While US domestic policy has taken centre stage in the race for the White House, whichever man wins the presidency will also help define America’s place in the world for years to come. President Trump won 2016’s election, in part, on promising to reduce the number of military and diplomatic entanglements the country was involved in across the globe. In the Middle East he pulled US forces out of Syria, withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration, and has strengthened ties with regional allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Asia the US is engaged in a trade war with its single biggest trading partner - China. During his first term Donald Trump also had a frosty relationship with many of his NATO allies - and a much closer one with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin than any of his predecessors. Did those newly-defined strategic partnerships herald new achievements? Joe Biden has promised to turn back the clock on many of Mr Trump’s ‘America First’ themed policies, but which ones? And has the role the US plays on the world stage changed forever? As part of the BBC World Service's 'US Elections 2020: What the World Wants' series, Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss what's next for American foreign policy.
Oct 23, 2020
How dangerous is North Korea?
This week North Korea celebrated 75 years of communism with a military parade at which it unveiled an giant intercontinental missile. The heavily choreographed event featured all the pomp and circumstance the world has come to expect from North Korea's mass human performances. It also contained a surprisingly emotional speech from Chairman Kim Jong-Un, who at times wept as he spoke about the country's struggles. The country’s first military parade in two years signalled a shift back to the more aggressive stance it used to adopt before the now stalled nuclear talks with the Trump administration. So is there any hope that temporary thaw created enduring opportunities for engagement with the rest of the world - or are we seeing a return to past behaviour? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss - how dangerous is North Korea?
Oct 16, 2020
India's Dalits: Fighting for justice
The alleged rape and subsequent death of a 19-year-old woman in India has again shone a spotlight on caste-based violence against the Dalit community – formerly known as “untouchables”. According to official figures, men from India's upper castes rape ten Dalit women a day. Although the northern state of Uttar Pradesh records the highest number of such cases, caste-based violence and discrimination is prevalent throughout the country and in Indian communities around the world. Dalits make up nearly twenty percent of India's population and were given equal protection under the constitution after independence from Britain. But rights groups say while many Dalits have been able to take advantage of quota systems to move up the economic ladder, violence and discrimination against the community is worsening. The current racial justice movement in the United States is inspiring Dalit activists to be move assertive in speaking up for their rights – but what gains can Dalits expect to make? What is at the core of the discrimination and prejudice against them? And why are Dalit women especially targeted for sexual violence? Ritula Shah and guests discuss the future of Dalits in India.
Oct 09, 2020
Turkey flexes on the world stage
The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has taken on a new dimension with the alleged involvement of the Turkish military. Armenia says one of its fighter jets was shot down by a Turkish aircraft over the disputed central Asian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the summer, France accused the Turkish navy of confronting one of its frigates in pursuit of a vessel suspected of taking arms to Libya. Meanwhile Turkey's understanding with Russia and Iran over the war in Syria has strained its ties with Washington, as well as several Gulf countries. So do these events suggest that Ankara is becoming more assertive in its foreign policy? Or is this the reaction of a country that finds itself isolated and is being forced to act in order to preserve its interests? Does Turkey still see a future in NATO? And what is the long term vision of president Erdogan; are his critics right to accuse him of trying to return the country to its Ottoman past?
Oct 01, 2020
Covid-19: What's best for the elderly?
Governments across Europe have this week introduced new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports that over the past fortnight five countries have reported over 120 cases per 100,000 residents, including Spain, France, and the Czech Republic. But the increased restrictions on freedom of movement and congregation in many countries is sparking push-back from some, who argue that the elderly should be shielded - while the rest of society returns to some semblance of normality. It’s a suggestion British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected this week during an address to the nation. He said such a policy wouldn’t be ‘realistic’ - insisting widespread transmission of the virus would inevitably see infection rates rise in vulnerable communities too. But after months of effectively being locked away from the outside world, many of those who’ve been shielding from the virus are now showing signs of adverse physical and mental health problems due to isolation. So as the pandemic grinds on, are attempts to protect the elderly from exposure to the coronavirus prompting other health crises - and what can be done to keep them safe and happy? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss - what is the best approach for the elderly?
Sep 25, 2020
Covid unemployment: A new crisis?
Millions have been left without work as the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate economies across the globe. This week, there’s been a sharp rise in the unemployment rate in Britain. This follows recent increases in other European countries. The International Labour Organisation has warned the pandemic is having a “devastating and disproportionate” impact on youth employment. In the United States, unemployment remains above 10 percent in black and Hispanic communities. After India’s lockdown ended, many living in cities have found their old jobs gone - with former office workers, builders, drivers and factory workers left scrambling to find alternative employment. But analysts warn that the longer the crisis goes on, the more jobs simply won’t return - replaced, they say, by automation or artificial intelligence solutions that don’t get sick and don’t need to socially distance. And while this trend existed before Covid, there are signs the virus has brought forward an employment challenge many governments had hoped to address years down the line. So how can governments minimise job losses, help retrain those whose past careers have gone, and make sure younger workers are prepared for the jobs of the future - all during a time of reduced revenue from taxation and ballooning deficits? Dan Damon and a panel of experts discuss what should be done about rising unemployment in the age of Covid-19?
Sep 18, 2020
When will we get a Covid-19 vaccine?
Given the continuing high cost to societies of the coronavirus pandemic in lost lives and economic hardship, dozens of potential vaccines are being developed and tested at record pace. The top US infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, says it’s unlikely but "not impossible" that a Covid-19 vaccine could win approval in October - an aim championed by President Trump. But there are growing concerns that the speed at which this is taking place may undercut public confidence in any vaccine produced. In the US, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris says she “would not trust Donald Trump” as the sole arbiter of whether a vaccine was safe and reliable. But even if a Covid-19 vaccine is ready soon, the WHO has warned that “vaccine nationalism” - which would see richer countries buying up the bulk of supplies leaving developing nations wanting - could extend the pandemic and delay a return to global economic growth. So how quickly could a vaccine be produced and distributed? And which people in which countries will get access to it first? Dan Damon and a panel of expert guests ask - when will we get a Covid-19 vaccine?
Sep 11, 2020
Why is QAnon going global?
This week President Donald Trump retweeted a false claim posted by a follower of the ‘QAnon’ conspiracy theory, stating that the real Covid-19 death toll is just 6 percent of official figures. Twitter took down the tweet saying it breached their terms and conditions. It’s not the first time the president has promoted messages from supporters of the debunked conspiracy theory that claims - in part - that Mr Trump is leading a top-secret campaign to dismantle a global network of Satan worshipping cannibal paedophiles led by billionaires, celebrities and Democrats. Acts of violence have already been attributed to those backing the outlandish conspiracy theory and the FBI now considers the movement a domestic terrorism threat. While support for ‘Q’ - said to be an anonymous security official with inside knowledge - has been growing in the United States, followers are increasingly showing up in Europe and Latin America. So why has it spread to other countries and what are the QAnon links to foreign groups? Could supporters disrupt politics outside of the US? And is QAnon a harmless online fantasy or a dangerous threat to truth, democracy and public safety around the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.
Sep 04, 2020
The Navalny ‘poisoning'
Alexei Navalny is Russia's best-known anti-corruption campaigner and opposition activist. Today he lies gravely ill in a Berlin hospital. The German doctors treating him say he appears to have been poisoned. Navalny has been a longstanding critic of President Vladimir Putin, and his anti-corruption activities have highlighted the huge asset holdings of Russia’s political elites. His online activism draws tens of thousands of people to the streets across the country in protest against a range of injustices. So what do we know about what has happened to Mr Navalny and his recent activities? Will his hospitalisation galvanise the opposition? And what of the timing - can the Kremlin afford a backlash now when Russia’s closest neighbour, Belarus, is gripped by anti-regime protests? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests to discuss how events have changed the picture in Russia.
Aug 28, 2020
India's Covid-19 challenge
India has entered a dangerous new phase of the pandemic. The country’s infection rate is the third-highest in the world. It also has the fourth-highest death toll. Testing is a shambles, and infections are moving into rural areas where healthcare is sorely lacking. Late in March, all of India's 1.3 billion people were told to stay at home while the government bought itself time to prepare for the pandemic. But instead of confining people where they were, the lockdown resulted in one of the biggest peace time migrations of people. Instead of helping to defeat the virus, it has created economic hardship for many. So why did Prime Minister Narendra Modi act so fast and can India now get the virus under control and the economy back on track? Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist government is still popular with many Indians, but his critics say he's using the coronavirus as a cover for the consolidation of power. Are they right? And will it accelerate a Hindu nationalist vision for the country that risks more religious unrest? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of commentators.
Aug 21, 2020
How democratic are American elections?
The US presidential election campaign is gathering steam, with the Democratic Party convention beginning next week. November's election in the United States will be taking place at a time when the country is going through unprecedented social and economic upheavals. The incumbent Donald Trump is pitted against the former vice president Joe Biden. It is not just the presidency that's at stake, voters will be electing a third of the senate, an entirely new house of representatives, and thirteen governors. More than 160,000 Americans have lost their lives to the Covid-19 pandemic. The economy is in recession. Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets demanding social justice. With the uncertainty of the coronavirus, there is no clear consensus on the way polling stations can ensure the safety of voters. While mass postal voting is being held up as a solution, many - including President Trump - argue that mail-in ballots will increase fraud and cause unnecessary delays. Others say various forms of voter suppression are already undermining the integrity of the vote. So as the first major election in the middle of a pandemic, how credible will the results in November be? How are allegations of voter suppression being addressed? And what will the candidates do if vote counting becomes a drawn out process? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether American democracy is fit to handle the events the country finds itself in.
Aug 14, 2020
What is Covid doing to the Amazon?
The coronavirus pandemic is having a growing impact on life in the Brazilian Amazon. Half a million indigenous people still live in often remote rainforest communities, yet many are still contracting Covid-19 and dying. The Munduruku people have already lost ten of their elders to the virus, a situation observers describe as akin to the destruction of a library or museum - so important are the ‘sábios’ - or sages - in passing on the community’s cultural heritage. The virus is also thought to have harmed anti-logging, anti-burning and anti-mining efforts around the rain-forest, with Brazil’s space agency identifying a large increase in the number of fires burning during the month of July compared to last year. This year the government has authorised the deployment of the military to combat deforestation and forest fires and also banned the setting of fires in the region for 120 days. But President Bolsonaro’s critics accuse him of underplaying the impact of coronavirus on the Amazon region and even exploiting the crisis for political gain. So is enough being done to support the country’s indigenous peoples? Will the Covid-19 speed up the clearing of the rainforest? And how is the crisis adding to the already volatile and polarised Brazilian political landscape? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss what the virus is doing to Brazil's Amazon region.
Aug 07, 2020
Fighting fat to fight Covid-19
Experts have warned that being obese or overweight puts you at greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19. One study suggests the chances of dying from the coronavirus are 90% higher in those who are severely obese. This week British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping plans to shrink waistlines, saying the virus had been a “wake-up call” on an issue that threatened public health even before the pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation obesity has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975 and is becoming an increasing problem in developing economies. Meanwhile Asian and black populations have been found to have a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease, conditions exacerbated by carrying excess weight. New measures in England include a ban on ‘buy one get one free’ deals, new curbs on the advertising of junk food, and a review of labelling on food and drinks sold in shops. But how much of an impact have these policies made when introduced elsewhere? Governments are increasingly introducing taxes on foods high in sugar in the hope of changing consumer behaviour and encouraging manufacturers to make their products healthier. But do such measures work? And how important is exercise in tackling the global obesity crisis? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss whether fighting fat can help curb the coronavirus.
Jul 31, 2020
Should tax havens help pay for coronavirus?
While the coronavirus pandemic is raging around the world, discussions over rebuilding the global economy are already underway. Globally, the recovery will cost trillions of dollars. Governments and finance ministries are working around the clock to design financial packages at a time when income from tax has hit rock bottom. There's concern that many governments will have to raise taxes to cope with the shortfall in revenue. But what if they could tap a different source of funding? According to the Tax Justice Network, there are trillions of dollars' worth of cash and other assets tucked away in offshore tax havens belonging to both private individuals and large corporations. Some people are now saying that with the coronavirus crisis, governments can no longer afford to go without the vast amount of tax revenue they lose each year. So, could a small tax on that money fund the global recovery? What challenges need to be overcome to bring together governments and multiple jurisdictions to agree on a framework? Will it be possible to sift through layers of obfuscation to establish the exact amount of money that is held in tax havens – and how will diminishing their prominence change the world? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss whether tax havens should help pay for the pandemic recovery.
Jul 24, 2020
Is the WHO fit for purpose?
More than six months after the outbreak of the coronavirus, a team from the World Health Organization will - for the first time - be given access to physical samples of the virus inside China. It’s an important moment for the WHO, which has been accused of providing patchy scientific advice and reacting too slowly to the threats posed by the virus. There has been an especially critical reaction from the agency’s biggest donor, the United States. Donald Trump has begun the process of withdrawing the US from the WHO, accusing it of being under the 'total control' of China and of 'misleading the world' about the coronavirus. The WHO chief said the organisation needs to reflect on its role during the pandemic and has launched an independent evaluation. So are the criticisms fair? And what difference will investigations inside China make now? Is the organisation still fulfilling its mandate? How has it changed through the years and crucially, does it need the United States to survive? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss whether the World Health Organization is fit for purpose.
Jul 17, 2020
Lebanon on the brink
The financial crisis in Lebanon seems to have accelerated rapidly ever since the government defaulted on a ninety-billion-dollar loan in March.The currency has lost nearly eighty percent of its value pushing a large group of its population below the poverty line. A shortage of cash has led many to barter household goods for food on Facebook. Even the Lebanese army has stopped serving meat to its soldiers. And many of its citizen are seeking refuge abroad. At the heart of the crisis is the country’s banking sector. Protesters see it as the embodiment of a corrupt economic system that has enriched the elites who are now unwilling to foot their share of the bill. Now, compounded by the outbreak of the coronavirus, has Lebanon entered its most critical moment since the end of the civil war? As the country stares into the abyss will its disparate political groups be willing to come together to prevent a financial meltdown? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss what hope there is for Lebanon.
Jul 10, 2020
Generation Covid?
Young people may not be the most exposed to the health risks during the global coronavirus pandemic, but right around the world they will pay a high price in lost wages, opportunities and greater public debt - much of which they’ll have to service. Generations are forged through common experiences, and the bigger the shock of Covid-19 to the global economy, the greater the likelihood that it will become a defining event for Millennials, Generation Z and the next generation of young children. How will Covid-19 shape the mindset of those people just starting out in life and what can we learn from the formative events of past generations? How will gains by young people in developing countries be impacted by the pandemic? And as the virus further exposes intergenerational inequalities, could its legacy be a new conversation about how to fix them?
Jul 03, 2020
How will Covid-19 change our cities?
So far, people in cities have borne the brunt of Covid-19. Coronavirus thrives when humans interact in shared spaces where infections are easily transmitted. Because of this, many column inches have been dedicated to predicting the demise of urban living and a revival of suburbs, towns and villages. But the fact remains the majority of us live in urban settings and people will need to keep seeking out the economic and social opportunities that cities provide. So, if cities are here to stay, how will coronavirus change them? Some aspects of city living that came in for criticism before the virus now seem unviable. Urban density was already a problem with so much cramped and scarce housing. Now, for many, it’s intolerable. Long commutes on dirty, crowded public transport will no longer do. Cars, roads and parking lots claiming vast outdoor areas no longer makes sense if we are to spend more time outdoors. And, in developing world cities, how much longer can poor sanitation and lack of running water be ignored when neglecting basic infrastructure will likely lead to new deadly outbreaks? Policy makers have, in the past, flirted with tackling the big problems in cities - but these problems haven’t gone away. So in the end, will the pandemic force drastic changes to urban design? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.
Jun 26, 2020
Is this the internet we always wanted?
The internet has proven invaluable during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing us to continue to work and learn from home, disseminating information to concerned citizens and providing desperately needed social contact for those cut off from family and friends. Before the pandemic, it seemed the internet was increasingly becoming an angry and cold place, providing a platform for selfish pursuits and amplifying extreme views and behaviour. That still goes on, of course, but is the pivot to more altruistic activities online an opportunity to consider again the potential of the internet and what it's for? A string of data scandals over recent years has prompted calls for greater regulation of companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon. But three decades on from the creation of the World Wide Web, is now the time to discuss more sweeping reforms? Proposals are now emerging that could radically change the way the internet works, how your data is managed, who’ll be able to make money, and even challenge the very concept that “the internet should be free”. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests to discuss whether the coronavirus-era internet that has brought people together and even thrown us a lifeline might be the internet we wanted all along. If so, how can we build on the moment and make it even better?
Jun 19, 2020
Racial justice: Who are the allies?
Black protesters across the United States and the world have been joined by white people calling for lasting change in the way societies deal with systemic racism. But this isn’t the first time a cross-section of society has voiced its desire for radical action on race. In most instances calls for revolution die down and the moment brings only incremental change. So what else can history teach us? South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was set up after the fall of apartheid in the 1990's and was praised for its ability to bring to light the facts surrounding black oppression in the country. So are white allies of black and other ethnic minority communities in the US, UK and other countries gripped by protest now willing to engage with their own difficult truths? Will they embrace policies that target racial inequality and a greater redistribution of government funds - polices that would reduce their own families’ access to opportunity? As the economic crisis sparked by the pandemic leaves record numbers out of work, will the coalition of voters taking to the streets still have the same priorities when they go to the polls? When it comes to addressing systemic racism, who are the allies of black activists - and what is their role now?
Jun 12, 2020
What should black Americans do next?
The death of the African-American man, George Floyd, in police custody - and the subsequent protests and riots - will look familiar to anyone who’s followed American history. This week also marked the 99th anniversary of an incident known as the ‘Tulsa Race Massacre’, in which a white mob killed hundreds of black people in a part of the Oklahoma city referred to as the ‘Black Wall Street’. Decades later, Congress passed civil rights legislation, and in 2008 the United States elected its first black president - superficially, big steps. But since then there has been a wave of police killings of young black men. The anger expressed on the streets of more than 140 US cities this week demonstrates not enough has changed. Ritula Shah is joined by a cross-generational panel of black activists and academics to assess the way forward. Have the tactics used to change minds and laws after previous deaths in police custody had any success? What are the structural obstacles to black progress and how can they be dismantled? Given all the anger and false dawns, what should black Americans do next?
Jun 05, 2020
The privatisation of space travel
On Saturday a private company will attempt to deliver astronauts into orbit for the first time - with the launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon mission to the International Space Station. Other big space projects planned by private companies include tourism, commercial space stations, a return to the Moon, habitats on Mars and even the mining of asteroids. National space agencies may partner with the private sector to reduce short-term costs and spread risks, but what will be the long-term impact of new technologies and intellectual property being by owned by companies and not states? What laws are in place to police what is and isn’t allowed to be constructed in orbit? And as the United States, Europe, China, Japan and India all compete to pass new milestones in the exploration of our solar system, would a more collaborative approach be of greater value to humanity? Or is Cold War-like competition exactly what’s needed to spark innovation? In the end, will the private sector dominate the future of Space?
May 29, 2020
Covid-19: Balancing risk and staying human
Many governments are beginning to ease restrictions placed on us aimed at containing the spread of the coronavirus. Until a vaccine is widely available, the fear of contracting Covid-19 and becoming seriously ill as a result, will remain a very real one. And as more schools, shops and workplaces begin to re-open, we’re all increasingly going to have to make decisions about the amount of risk we’re willing to take. Our fear of threats and the unknown is part of being human. But so too is our desire to hug our loved ones and meet new people. And yet these once ordinary social activities are now tainted by risk. Will we decide to abandon them? Many parents fear sending their children back to school, but may also worry whether staying at home will harm their education. How should they weigh up the risks? Staying at home for months on end may reduce the risk of becoming infected with the virus, but what are the risks to mental health from taking that more cautious approach? As the lockdowns end, how will managing risk and overcoming fear affect how we live? How will it affect what we understand to be rational, to be normal, and to be human?
May 22, 2020
Will the pandemic benefit mobsters?
The normal functioning of societies has been strained by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing curbs on our freedom of movement, commerce, trade and employment. So what impact has Covid-19 had on organised crime? In some communities, gangs have stepped in to provide food, medication and other emergency assistance to families struggling to make ends meet. Money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, says the pandemic has resulted in an increase in “fraud, cyber-crime, misdirection or exploitation of government funds or international financial assistance”. The United Nations says border closures and flight cancellations have disrupted distribution chains for illegal drugs such as heroin. History tells us criminals can thrive in a crisis. During the Great Depression in the US, the mob moved from bootlegging into gambling and prostitution and the Italian Mafia and Japanese Yakuza grew during the huge displacement of people after World War Two. So, will similar trends emerge in 2020? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss how the coronavirus pandemic will change the workings of organised crime.
May 15, 2020
Coronavirus: Will flying ever be the same?
Most industries around the world have been shaken by the coronavirus, but few have been quite as devastated as the airline industry. IATA, which represents about 290 airlines around the world, says the airline industry could lose $314bn due to the outbreak, as planes are grounded and entire routes abandoned. Aviation employs millions of people and underpins the livelihoods of tens of millions more. So can it recover? Past crises like the 9/11 terror attacks transformed the flying experience and the pandemic will do the same, but how so? Can the world’s airports provide a safe travel experience while keeping passengers moving? What happens to societies - to business trips and leisure activities - when people can no longer be mobilised to and from airports in vast numbers? And what happens to our relationships with each other - and to other places - if the cost of travel becomes unaffordable for most? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether air travel will ever been the same.
May 08, 2020
Coronavirus: Is mass surveillance here to stay?
Governments everywhere are increasing mass surveillance as part of efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Whether it’s a smartphone app that traces who you’ve been in contact with, public sensors that can tell if you’re running a temperature, or cameras equipped with facial recognition technology capable of instantaneously identifying you while walking down the street. In China, drones are being deployed to help police public spaces, while colour codes are used to determine who’s allowed out in public. So, is a loss of personal privacy that accompanies such measures a reasonable price to pay for recovery? A report from the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change concludes that it is. But critics are calling for a better debate before our societies become transformed. Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether we are entering an era where constant surveillance becomes the new normal. Are we giving up our privacy too readily? Or is this the only way to defeat a virus that's destroying lives and economies?
May 01, 2020
Coronavirus: Will China come out on top?
China was first country to suffer the effects of Coronavirus, but a few months on, it has contained the worst of the outbreak in a way the United States and most European countries have not. The Chinese economy is bracing for the first year on year economic decline for more than forty years, but western countries are projected to fare even worse. Before the pandemic, the US-China trade war had already amplified rivalries between the world’s two biggest economies, so will Covid-19 accelerate the shift in power and influence from west to east? China has been trying to increase the size of its domestic economy but the country is still reliant on exports, especially to the United States and Europe. So will that continue, or will the pandemic end hyper-globalisation and China’s place at the heart of global manufacturing? And will China turn its economy around and help the recovery of the United States and Europe or will it use the crisis to seek economic and strategic advantage? Join Dan Damon and guests as they discuss whether China will come out of the Coronavirus crisis on top.
Apr 24, 2020
Coronavirus: Ending the lockdowns
Billions of people across the globe are currently under some form of government-mandated lockdown. The aim is to curb the spread of the coronavirus and prevent health systems from being overrun. But forcing people to stay at home for weeks or months on end is resulting in unprecedented economic shocks to societies around the world. With unemployment figures accelerating, so too is the debate about how and when to end the lockdowns. Several reports have concluded that social distancing measures can only be withdrawn completely once a vaccine against Covid-19 has been developed and deployed. So, until then how do policymakers balance protecting the health and wealth of citizens? Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss the practicalities of getting people back to work before a vaccine arrives. Widespread electronic tracing of our movements is key to restoring our freedoms, but can that testing capacity be met and will people balk at having their movements tracked? And, in this strange new world, which parts of society will be the first to return to some semblance of normality, which might follow, and which will be transformed beyond recognition?
Apr 17, 2020
Coronavirus: Is Africa ready?
The Coronavirus pandemic has not yet impacted Africa as much as other parts of the world. But the situation might be hitting a dangerous turning point. Infection rates in some West African countries are rising quickly and this week the number of Covid-19 cases on the continent surpassed 10 thousand. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister has described Coronavirus as an 'existential threat' and senior UN official this week warned of the 'complete collapse of economies and livelihoods' across Africa if the spread of the virus isn’t contained. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to some of the poorest and weakest central governments on Earth - prompting doubts over the ability of health care systems to cope and workers to adapt. Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guest discuss the wide reaching effects of a widespread outbreak across Africa.
Apr 10, 2020
Coronavirus: How robust is our food chain?
Panic buying of food has become a feature of the Covid-19 outbreak around the world, stripping supermarket shelves of some items and prompting limits on the number of products customers are allowed to buy. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation says there could be global food shortages within weeks due to lockdowns and disruptions in areas like shipping and logistics. Governments across the planet have been keen to stress there is enough food to go around and they say supply chains are robust. So, in a globalised world in which much of the food we eat either comes from or is processed elsewhere, just how robust are they? As the number of people sickened by coronavirus increases, will retailers and their suppliers have enough staff to keep up with demand? What impact will national export restrictions have? As restaurants are forced to close and increased numbers of people cook at home, are we about to see a historic amount of food go to waste? And will the upheaval force some of us to return to a simpler - and more localised - food distribution model, even if it does mean giving up on year-round access to certain types of food?
Apr 03, 2020
Coronavirus: How will it change us?
The number of people ill and dying from Covid-19 is increasing globally, and whole national economies are grinding to a halt. We are living through a time of great insecurity and uncertainty in which many people will experience suffering and loss. But could the coronavirus outbreak provide humanity with new perspectives? Our politicians are being held accountable in real time in a way that hasn’t happened in decades - their decisions measured in days, not years and not easily spun. As daily life and travel is disrupted, frenetic modern lives are slowing down in a way unseen outside of wartime. Overlooked workers like cleaners and supermarket shelf stackers have been given new value. Many will have no remote working options, but some people are for the first time successfully working from home rather than commuting to work. Parents are coming to grips with the material their children are learning at school. Younger and healthier members of society are introducing themselves to elderly neighbours and offering to do their shopping. Blue skies are emerging over smog cloaked cities. There are even acts of national altruism, as some countries provide others with much-needed supplies to tackle the outbreak. Has coronavirus given us an opportunity to reflect on and change the way we see ourselves, those around us, our relationship to nature and our collective futures? If there is a ‘silver lining’ to the coronavirus outbreak, what is it?
Mar 27, 2020
Coronavirus: The economic crisis
People around the world are facing severe economic problems because of the coronavirus.. The global shutdown has sent stock prices plunging as workers and customers stay at home. The world’s governments are having to mount an economic response unimaginable just weeks ago. The US has promised close to a trillion dollars of stimulus money. In Europe - the French government is adding a fifty billion dollar economic aid package to the three hundred and thirty billion dollars of loan guarantees for banks. The UK has unveiled similar measures. But will it be enough? The mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio has likened the impact of the outbreak to the Great Depression. So, who in the economy is most vulnerable, what measures will make a difference – and have policy makers failed to prepare the world for a crisis of this magnitude? Join Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests as they discuss the impact of coronavirus on the global economy.
Mar 20, 2020
Beating coronavirus: What will you sacrifice?
Across the globe, authorities are taking unprecedented steps to curb the spread of coronavirus - as well as the increased levels of public fear and anxiety that accompany it. But do our views on the place of individual freedom and the role of the government in society help dictate how effective those measures will be? As rationing, quarantines and travel restrictions become more common place, there’s growing concern that some countries will struggle to control the actions of their citizens. With many shoppers ignoring pleas not to panic buy provisions, does this bode ill for more stringent curbs on behaviour still to come? When it comes to tackling a global pandemic, how many of your freedoms are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good?
Mar 13, 2020
What’s the Democrats' best plan to beat Trump?
After the results of the Super Tuesday primaries in the United States, two candidates have emerged as front-runners in the battle for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination - Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. But which vision for the future of the party will be the one more likely to deliver electoral success across the nation? One that aims to reach out to swing voters and Republicans, or one that energises the base of the party and attempts to bring new people to the polls? Is history a good indicator of how each candidate would perform in the general election, or has politics in America changed beyond recognition? Can Democrats beat President Trump - and if so, how?
Mar 06, 2020
Was it a mistake to overthrow Gaddafi?
In 2011, a Nato-led coalition intervened with lethal air power to aide forces taking part in an uprising against Libya’s brutal military leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Shortly after, Col Gaddafi was caught and killed by rebels and there were high hopes the country would become a safer and more open place. But since then, fighting between militias has destroyed much of Libya and two rival governments now vie for full control of the country. As talks take place at the UN in Geneva this week aimed at addressing the crisis, we ask whether it was a mistake for the West to help overthrow Gaddafi? As the government led by General Khalifa Haftar from his base in Benghazi gains increasing influence, is the battle for Libya nearing its completion? And as Gen Haftar is accused of overseeing a crackdown on dissent in the parts of the country he runs, would a Libya governed by him be any better than the one run by Col Gaddafi?
Feb 28, 2020
Who controls the River Nile?
This week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Ethiopia, just months before the planned partial opening of a controversial new dam project that Egypt says will harm tens-of-millions living along the River Nile. Construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia began in 2011 and is expected to start generating electricity within months. But Ethiopia has yet to agree with nearby Egypt how quickly the dam’s reservoir should be filled (the faster the process happens, the less water will flow downstream to Egypt). Attempts by the United States to negotiate a deal between its competing allies in North-Eastern Africa have so far failed, leading to concerns the row could lead to conflict. Ritula Shah and her panel of expert guests assess the economic costs and benefits of the dam to those up and downstream. And as climate change continues to threaten water security in the region, will the dam make the situation better or worse? In the end, who controls the Nile?
Feb 21, 2020
What's next for Iran?
Next week, Iranians go to the polls to elect a new parliament. This time around there will be fewer choices on the ballot, after a number of ‘reformist’ politicians were purged from the list of candidates allowed to stand. Popular anger over the country’s dire economy has been spilling onto the streets, with some criticising Iran’s ruling elite, while others blame the United States for withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and introducing fresh sanctions. But just who is in charge in Tehran? If hardliners are consolidating power, why now? And is outside pressure to bring about regime change strengthening the hand of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, or helping those Iranians who want a closer relationship with the West? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss - what's next for Iran?
Feb 14, 2020
Impeachment: What's changed since Nixon?
In August 1974, the 37th President of the United States - Richard Nixon - resigned after being told by members of his own Republican party that they could no longer support him. Evidence brought during the process to impeach and remove him had implicated the White House in an attempt to sabotage President Nixon's Democratic rivals. The allegations against President Nixon were similar in nature to those levelled at the 45th President Donald Trump. But this week, Mr Trump was acquitted of the two charges against him following his impeachment trial, after Republicans in the Senate voted not to hear new evidence in the case. So, have public attitudes towards allegations of corruption in public office changed over the past four decades? US politics itself, is different, but how did it arrive here? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss - what’s changed since Nixon?
Feb 07, 2020
Brexit: The next chapter
As the clock strikes 23:00 GMT on Friday, Britain will be out of the European Union. It marks the end of a bitter chapter in the country’s history – and the start of new one. The Brexit referendum of 2016 and its aftermath has dominated UK politics for the past three and a half years. The debates were fierce and the atmosphere acrimonious. Only late last year did the picture stabilise with the election of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his large Conservative majority – on the campaign promise to "get Brexit done". But the path ahead is far from clear. Britain will now enter a transition period, which the UK government has said it will not extend. At face value, this leaves less than a year for the UK and the EU to negotiate a future trading relationship and resolve key issues like security cooperation and immigration policy. So what will the talks look like and can solutions be found? Join Pascale Harter and a panel of expert guests as they discuss the challenges, as well as the opportunities, presented by Brexit for the UK and the EU.
Jan 31, 2020
Can China stop a killer virus spreading?
A mysterious new virus has emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan and is rapidly being identified in patients across the globe. Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Hundreds have been infected and some deaths have already been reported. This isn’t the first potentially deadly virus to emerge from China. In 2002/3, the Sars virus killed nearly 800 people globally and belonged to the same family of virus as the current outbreak. At the time, officials in Beijing were criticised for not acting fast enough and failing to be open and honest about the extent of the crisis. But how much has China’s approach changed? And is the world ready for the next global pandemic, whenever it may come? Celia Hatton and her panel of guests explore whether China has learned its lessons when it comes to dealing with the outbreak of deadly diseases.
Jan 24, 2020
Does philanthropy work?
Many of the world's rich and powerful will gather at the Swiss resort of Davos next week to discuss the future of the world, including how to make it a more equitable place. According to most estimates, the richest one percent of the world's population owns more than half of its wealth. Overall, the rich have spent billions in projects ranging from healthcare, education and humanitarian assistance to scientific research and good governance. But critics say that in the United States, only a fifth of the money actually went to the poor. So, is there a need to redefine philanthropy for the rich? Who should decide where their money should be spent? And, would their money be better spent by the state through taxation instead of their charitable foundations? Julian Worricker and a panel of expert guests discuss whether philanthropy works.
Jan 17, 2020
The world's housing crisis
The state of affordable housing in major cities around the world is an issue of increasing concern to politicians - and of course to the growing population of large cities. Next month, the UN's World Urban Forum will discuss rapid urbanisation and the pressures it brings on cities’ infrastructure and housing. In Germany, Berlin is the first city in German history to impose rent controls. In London, an inquiry into the disastrous fire in an inner city high rise block has highlighted the quality and safety concerns surrounding affordable accommodation in the capital. Everywhere urban planners are asking: can large cities provide affordable quality accommodation for residents? Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss the big challenges facing local authorities and city dwellers around the world.
Jan 10, 2020
Can young people change the world?
2019 has been a year of youth activism. From the Swedish climate change protester Greta Thunberg to Hong Kong’s democracy activist Joshua Wong, young people have been making headlines. Millions of school children and college students all over the world marched for a range of causes, whether it was fighting climate change, supporting girls’ education in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, or ending police brutality in the US. Politicians are being forced to pay attention and address previously ignored issues. But will meaningful change come about? Can young people achieve things in activism that adults can’t? And what does it take to become the next Greta Thunberg? Paul Henley and a panel of experts discuss the young people trying to change the world.
Dec 19, 2019
What next for the UK?
The Prime Minister's core message during the campaign was simple: "Get Brexit done." It worked, with the Conservative Party enjoying its widest margin of victory since its win under Margaret Thatcher in 1987. The United Kingdom now appears set to leave the European Union by the end of January. The opposition Labour Party, meanwhile, had a historically poor showing in the polls, while nationalist parties made gains in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Dan Damon and a panel of expert guests discuss the big challenges ahead for Boris Johnson following his historic win. (Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrives back at 10 Downing Street in London on Friday after visiting Buckingham Palace, where he was given permission to form the next government during an audience with Queen Elizabeth II. Credit: Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Dec 13, 2019
The world's languages are dying
The world’s rich linguistic tapestry is unravelling. Around a third of the world’s languages now have fewer than a thousand speakers left. The UN says more needs to be done and, to raise awareness, it declared 2019 the year of indigenous languages. The numbers of languages heading for extinction number in the thousands and are spoken by small tribes and ethnic groups scattered around the world. In September this year in Russia, a retired professor set himself on fire in protest against the disappearance of his own native language, Udmurt. His tragic death prompted a discussion about the ways of preserving minority languages. But are all indigenous languages worth saving - and at what cost? Which ones should we prioritise and how is that decided? Why do speakers of minority languages feel so deeply about preserving their mother tongue and their culture? Join Julian Worricker and his panel of expert guests as they discuss how we keep the thousands of minority languages alive in an era when just 23 languages accounts for half the world’s population.
Dec 06, 2019
Who runs Iraq?
Iraq has been gripped by mass public protests for weeks. Thousands of people have been taking to the streets in cities like Baghdad, Basra and Karbala to demand an end to corruption and unemployment, and an improvement in public services. The government has responded with force. More than three hundred people have died during the protests. Iraq is the second biggest oil exporter in the Middle East and yet according to the World Bank, over twenty percent of its citizen lives in poverty; and according to a corruption watchdog, more than three hundred billion dollars have gone missing from the government coffers in the last fifteen years because of graft. Following the 2003 US led invasion that overthrew the regime of Saddam Hussein a series of Shia led governments have struggled to maintain order, and sectarian conflict has torn through the society. Analysts say the nature of post-war politics have paved the way for armed militia groups and religious leaders to exert undue influence in the way the country is run. So how exactly is Iraq governed? What is the balance of power among its ethnic and religious groups? Does the system prevent meritocracy and encourage sectarian patronage? And how disruptive is Iran's presence in Iraq? Pascale Harter and guest discuss who is in charge in Iraq.
Nov 29, 2019
Can algorithms be trusted?
Algorithms have become a ubiquitous part of modern lives. They suggest films on streaming services, vet loans for approval, shortlist job candidates, even help decide prison sentences and medical care. But there are questions over the way they are applied. The banking giant Goldman Sachs faced criticism after it was alleged that an algorithm used to determine people's credit score was sexist because it gave women a lower credit limit to men. An algorithm used to allocate health care in the United States was accused of bias against black patients. And this week a supreme court judge in Britain called for the creation of a commission to regulate algorithms. So how did the world become so dependent on algorithms and how are they changing people's lives? Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss how algorithms are shaping the modern world.
Nov 22, 2019
The future of oil
The state owned Saudi oil company, Aramco, is considered to be the most profitable business in the world. In the coming weeks it plans to raise billions by selling shares publicly for the first time. Despite the proliferation of green technologies and a rise in environmentalist movements which are calling for an end to fossil fuel dependency, the International Energy Agency believes that global consumption of oil will continue to grow for another twenty years. Analysts say this is mainly due to the continuing growth of the Asian economies. It's not just Saudi Arabia looking to cash in on the continuing demand for oil. Iran says it too is hoping to earn billions of dollars if it can extract oil from a newly discovered field close to its border with Iraq. So why is the world still so reliant on oil? What is driving the current growth in oil production and how long will it last? Can the countries that rely on oil as their main source of income move onto other things when demand begins to fall? Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss the future of oil.
Nov 15, 2019
India's pollution problem
At one point this week air pollution in Delhi was so high that monitors could not record the toxicity because it was off the scale. Schools were closed, vehicles restricted, and people were advised to stay indoors. But the situation in Delhi is not the full picture. Fifteen of the world's twenty most polluted cities are in India. And air pollution is just one of several severe environmental challenges in the country. Fast paced industrialisation, poor waste management and badly managed mining projects are all contributing to environmental degradation. So why have India’s pollution problems been so hard to tackle? What are the steps authorities should be taking to improve the situation? And can the country find a path that will enhance people's lives without damaging nature? Join Pascale Harter and a panel of expert guests as they discuss India's environmental future.
Nov 08, 2019
Russia's new internet firewall
A law is coming into effect in Russia that will redefine the way internet is governed in the country. Russia says the law will allow internet providers to filter content to ‘protect’ its citizens. It wants Russian data to remain within its border and prevent outside forces from disrupting its internal internet infrastructure. Critics say, the law virtually allows the government to disconnect from the outside world and impose total control over the flow of information. They say it will stifle dissent and free speech. It is also argued that the law will put at risk sensitive information of foreign companies doing business there. So is Russia taking a step back from an integrated global internet system? Will its attempt to raise a digital wall inspire other nations to follow suit? How will the changes affect Russian economy, society, and freedom of expression? Will people find a way to undermine that system? And what are the lessons Moscow has learned from China’s ‘great firewall’? James Coomarasamy and guests discuss Russia and its internet.
Nov 01, 2019
Mass protests in Lebanon
This week millions of people were out on the streets of Lebanon demanding change. A lack of jobs, crumbling public services, rising living costs and rampant inequality had brought out people from all sections of the society. The proposed budget with more taxes, including one on WhatsApp, is seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back. Since the end of a fifteen year long civil war, Lebanon has relied on a unique set of arrangements to maintain peace and a balance of power among its various sects. But under the banner of 'everyone means everyone' the protesters are turning on the political class as a whole and uniting across sectarian divides. So is Lebanon in the midst of a revolution? Julian Worricker and guests discuss what this uprising means for Lebanon and the region.
Oct 25, 2019
Canada at a crossroads
Canada is a vast country with rich natural resources. For decades it has relied on global trade and a stable international order to prosper. As Canada heads to polls on the 21st of October, it finds itself with challenges at home and abroad that could bring significant changes to the idea of what Canada is. Its more powerful and influential neighbour to the south, the United States, is in turmoil with divisive politics and unpredictable changes to its foreign policy. Relations with Canada’s second biggest trading partner, China, have hit a low with the controversy involving the telecoms company Huawei. Meanwhile, at home, the country is trying to reconcile its relationship with the oil and gas industries with its leadership on the environment. Canada has been at the forefront of global humanitarian efforts, including accepting large numbers of refugees from Syria, but at the same time it faces discontent over immigration and integration. So what does this election mean for Canada? Do the debates over immigration and indigenous rights require a fresh look at the values that Canadians have taken for granted for decades? Is it time for Canada to redefine its foreign policy and trade priorities in light of a rising China? And what should its relations be with a changing United States? Julian Worricker and guests discuss Canada at a crossroads.
Oct 18, 2019
Does the US have a Syria plan?
Following a late evening phone conversation with the president of Turkey, President Trump approved the Turkish decision to send troops in parts of Syria that are now controlled by American backed Kurdish forces. He said that it is time for the US troops to be pulled out. The announcement caught America’s allies by surprise, and the president’s supporters off guard. The move is seen as a major shift in the US policy which, critics say, will embolden Iran and Russia and might even help the Islamic State group to bounce back. They say the absence of US support will put Kurdish forces - America’s strongest ally in the region - in a vulnerable position and expose them to Turkish attacks. There is also concern about the fate of the thousands of ISIS prisoners held by the Kurds. But this is not the first time president Trump has expressed a desire to end American involvement in Syria. So what exactly is president Trump’s policy towards Syria? Will a US pull-out be a betrayal of its allies in the region? Will it open up new front lines and a return of ISIS? And where does it leave America’s standing in the Middle East? Paul Henley and guests discuss president Trump’s endgame for Syria.
Oct 11, 2019
Is impeachment a fair process?
In the United States, the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump - only the fourth president to face such an investigation - has become the most talked about issue in Washington. At the centre of it is a phone conversation in which president Trump allegedly solicited the help of the Ukrainian president to undermine a political rival. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the Democratic Party controlled lower house of Congress, says that it had to initiate the impeachment investigation because it could not "ignore what the president did". But is there such a thing as a fair and objective way to impeach a president? How important is the court of public opinion and what do events say about America's political divide? Plus, what are the lessons from history? Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss what it takes and what stands in the way of removing an American president from office. (Photo: A demonstrator showing support for an impeachment hearing in New York. Credit: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)
Oct 04, 2019
Can China tame Hong Kong?
This week China marks the 70th anniversary of its founding. The great fanfare playing out across the country could be overshadowed by events in the southern territory of Hong Kong, which is part of China but maintains separate judicial and economic freedoms. For months, people there have been taking to the streets every weekend to rally against a controversial extradition bill. These protests have turned into a movement calling for full democracy, and an investigation into allegations of police brutality during the protests. The embattled government of Hong Kong initially shelved and later withdrew the bill. This has not quelled the unrest. The Chinese government has reacted angrily, but it has stepped back from deploying troops. So where do the two sides stand and how will the scenarios play out? Is the standoff just about democracy or a broader series of issues - from wealth inequality to identity? Can Beijing calm the situation without the use of force? And could these protests inspire movements in other parts of China? Celia Hatton and an expert panel of guests discuss the protests and what they say about the rapidly evolving relationship between Hong Kong and China.
Sep 27, 2019
Russia's Africa doctrine
In October thousands of delegates are expected to arrive in the Russian resort of Sochi for an extraordinary gathering. It will be the first ever conference between Russia and the countries of Africa. President Putin is due to hold meetings with African heads of state to discuss Russia's ties to the continent. Russia is rekindling links with Africa that existed during the Cold War and creating new partnerships with countries which, in the past, had closer ties to the West. Some have already accepted Moscow's military support while others have signed energy and mining deals with Russian companies. So what is Russia's Africa doctrine? Are these budding relationships more about business or diplomacy? What do African nations gain by moving closer to Russia? And, is Moscow trying to join a race that, in fact has already been won by Beijing? Julian Marshall and a panel of expert guests discuss Russia’s future in Africa.
Sep 20, 2019
South Africa's anti-foreigner violence
South Africa is one of the richest countries in Africa. Its businesses and investments have been a catalyst for growth on the continent and according to the World Bank, African immigrants have made a positive impact on South Africa’s economy. Yet foreign workers come under regular attack in South Africa. In the most recent spate of violence, hundreds of foreign owned businesses were damaged by protestors who said foreigners were taking their jobs. Several people died. The South African government condemned the attacks; but fell short of calling them xenophobic. Others on the continent aren't so sure. From Ethiopia to Zambia to Nigeria the reaction has been fierce. Artists have cancelled events, radio stations have boycotted South African music and hundreds of Nigerians were repatriated to Lagos. Julian Worricker and a panel of expert guests discuss the latest signs of anti-foreigner intolerance in South Africa. Why are immigrants being targeted in the Rainbow Nation and what impact will the negative reaction have on the country?
Sep 13, 2019
The future of money
Every summer at a mountain resort in Wyoming, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas hosts a symposium of central bankers and academics to discuss the global economy. This year at Jackson Hole, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, grabbed headlines by calling for a new global monetary system to replace the US dollar as the world’s main currency reserve. A new digital currency, he said, based on a basket of currencies and provided by the public sector, could be more stable and sustainable than the dollar in today’s volatile, multi-polar world. But what would such a shift mean? Is this actually an old idea, revived by our digital age? And how could the rise of the private crypto-currencies such as Facebook’s Libra change the way money - and governments - work? Join Chris Morris and our panel on The Real Story this week as we ask: how is money changing, and could different systems be better for people and countries?
Sep 06, 2019
Who owns the Amazon?
The Amazon rainforest is an essential part of maintaining the earth's ecosystem and weather patterns. But this year thousands of fires are ravaging there - the most intense blazes for almost a decade. Brazil's indigenous and environmental groups have raised alarm at the rate of deforestation caused by the fires, many of which are thought to have been started deliberately by farmers and loggers. The G7 group of industrial nations have offered tens of millions of dollars to countries in the region to fight the fires. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, after initially blaming the environmental groups of overreacting, has deployed soldiers to help fight the blaze. But he has shown little enthusiasm towards the international offer of help, and said that the Amazon was being treated as a colony or no-man's land by countries like France. So what's the best way to decide the future of the Amazon forests? Should they be treated as a world treasure with a global consensus over its preservation? Or, should the Amazon countries have sovereignty over the forests and their natural wealth and have the final say. And what about the rights of the indigenous groups and farmers? Join Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests as they discuss the future of the Amazon.
Aug 30, 2019
The changing face of protest
The on-going protests in Hong Kong and Russia come as Eastern Europe begins to mark the 30th anniversary of one of the most important geopolitical shifts of the 20th century - the collapse of Communism. The 20th century struggle against communist dictatorships lasted decades and claimed thousands of victims but eventually reached its aims. So, what about the protests of the 21st century? We have watched the Green Movement in Iran, then the Arab Spring, revive people’s hopes for democracy - then crush them. Yet today, protesters in Moscow, Khartoum, Hong Kong and elsewhere are still fighting for change. Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss what the latest wave of protesters have learnt from the failures of the Arab uprisings. What are the challenges and advantages for protesters in the age of social media and how have the authorities adjusted to new tactics?
Aug 23, 2019
How do women change politics?
The British Green MP, Caroline Lucas, this week called for an 'emergency cabinet' of women from across the UK’s political spectrum to help prevent Britain from leaving the European Union without a deal. Women, she said, were better placed to deal with 'difficult, intractable problems'. So, is this true? Women have had to fight to gain a place in national politics in countries around the world, and when they make it, their challenges are far from over. Just last week, for example, the Kenyan MP, Zuleika Hassan, was ejected from the national parliament after she brought her baby into the chamber. So how does this compare to some of the other obstacles facing female politicians as they develop their careers? Do women govern differently to men, how does policy change when they're in charge and do women need to join the boys club to get ahead? Julian Worricker and a panel of guests ask - how do women change politics?
Aug 16, 2019
What happened to the political centre ground?
In recent years the formula for winning elections has moved away from reaching out to all voters and charting a middle ground. Instead, politicians are promoting wedge issues and activating voters along issues of identity and against the status quo. The polarising nature of this variety of politics was on view this week in the aftermath of the tragic mass shooting in Texas. It was also seen in India, where the Hindu nationalist BJP government rammed through a dramatic policy change on Kashmir without consulting its people, who are mostly Muslims. Similar trends are occurring in Turkey, Philippines and Brazil, where strongman politics has reduced the space needed for healthy dialogue and diminished the rights of minority constituencies. So, when did the politics of compromise fall out of fashion and why? What has been the role of technology in turbo-charging the adversarial tone? And what will it take for the politics of the middle ground to make a comeback? Julian Worricker and a panel of guests discuss whether current trends are part of a historical cycle or the new normal.
Aug 09, 2019
What is immigration for?
In his first speech to the British parliament as Prime Minister, Boris Johnson promised a “radical” overhaul of the British immigration system modelled on an Australian-style points-based system where applicants are judged on the contribution they could make to the economy. Concerns about immigration are said to be one of the main driving factors behind Brexit - with many voters unhappy with the rapid pace of change in their communities. So, what will be the shape of a future British immigration system? Is a points based system the best way to decide who comes to a country - and should the economy take priority over historic links and family ties? Why is the Australian model so often cited? And what does locking out low skilled immigrants do for a society’s ability to function? Join Chris Morris and guests as they tackle these questions.
Aug 02, 2019
The politics of Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson has become the prime minister of Britain at a time when the country is facing numerous challenges at home and abroad. His supporters admire him for his colourful politics and quick-witted oratory skills, but he has also been described as untrustworthy and divisive by members of his own party. So what kind of politics can Boris Johnson offer? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss his record as a politician and look ahead to how he might tackle Brexit, Britain’s relationship with the Trump administration, and the tension with Iran in the Middle East.
Jul 26, 2019
Europe's migration standoff
The Italian government has been calling on European countries to come up with a new plan to absorb migrants reaching its shores via the Mediterranean Sea. A tougher approach to migration was one of the campaign promises of the deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, and after his League party's victory in 2018, Italy banned migrant rescue ships from docking in its ports. The actual number of migrants arriving in Italy by sea has been going down every year since 2016, when the European Union began to train the Libyan and Tunisian coast guard to intercept migrant boats and return them to North Africa. But the UN says migrants are being held in appalling conditions at detention centres in Libya, and the fighting there is endangering their lives. So, is it time for Europe to reconsider its partnership with Libya? Why are European countries failing to agree on a plan to help out Italy? And how much of the concern expressed by Italy are motivated by political reasons? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss Europe's migration standoff.
Jul 19, 2019
The future of space exploration
This month in 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. It was a culmination of human and technological achievement. Both the United States and the Soviet Union claimed victory in space, but for the rest of the world, the race between the two superpowers paved the way for the advancements of military and commercial aviation technology, improvements in health and medical research, and an increase in our understanding of the Earth and its climate. But fifty years after that historic moment, what's the current state of space exploration? Is the US losing its leadership role to countries like China, India and Russia? Is going to Mars a practical use of valuable resources - and how will it benefit science? Join Celia Hatton and guests as they discuss the future of space exploration.
Jul 12, 2019
Africa's digital transformation
The rollout of the internet in Africa has been patchy. Some countries have used it to leapfrog others, boosting their economies. For many others, new networks and technologies have yet to bear fruit. From Sudan to Ethiopia to the DRC, the continent is marred by regular internet shutdowns, with the aim of stopping anti-government protesters from organising. And very few countries have taken steps to define the rules of digital privacy and data protection. Yet, Africa remains the fastest growing internet market in the world, with one study suggesting that by 2025 the continent will have 600 million internet users. So, who are gaining most from Africa’s improved online connectivity? Are they the foreign technology giants amassing people’s personal data, governments who can control the flow of information - or Africa's citizens who now have more choices and a voice like never before? Join Julian Marshall and guests as they discuss the winners and losers of Africa's digital transformation. (Photo: Sudanese protester Alaa Salah during a demonstration in Khartoum in April, 2019. Courtesy of Lana H. Haroun)
Jul 05, 2019
What's happened to gay rights since Stonewall?
Fifty years ago, when gay protesters clashed with New York City police outside a nondescript bar, the Stonewall Inn, few expected it to become one of the turning points in the gay rights movements in the world. But the encounter motivated and galvanized a generation of gay men and women who demanded to be accepted in society for who they were. Change came slowly and same sex marriage and equal protection under law now exists in many countries. But huge challenges remain and, according to one survey, a large number of gay men and women still struggle to come out. This week, fifty years on from 'Stonewall', The Real Story hears about the most pressing issues for LGBT communities. Celia Hatton is joined by a global panel of LGBT activists to discuss the impact of those 1969 riots and the state of progress for gay rights movements across the world. (Photo: People participate in the annual LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California, on June 9, 2019. Credit: Agustin Paullier/AFP/Getty Images)
Jun 28, 2019
The vaccination divide
A global survey of public attitudes to health and science has found that twenty percent of Europeans have no confidence in life-saving vaccines. The figure was highest in France where a third of the adult population does not believe that immunisation is safe. Vaccination rates have stalled in many regions, and cases of infectious diseases, like measles, have soared. At the same time, many people who do support immunisation say that they have no understanding of the science behind it. The Wellcome Trust study also says that confidence in vaccines is much higher in developing countries than in the developed world. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests to discuss what's behind the vaccination divide. Is the world is taking a step back in its ability to stop the spread of preventable infectious diseases? Should parents have the final say about the health of their children? And how much of the vaccine anxiety is driven by misinformation on the internet?
Jun 21, 2019
Syria: Assad's endgame
After eight gruelling years of war, the rebels in Syria seem to be making a last stand in the province of Idlib. The opposition stronghold in the northwest of the country has been under intense bombardment from government forces backed by Russia. Idlib is where many fighters from the defeated parts of the country were moved. It is also home to three-million civilians and the UN has warned of another refugee exodus and humanitarian catastrophe. Julian Worricker and a panel of expert guests examine the situation in Idlib and discuss how the Assad government has managed to consolidate power in the rest of the country. Why are Russia and Iran continuing back the Syrian government? Should Western countries accept reality and bring Syria into the fold? And - what does President Assad intend to do next?
Jun 14, 2019
What does the future hold for the Rohingya?
One year ago this week, the government of Myanmar signed an understanding with the United Nations that would pave the way for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees to return home from camps in southern Bangladesh. But the UN says, no family has volunteered to return. Ever since the mass exodus of the Rohingya began in August 2017, the Burmese government and the military have received universal condemnation for their failure to stop the violence. The government, led by the Nobel Laureate Aung Saan Suu Kyi, says that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and have been involved in attacks against the Burmese military. But in recent months the government has been cooperating with aid agencies to encourage the refugees to return. Does that indicate a change of heart? And if so, should the West reward Myanmar by ending its diplomatic isolation? And what does this crisis say about Myanmar’s democratic transition? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they explore what’s holding back the return of Rohingya to Myanmar.
Jun 07, 2019
European election results: Gridlock or opportunity?
This week the European elections have generated intense discussion: The turnout was the highest for twenty years. And for the first time in decades, the traditional Centre-Right and Centre-Left failed to win enough seats to form a majority. They are under pressure to forge fresh partnerships with smaller blocs, like the Far-Right, the Liberals or the Greens, who have been returned with a bigger share of the vote. Some argue that the new balance of power will better reflect the political realities of the EU member states. Others predict stalemate on big issues like migration, budget, and climate, as newly-emboldened smaller groups fight for their own agenda. Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the road ahead for the European Parliament.
May 31, 2019
The new technology cold war
This week the tech giant Google announced it would not provide some of its services to the Chinese company, Huawei, the second biggest mobile handset maker in the world. The Trump administration alleged that Huawei might spy on America and its allies on behalf of the Chinese state, a claim rejected by the company. It said it was a victim of the trade war between Washington and Beijing, and its technology was strong enough to withstand American pressure and would, in fact, become the most advanced in the world within years. With China’s companies becoming global players in areas like mobile infrastructure, artificial intelligence, and surveillance, it looks set to pose a serious challenge to US dominance in technology. So, does China have the necessary expertise and investment backing to make the transition? And how much of that transformation will be affected by China's approach to governance, privacy, and human rights? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss what a technology cold war will mean for the two technology superpowers, their allies and us, the consumers. (Photo: A chip by Huawei's subsidiary HiSilicon displayed at the Huawei China Eco-Partner Conference in Fuzhou, China. Credit: Reuters)
May 24, 2019
Does WikiLeaks matter?
WikiLeaks has never been far from controversy since the release of its first cache of documents in 2006. Its supporters have welcomed the organisation as a bearer of truth and transparency. Its method of publishing troves of sensitive documents from governments and other organisations is seen as a way to fight against secrecy and censorship. Its detractors see it as an irresponsible leaker that has put lives in danger. Some point out that while WikiLeaks have been successful in embarrassing many politicians and businesses, it failed to usher any real change in transparency. This week Swedish prosecutors said they would look again at rape allegations against its founder, Julian Assange. He faces possible extradition to Sweden but also to the United States, where he would face charges for his work. So, away from Mr Assange’s legal challenges, does the organisation he founded still matter? Is the Wikileaks model of data release still relevant for today's journalism? What happens when non-state actors or vested interests initiate leaks with ulterior motives? Join Chris Morris and his guests as they discuss WikiLeaks and accountability. (Photo: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the window of a prison van as he is driven out of Southwark Crown Court, London, 1 May 2019. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
May 17, 2019
Can nature be saved?
Biodiversity – that’s the subject of a major report from the UN this week – and it comes with an alarming warning: the variety and fabric of life on earth is in rapid decline all over the planet. Because of human behaviour, nearly a million species are facing extinction and many ecosystems are being irreversibly degraded. Using knowledge from both scientists and indigenous groups, the report highlights threats to clean water and air, and warns that soil damage could make it impossible to curb climate change. The solution? Sweeping and radical change, says the UN. We’ll look at the severity of this crisis that faces us all. And we’ll ask: how can people, businesses and governments be made to value nature? This week, Celia Hatton is joined by a group of experts to discuss what can be done to save life on earth.
May 10, 2019
China's Arctic ambitions
China is located nearly 3,000 kilometres from the Arctic Circle but that hasn't stopped it taking a keen interest in the region. Last year China described itself as a 'near Arctic State' and said that it plans to play a crucial role in the Arctic's future. The melting of the polar ice has made it possible to exploit the Arctic’s riches, from natural gas and oil to rare minerals, which are crucial for China’s growth. As leaders from the eight-nation Arctic Council travel to the northern Finnish city of Rovaniemi for talks next week, some people are asking whether Beijing is on a resource grab mission and it is not concerned about the environmental price of exploiting the Arctic. Others say that Chinese investments can be a lifeline for many Arctic communities who have been suffering from years of under investment. Celia Hatton and a panel of expert guests discuss China's race towards the Arctic and what it means for the rest of the world. (Photo: A model of China's Xue Long (Snow Dragon) icebreaker displayed at the 18th Party Congress in Beijing in 2017. Credit: Simon Song/South China Morning Post/Getty Images)
May 03, 2019
Is social media killing elections?
Free and fair elections are needed for democracy, and their manipulation has always been an issue. But with the advent of social media, has this problem now become unmanageable? Some argue that social media has levelled the playing field and opened up political space for people who previously had no voice. At the same time, there is plentiful evidence of foreign interference and the use of social media to spread disinformation in elections in the United States, Brazil, Kenya and India - to name just a few. So is it time for social media to be further regulated for the sake of democracy? Can technology companies be trusted to come up with their own solutions, or should governments intervene and make new laws? And if the state does step in, how can repression, surveillance and censorship be avoided? Celia Hatton and her guests delve into the murky world of social media during election campaigns. (Photo: A close-up image showing the Facebook app on an iPhone. Credit: Sascha Steinbach/EPA)
Apr 26, 2019
The return of the eco-warriors
As evidence of climate change and mass extinctions becomes ever harder to ignore, a new tide of eco-activism is making waves. Schoolchildren across the world have been coming out on strike, with Swedish student climate activist Greta Thunberg meeting Pope Francis this week. Meanwhile, a movement calling itself Extinction Rebellion continues to occupy key locations in central London and elsewhere, stopping traffic, gluing themselves to things, even smashing the occasional oil company window. Their message is clear – they want action on climate change and they want it now. But the answers are not simple, and the approach can be divisive. So what are the best tactics and strategies for such an epic fight? Is the latest wave just a western phenomenon, or are the developing countries most at risk from climate change also on board? How important are arguments about social justice, and human rights? Are governments actually paying attention? And what lessons have been learnt from the eco-warriors of the past? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of activists and experts to discuss the new green activism. Photo: An environmental campaigner is carried by police officers at Oxford Circus during the protests by Extinction Rebellion in April 2019 in London. Credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Apr 19, 2019
Has Brexit broken UK politics?
Has what’s happened since the Brexit referendum revealed serious problems with the way the UK is governed? Was the big mistake to have a referendum on such a complex issue in the first place, challenging the sovereignty of parliament and our representative system? Are UK politicians ignorant of the art of compromise, and if so, would proportional representation change the political culture? Do there need to be reforms, even a written constitution? Or is the problem not the system, but the failures of a few key people to understand the rules? Paul Henley is joined by a panel to discuss the UK's constitutional crisis. Picture: Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow during a debate on the second reading of the European Union Withdrawal (No. 5) Bill, April 3, 2019. Credit: Mark Duffy/AFP/Getty Images
Apr 12, 2019
Has the International Criminal Court failed?
Since the inception of the ICC 20 years ago it has been controversial. Supporters see it as a guarantor of justice, ready to step in when states are unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. But to many the Court has now fallen from grace, having spent an estimated $1.7 bn but secured only three convictions for core crimes. The superpowers still show no signs of joining – with the US recently imposing sanctions on officials after the Prosecutor began examining US actions in Afghanistan. So is the ICC just on a long learning curve, at a time when support for multilateral institutions is on the wane? Will the Court ever convict sitting leaders, or citizens of powerful states? Has it already dangerously overextended itself? And if it has failed in its own terms to address impunity, can and should it survive? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel to discuss the health of the International Criminal Court. Picture: Fatou Bensouda, the ICC prosecutor. Credit: Reuters.
Apr 05, 2019
What’s at stake in India’s election?
Battle lines have been drawn, alliances are being firmed up, and the electoral machine has kicked into action. With over 900 million eligible voters, the 2019 parliamentary elections in India will be the biggest exercise of democracy in the world. Voting will begin on 11 April and will be held in seven stages across India’s 29 states. Five years ago, the Hindu nationalist BJP won its first ever landslide victory, but can Narendra Modi’s party win again this time? The BJP says it is the party of economic success and national security, but it has also been widely accused of unleashing ethnic tensions and restricting human rights. The main opposition Congress party has accused the BJP of destroying India’s secular ideals, and say this vote is a battle for India’s soul. So what is at stake in India’s election? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel to discuss the challenges and choices facing India in this election year. Photo: Boy holding an Indian flag. Crediti: Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images)
Mar 29, 2019
Who are the far-right extremists?
The terror attack on Muslims worshipping in Christchurch, New Zealand has focused minds around the world on the threat from racist far-right extremists. The man responsible cited influences from the US and UK among others, and claimed to be motivated by white supremacist ideas. So, who are these extremists? What do they believe and why? And what role might politics and media play in planting the roots of extremism in society? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the nature and challenge of far-right extremism. (Photo: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hugs a female member of the Muslim community in Christchurch, 16 March 2019. Credit: Boris Jancic/European Photopress Agency)
Mar 22, 2019
What’s going on at the US-Mexico border?
The number of undocumented migrants captured at the US Mexico border has reached a decade-long high, with the government predicting that the number will continue to rise. President Trump says the situation at the border is a national emergency. So, is he right? Ritula Shah is joined by three expert guests to discuss what’s going on at America’s southern border. How many people are really crossing it. And - is the asylum system working, or broken, or just under strain? (Photo: Mexican children at the US border. Credited: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 15, 2019
Has China's economy peaked?
This week thousands of delegates from across China arrived in Beijing for the biggest political gathering of the year. But this time, the government’s message about the economy is less upbeat than it has been before. The growth forecast has been reduced, again. A new plan to boost the economy includes greater government spending, increasing foreign firms' access to the Chinese market, and billions of dollars in tax cuts. But will the measures work? There is more trouble on the horizon, as industries struggle to find skilled workers, and deal with the fallout of the trade war with the United States. Celia Hatton is joined by a panel of expert guests to discuss whether the Chinese economy is robust enough to weather the challenges. (Photo: A female worker in a textile factory in Lianyungang in China's eastern Jiangsu province, February 2019. Credit: AFP/ Getty Images)
Mar 08, 2019
What next for the wives of Islamic State fighters?
What's next for the thousands of foreign women who have been living with Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria? The situation was highlighted after a British and an American woman expressed the desire to return to their countries of origin. With the Islamic State's rapidly shrinking territory, thousands of foreign born women - many with children - have fled the fighting and are sheltering in refugee camps. Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss what should happen to them now. Do they deserve to be resettled in their countries of origin? Or are their governments right to reject their citizenship? And what will happen to the children of IS fighters who have a right to reside in Europe or America? (Photo: A fighter with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces keeps watch near veiled women standing on a field in Syria by Fadel Senna / AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 01, 2019
Are referendums ever a good idea?
This week was another dramatic one in the long-running saga of Brexit, with the possibility of a second referendum to solve the political impasse created by the first still widely discussed. Meanwhile on Sunday in Cuba, which is of course not a democracy, citizens will get to vote in a constitutional referendum that is expected to legitimise private business and open the door - if not positively support - gay marriage, and abortion has now been available in Ireland for two months, after Ireland’s ground-breaking vote last year. In a world in which referendums, plebiscites and citizens initiatives are more common than ever, are these forms of direct democracy really an answer to our political problems? Do they enhance or damage representative democracy? Do they satisfy an important right to be heard, or create deeper divisions in society? This week on The Real Story with Ruth Alexander we ask: Are referendums ever a good idea?
Feb 22, 2019
Is capitalism killing our planet, or is it our only hope?
This week was another bad one for the environment, with a major scientific review predicting a mass extinction of insects within a century if current trends continue. Meanwhile, the news on climate change gets more alarming by the day. But when we talk about causes and solutions, do we often miss the big picture? Is the capitalist system underpinning the globalised economy the main culprit in both crises? If so, can those catastrophes only be avoided if capitalism is tamed, or radically reformed? Is the so-called Green New Deal the answer? Or is capitalism the only system that can produce the innovation we now desperately need? This week on The Real Story with Ritula Shah we ask: Is capitalism killing our planet, or is it our only hope?
Feb 15, 2019
Forty years since revolution: How stable is Iran?
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a defining moment of the 20th Century. What began as a popular movement to oust the Western backed monarchy, later turned Iran into the world's first Islamic republic. Since then, the Iranian government has been accused of rights abuses, destabilising the region, supporting terrorists and trying to develop nuclear weapons. There have been waves of protests, for differing reasons, at home. And a recent upturn of economic optimism has vanished following President Trump's unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal, with the US reimposing far-reaching sanctions. But despite all the internal tensions and international pressure, the system has survived. How come? What kind of country is Iran today? And does the outside world really understand the country and its people? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss the state of Iran, years after the revolution.
Feb 08, 2019
What Will Happen to Afghan Women When the US Leaves?
The United States and the Taliban say they have made significant progress towards ending the war in Afghanistan, with the deal expected to include a withdrawal of foreign forces. In return, the Taliban would agree not to shelter terrorists. But what will that mean for Afghan society? The Taliban’s denial of women's rights is well documented. With foreign forces gone, will women's hard-won rights survive? Can outsiders protect those rights once they have left, or is Afghan civil society now strong enough to take up the fight? This week Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss how the US pullout will leave Afghan women.
Feb 01, 2019
What's keeping Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir in power?
Sudan has been witnessing the biggest anti-government protests in years. They began over a month ago when the government announced plans to reduce subsidies on staples like bread and fuel. But a heavy-handed response by the authorities has led to dozens of deaths and hundreds of arrests. Many are now calling for the resignation of president Omar al-Bashir. With the demonstrations becoming a regular feature across the country, is president Bashir facing the most serious threat to his power? This week, Ritula Shah, is joined by a group of experts to discuss Sudan's popular anger.
Jan 25, 2019
Why Does President Trump Stick by Saudi Arabia?
Donald Trump’s first foreign trip as US president was to Saudi Arabia - and this week his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited the Kingdom. Despite increased strains on the relationship, including the controversial war in Yemen and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Trump Administration has shown no signs of breaking with Riyadh. Is this fully explained by the trade in oil and arms – or are other factors at work? How important is a shared antipathy to Iran? Are human rights always expendable when trade and strategic interests are in the mix? And why and how did the two countries become so entwined? This week Celia Hatton asks a panel of experts what is keeping the United States and Saudi Arabia close.
Jan 18, 2019
Are We Alone In The Universe?
It's an old question, but despite many estimates - based on Frank Drake's famous equation - that our own Milky Way galaxy could contain up to a million alien civilisations, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence begun in 1961 has so far failed. Funding for SETI - as it's known - has also been a problem, although private money has partly filled the gap. But SETI scientists are now hopeful that, after a 25-year pause, the US Congress will mandate NASA to spend ten million dollars a year, for the next two years, renewing the search. And it's not all about intelligence, as everyone agrees the discovery of life of any kind on another planet would be astounding - with some of the most exciting developments in this field much closer to home. This week on The Real Story we ask a panel of space scientists: are we any closer to finding extra-terrestrial life? What new approaches are showing promise? How will we know if we've found it? And what might that life be like? (Photo: VLA Radio Telescope, New Mexico. Credit: Education Images/UIG/Getty Images)
Jan 11, 2019
BBC Correspondents Look Ahead
How do you look ahead in a world which constantly takes us by surprise, sometimes shocks us, often makes us ask 'what happens next?' Who would have predicted that President Trump would, to use his words, fall in love with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whose country he had threatened to totally destroy? Who could have imagined that a prominent Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, would be murdered and dismembered in a Saudi Consulate? And, on a happier note, we’re relieved that, as the year ends, a climate change conference in Poland did manage to save the Paris pact, and maybe our world. The BBC's chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet talks to correspondents from around the globe about what might happen in the world in 2019. Guests: Katya Adler, Europe editor Yolande Knell, Middle East correspondent James Robbins, Diplomatic correspondent Steve Rosenberg, Moscow Correspondent Jon Sopel, North America editor Producer: Ben Carter Editor: Penny Murphy (Image: King Mohammed VI, Melania Trump, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron. Credit: EPA/BENOIT TESSIER / POOL MAXPPP OUT)
Dec 28, 2018
France's Yellow Vests: Macron's Malaise
After weeks of protests and violence, France's President Emmanuel Macron has bowed to the yellow vests protestors. First he made an televised address to the nation in which he admitted he had made mistakes. Now he has issued a new budget with financial giveaways. It is not just that he has been spooked by weeks of demonstrations - not unknown in French life - but also that protestors have enjoyed high levels of public support. Their demands combine elements from the left and the right: calls for huge increases in government spending and in wages, coupled with the halving of taxes and tough restrictions on migration. But behind these demands, some people detect the grievances of France's left-behinds, either in small towns or in the countryside, and those at the wrong end of globalisation. Ruth Alexander and a panel of experts discuss Macron's options. Can his concessions satisfy the yellow vests, and if not, where does he go from here? The protestors want to have little to do with politicians but are they playing in to the hands of Marine Le Pen and the far right?
Dec 21, 2018
China's Big Social Experiment
In 2014, the Chinese government issued a document aimed at increasing the amount of 'trust' in society. Today this emerging system is known as China's social credit system - like a credit score but tracking more than financial transactions. China's central government wants to have the system in place across China by 2020, using a range of information -- including shopping habits, driving fines and even what's written on social media -- to rate and rank individuals. People with poor scores could find themselves unable to get bank loans or buy plane tickets. Advocates claim that a system is necessary in a country where few people have credit ratings. But detractors see it as a kind of dystopic super-surveillance. Celia Hatton and a panel of expert guests weighs up the costs and benefits of social credit. (Photo: A Chinese woman walks along the street holding a broom and dustpan. Credit: Getty Images)
Dec 14, 2018
Britain's Big Brexit Moment
There's only one question in Britain these days: what will happen with Brexit? On Tuesday, the future of the country is at stake when the British parliament takes a historic vote on the withdrawal deal that the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has negotiated with the European Union. As it stands, the odds are on parliament voting the deal down. And with the clock to Britain's exit from the EU ticking down, the consequences of the Prime Minister losing the vote are far from certain. Could she go back to Brussels and get a better deal? Could the government fall? Could those who have been hoping to stop Brexit altogether finally get a new referendum? And, what happens if Britain crashes out of the EU in March 2019 with no deal? Chris Morris and a panel of experts discuss the costs and benefits of May's deal, no deal, no Brexit - and everything in-between.
Dec 07, 2018
A New Vision for Mexico
On Saturday, Mexico gets a new president. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador - or AMLO as he's known. He won a landslide victory and now controls both houses of Congress. Born in poverty, AMLO is promising to eliminate corruption, champion the poor, and stand up to big business. His vision is not just government as usual but Mexico's 'fourth transformation', a kind of national renewal. He has already cut his own salary and that of senior civil servants and he has spooked the financial markets by cancelling Mexico City's new airport. But how realistic is his vision? The country is the second most unequal in Latin America, parts of it are controlled by drug traffickers and gripped by violence. And in his first week in power he'll have to deal with the migrant protest on the US border. So, will he change Mexico or will Mexico change him? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests profile Mexico's new president and discuss his vision and the challenges he faces.
Nov 30, 2018
The Modern Face of Money Laundering
The largest money laundering scandal yet uncovered has been back in the spotlight. 200 billion Euros were allegedly laundered through a tiny Estonian branch of the Danish Danske Bank between 2007 and 2015. The whistleblower who first alerted Denmark's biggest bank to the problem testified in front of the Danish parliament this week. Once upon a time, money laundering meant setting up pizzerias as fronts and building blocks of flats to rent. But things have become more sophisticated. Today's perpetrators are smurfing - investing small amounts in many small businesses, moving dirty money around with crypto currencies and setting up companies within companies within companies. Ruth Alexander and a panel of expert guests discuss how money laundering is done and the ways the authorities can take control of the problem. (Photo: Rolled up US dollars. Credit: Getty Images)
Nov 23, 2018
Is 'Fake News' a Threat to Democracy?
In the two years since the election of Donald Trump the world has heard a lot about 'fake news'. It's a term the president often uses to go after the media and his opponents. But 'fake news' can mean a lot of things. It can refer to inaccurate stories pumped out to generate online ad revenue. It can also describe the sort of political disinformation that Russia used to try to influence the 2016 US election. While propaganda and disinformation have been deployed at home and abroad for centuries - Hitler and Stalin were past masters - the internet has made the dissemination of such lies much easier. So, if trust in information corrodes, what happens to democracy? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts look at what fakes of all kinds are doing to our public life and what solutions are available. (Photo: Fact or Fake concept, change wooden cube. Credit: Getty Image)
Nov 16, 2018
Why Are Germans Going Green?
Germany, the biggest and richest country in the European Union, is going through a period of considerable political turbulence. After Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, the CDU, performed badly in state elections, she said she would not seek re-election. Much has been said about the threat posed to her party from the right by the emergence of the Euro-sceptic anti-immigrant AfD. But there's another emerging force - the internationalist and environmentalist Greens. In the recent elections in both Bavaria and Hesse, the Greens came second with a big gain in seats - and polls now have the party polling in second place nationally. Paul Henley and a panel of experts discuss what's behind the rise of the Greens and what it means for the country at the heart of Europe.
Nov 09, 2018
Why is Infertility Rising?
As the world’s population continues to rise, the numbers of children born per woman is still falling. Worldwide there’s now around 2.49 live births per woman, not far above replacement rate. Many couples are choosing to have smaller families and contraception is helping. But meanwhile, infertility in both men and women, in rich and poorer countries, is increasing. Fifty million couples worldwide cannot have children without medical help. So, what is going on? Celia Hatton and a panel of expert guests discuss why so many men and women are struggling to have children. Are they simply leaving it too late or are other factors, such as diet or pollution, having an effect? (Photo: Couple in consultation with a doctor. Credit: BSIP/UIG/Getty Images)
Nov 02, 2018
Brazil's Lurch to the Right
This weekend, if the polls are right, Brazilians are expected to elect an obscure far-right politician as their next president. Jair Bolsonaro has spent over 20 years in Congress in a variety of fringe parties to very little effect. Now he is promising to root out the corruption that's endemic in Brazilian politics and crack down on crime. Brazil has some of the highest murder rates in the world and Bolsonaro wants to loosen gun laws and make it easier for the police to shoot to kill criminals. His opponents accuse him of supporting extra-judicial killings as well promoting homophobic and misogynistic views. Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests looks at what Jair Bolsonaro is proposing for Brazil. How has he come to prominence? Who are his backers? And can a man who speaks so fondly of Brazil's military dictatorship really be trusted with its democracy?
Oct 26, 2018
Is Identity Corroding Democracy?
In many democracies people are demanding attention based on their identity, on their race, sex, or sexual orientation. We see groups such as Black Lives Matter, or movements for white power or LGBT rights. Are these demands for redress legitimate — assuming their claims are credible — or do they undermine social cohesion by attacking a sense of shared belonging? Is the increase in identity politics a danger for democracy? Or is ‘identity politics’ a new name for an old fact, a name given by the powerful to belittle the struggles of the powerless? As the US mid-term elections approach, Ritula Shah and a panel of experts examine identity politics, left and right, and ask whether identity politics corrodes or empowers democracy. (Photo: Counter-protesters march at the University of Virginia, ahead of the one year anniversary of the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right protests, in Charlottesville, Virginia, US. Credit: Jim Urquhart/Reuters)
Oct 19, 2018
Climate Change: Tough Choices
On Monday the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report. The IPCC looked at keeping to a 1.5C rise above pre-industrial temperatures. Scientists say that we can still do it. But there's a lot of work to be done. It will need "rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society". It will also mean a major reallocation of funds. It will cost about 2.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP), every year for twenty years. But how is that going to happen? While the cost of wind turbines and solar panels have fallen, the global economy still relies on burning fossil fuels. Will politicians grasp the nettle and make the changes outlined in this report or will they, and we private citizens, ignore it and wait for disaster to strike? This week on The Real Story Ritula Shah looks at the economics and politics of climate change. Do developed countries have to give up growth to mitigate climate change? Can democracies sell the necessary sacrifices to their citizens? And will new technology save the day? Image: A woman walking through floodwaters in front of the Grand Palace near the Chao Praya river in Bangkok in October 2011 (Credit: AFP/Getty Images)
Oct 12, 2018
Norway: From Oil to Renewables
We know that to keep our climate safe we need to stop burning fossil fuels and move to renewables. But how? Leading scientists and government delegates have been asking that question this week at a gathering in South Korea. Perhaps inspiration can be found in Tromso, in the Norwegian Arctic. Norway sees itself as a leading opponent of climate change. It already generates most of its electricity from hydropower and it's looking to turn some of its mountains and rivers into a giant green battery, storing power generated by wind turbines and solar cells elsewhere in Europe, then sending electricity back when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind blow. But Norway is still a major oil exporter. While its North Sea fields begin to run dry, Norway is continuing to dole out exploration permits for the Arctic waters. Ritula Shah and a panel of experts and politicians in Tromso debate Norway's energy future and ask what lessons the country has for the rest of the world. (Photo: Midnight sun over the Arctic Ocean at Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Norway. Credit: Arterra/UIG via Getty Images)
Oct 04, 2018
Air Pollution: Invisible Killer
Air is all around us. It's invisible and most of the time we don't think much about it. But when the air is polluted, it's deadly. Even when it doesn't kill us, polluted air increases respiratory illnesses, strokes, and Alzheimers; it may even be making us dumb. Air pollution is behind the deaths of at least 4.5million people a year worldwide, the vast majority harmed by tiny particles of soot emitted by burning fossil fuels in cars and factories or by burning wood or coal for cooking. So what can we do? Ritula Shah talks to health and public policy experts about the risks posed by polluted air. How can we clean up our air to have healthier bodies and brains and build better communities?
Sep 28, 2018
Is Unity Coming to Ireland?
Twenty years after the signing of The Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland, Brexit has unleashed new uncertainty about the island's future. In 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union but Northern Ireland voted to remain. Irish nationalists in the north are unhappy about the possibility that controls on the land border with the Republic of Ireland could return. Supporters of a united Ireland have seized on this to argue that by joining the Republic, Northern Ireland would be able to get back into the EU. The Good Friday Agreement includes a provision for a referendum on unification known as a border poll. Whether nationalists could win is unclear but a mixture of worries about Brexit and demographic change suggest a future border poll would be much tighter than would have been the case ten years ago. Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss whether Brexit has opened the door to a united Ireland. (Photo: Farmer standing on the border separating Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Credit: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Sep 21, 2018
How Lehman's Collapse Changed the World
Ten years ago the US investment bank Lehman Brothers collapsed. The event rocked global stock markets and led to the biggest financial crash since the Great Depression. The decade that followed has been extraordinary. We've seen anger and discontent as living standards have fallen in large parts of the developed world. There's been political upheaval with the election of Donald Trump and the UK's vote for Brexit, while populists and demagogues have gained power across Europe. Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss the consequences of the 2008 financial crisis: low growth, a fragile global economy and a transformed political landscape. And, in the event of another crash, would governments have the ideas, the resources, and the goodwill to pull the global economy back from the brink?
Sep 14, 2018
Sweden: Liberalism in Trouble
For years Sweden has been praised for its generous welfare state and the welcoming hand it held out to refugees. But things are changing. Sweden is approaching the end of its most closely fought election in decades. Polls predict that the long dominant Social Democrats will get the largest share of the vote but not enough to govern alone. As in other European countries, significant numbers of the old working class are turning to an anti-EU anti-immigrant party. The Sweden Democrats are socially conservative, talking tough on immigration, and helped by recent criminal incidents that some are pinning on immigrants. They could get enough support to influence the country's future. President Trump has long been tweeting about Sweden, claiming "large scale immigration" there isn't working. But what's the evidence? Is Sweden suffering from an epidemic of crime caused by immigrants? Has it failed to assimilate the people it welcomed in? Or are these at best half-truths deployed in a tough election campaign? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss whether Sweden has turned its back on its social democratic past?
Sep 07, 2018
Who Should Own South African Land?
Nearly 25 years on from independence the vast majority of South Africa’s farmland is still owned by the country’s white minority. But now the governing ANC is coming under pressure to change that. In the past the government has tried to find “willing sellers” but that’s only led to the redistribution of 10% of farmland. Now the government is considering more controversial moves. President Cyril Ramaphosa his indicated he would introduce a change to the constitution to allow, if necessary, land expropriation without compensation. White farmers are furious. Investors are worried too. They look at what has happened in neighbouring Zimbabwe where land seizures turned what was the breadbasket of Africa into an agricultural basket case. President Trump, too, has got involved, tweeting that he asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to look into “land and farm seizures” and "killing of farmers", prompting South Africa to accuse Mr Trump of stoking racial divisions. Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests discuss South Africa’s struggle with land reform.
Aug 31, 2018
A New Perspective on Psychedelics
LSD, magic mushrooms, mescaline, peyote - just some of the most well known psychedelic drugs. Most of them are illegal around the world. Research into psychedelic medicine was virtually shut down in the West because psychedelics were considered mind-altering substances open to abuse. This perception is changing. There is a growing body of evidence that some psychedelic drugs can be used to treat a variety of medical conditions. There have been clinical trials of psilocybin - the active ingredient in magic mushrooms - for treatment-resistant depression. Just one dose was found to help people with life-threatening cancer face death. James Coomarasamy and a panel of expert guests discuss the evidence that psychedelics have transformative and beneficial properties. Are most authorities right to continue to ban them or should they be considered for wider use - and if so, under what conditions?
Aug 23, 2018
Is the Nation State in Decline?
People around the world continue to want a nation to call their own. There have been recent independence referendums in Kurdistan, Catalonia and Scotland. This trend has being going on for a century, as empires have given way to nation states, and those states have further subdivided. For much of the 20th century this made sense. Politics, the economy, and communications were mostly organised at a national scale. National governments had actual powers to manage modern economies. But after many decades of globalisation, have economies and information grown beyond the authority of national governments? How good are nation states at dealing with trans-national threats such as terrorism, migration or global warming? Carrie Gracie and a panel of expert guests discuss whether the nation state is in decline. And if so, what might replace it?
Aug 16, 2018
Extreme Heat: The New Normal?
In many parts of the world this has been a season of extreme heat. Records have been broken from North America to Europe, from the Middle East to Japan and Korea. We know the climate is changing, and that many of the reasons are man-made. International commitments to limit the average rise in global temperature - to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels - demand concerted action around the world. Chris Morris and a panel of expert guests discuss the science behind extreme heat. What are the political solutions and the new technologies that may be able to help us? And even if we can mitigate against extreme temperatures, are heatwaves going to become the new normal? (Photo: Cameroonian Girl sweating and drinking water from a green jerry can. Credit: Getty Images)
Aug 09, 2018
Syria: Has Assad Won?
It has been over seven years since the uprising in Syria turned first into a civil war and then into a proxy war that has drawn in countries near and far. During that time at least 350,000 people have been killed, over 5 million have fled the country, and over 6 million have lost their homes. The war has seen sieges, artillery barrages and airstrikes on civilian neighbourhoods, hospitals and schools. With the help of Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad has recaptured the major cities. His enemies are, as ever, divided. Rebels cling on to enclaves near the Turkish border in the north and in the north-east the Kurdish dominated SDF still controls about a quarter of the country. But in the south, the Syrian government has this week retaken Deraa province where the uprising began in 2011. So is the war coming to an end? Or is it entering a new phase? This week on The Real Story Chris Morris and a panel of expert guests discuss the Syrian war, how long does it have to go and how can the country start to rebuild? (Photo: A house burns after Syrian forces shelled it with heavy artillery in the besieged town of Douma by Muhammad Al-Najjar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Aug 03, 2018
A New Dawn for Zimbabwe?
On Monday Zimbabwe will hold elections - the first to take place since former President Robert Mugabe was forced to stand down by the military after nearly 40 years in office. Under his rule the southern African country went from being one of the brightest economies in the region to one of the weakest. Opposition parties were repeatedly frustrated at the polls with violence and intimidation. The country is currently being led by former minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed "the crocodile", who is leading public opinion polls. Julian Marshall is joined by government, opposition and expert guests to discuss whether these elections represent a clean break with the Mugabe years and what it will now take for Zimbabwe to attract the investment needed for stability, prosperity, and jobs. (Photo: A man wears a Zimbabwean flag after a rally by Movement for Democratic Change leader and opposition presidential candidate, Nelson Chamisa. Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Jul 27, 2018
How Political is the Mueller Probe?
It has been a torrid week for US-Russian relations. Days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, President Trump met President Putin in Helsinki. In an extraordinary press conference Mr Trump said he preferred to believe Mr Putin rather than US intelligence agencies when it came to accusations of Russian meddling in the US election. Mr Trump’s comments have caused outrage across the US political spectrum – and led to a rare climb-down from Mr Trump, who said he ‘misspoke’. Next week Mr Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort goes on trial for tax evasion. Mr Trump’s links with Russia have long dogged him but will they now damage him? He has made it clear that he sees the Mueller investigation as biased, in his words ‘a rigged witch hunt’. With the US mid-term elections on the horizon, the fate of the Mueller investigation and Mr Trump’s political future both hang in the balance. Ritula Shah looks at the Mueller investigation and asks what it is doing, what has it discovered, and whether it is political. (Photo: Special counsel Robert Mueller leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Jul 20, 2018
Do Protests Still Work?
Donald Trump has arrived in England but he's not getting the red carpet treatment a US president might expect. Big protests are planned in London, featuring a march to Trafalgar Square and a six metre high balloon of Donald Trump as a snarling orange baby. The protests may let people vent their feelings about the US president’s controversial style and policies, but few expect much change as a result. So, while protests still occupy a prominent place in the drama of democracy, do they really achieve anything anymore? How have cultural forces and social media changed the way protests are organised? And can non-violent protests still force elected politicians to change? Presenter: Ritula Shah
Jul 13, 2018
Poland Out in the Cold
Poland is one of Europe's economic success stories - and after Brexit, Poland stands to become the EU's fifth-largest state. France and Germany had hoped Poland would work with them to find solutions to the EU's big challenges, such as migration. But Poland is taking a different path. Since taking power in 2015, the Law and Justice Party has attacked EU institutions and criticised the German government in particular for being too welcoming to migrants. Tensions came to a head this week with the implementation of a new law in Poland that requires judges to retire when they turn sixty-five. The European Commission has accused Poland of undermining the independence of its judiciary and has launched legal action against the government in Warsaw. So, is Poland implementing necessary reforms or slipping towards authoritarianism?
Jul 06, 2018
Can the EU Survive?
"The fragility of the EU is increasing," says EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, and, "the cracks are growing in size." The cracks appear in many forms. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel says migration is the issue that "could decide the EU's fate." Her French counterpart, President Emmanuel Macron, wants urgent economic reform and a "profound transformation" of the EU. His solution in part is to "give Europe back to its citizens." But what do European citizen want? Some want out, as seen in Brexit. Many others don't like the way the EU is currently run. That's behind the rise of Eurosceptic governments in Hungary, Poland, and now Italy. Can the gap be closed between French hopes and German fears? Who has the will and the wherewithal to reform the EU before another political or economic crisis engulfs it? And if no change comes is the EU's very survival at risk? (Photo: EU flag billows all tattered and torn. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images)
Jun 29, 2018
Who Should Be Let In?
Images of crying children separated from their parents at the US border with Mexico have brought a new urgency to the migration debate in the US. After a week of intense scrutiny on the issue, President Trump signed an executive order so that families apprehended trying to enter the US illegally would not be split up while criminal proceedings took place. In Europe, too, the migration debate is testing governments. This week, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, went to battle with her Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, over whether migrants at the German border should be turned away if they had registered elsewhere in the EU. So, as the UNHCR says the world is experiencing record levels of migration, should countries get tougher or adjust to the new reality? Are public concerns justified, or are they fanned by populists hoping to make political gains?
Jun 22, 2018
The Great Disruptor
What is Donald Trump thinking? In one week he calls Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ‘dishonest and weak’ and then proceeds to boast of his ‘terrific relationship’ with the dictator Kim Jong-Un. In just a few days, he riles America’s closest allies at the G7 summit and then signs a nuclear deal with the country considered one of the biggest threats to international security. The president’s critics say he is tearing up the rule book without considering the consequences. His supporters say a new approach to international diplomacy is long overdue. So which is it? Has President Trump decided to abandon the military and political alliances that structured the post-World War II liberal order – or is he simply reminding old allies not to take the United States for granted? Is ‘the West’ dead – or is the alliance mutating into one where the US has more space to put itself ‘first’. On the Real Story this week, Ritula Shah and a panel of guests considers how we have arrived at this great disruption of the international order – and where the world is heading. (Photo credit: Reuters)
Jun 15, 2018
The World Cup: Holy Grail or Poisoned Chalice?
All eyes will be on Russia shortly as it hosts the FIFA World Cup, one of the world's great sporting occasions. The country will get a boost as tourists visit Russia's many far flung cities and spend freely in hotels and restaurants. But staging the event is not cheap. Russia will be spending at least $12 billion at a time when its economy is suffering from sanctions. And - once the teams and their fans leave, the clean-up is expensive and the legacy uncertain. This week Ritula Shah and a panel of experts ask what's to gain from hosting the beautiful game's greatest showcase.
Jun 08, 2018
Italy's Populist Future
After nearly three months of negotiations and disputes, Italy has a new government. The country that road-tested Trump-style populist politics before the Donald has handed power to a pair of anti-establishment parties, The League and the 5 Star Movement. Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, had blocked the coalition's choice of finance minister, Paolo Savona, claiming his views imperilled Italy's position in the Eurozone. But the coalition has backed down. Its new choice for finance minister has been accepted by the president. Nonetheless, Italy is entering uncharted waters. Its coalition is unhappy with the Eurozone's rules and Italian voters are looking for relief from unemployment, a massive debt, and what the 5 Star Movement calls "the sea taxi service" bringing migrants to Italy's shores. Ritula Shah and a panel of politicians and analysts unpick what lies behind Italy's divisions and discuss whether Italians are ready to risk leaving the Eurozone. (Photo of two boys on a bicycle carrying the Italian flag. Getty Images)
Jun 01, 2018
The Coming Pandemic
Ebola is back. In 2014, it killed over 11,000 people in West Africa. Now the disease has struck once again in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This time doctors are better equipped, with a vaccine and immunisation campaign but the outbreak highlights the ever-present dangers posed by infectious diseases. One hundred years ago the Spanish flu killed over 50 million people in just one year. And doctors now say the next pandemic will be upon us in a matter of decades. We don't know where it will start but in a hyper-connected world we know it will spread easily. Ritula Shah asks a panel of expert guests about the scenarios that keep them up at night and whether global health infrastructure is ready for the coming pandemic.
May 25, 2018
How Do Monarchies Survive?
Hundreds of millions around the world will watch live coverage of the latest British Royal wedding. Queen Elizabeth's grandson Prince Harry is marrying Meghan Markle, an American actress. Divorced and biracial, she wouldn't have been considered British princess material 50 years ago. But times have changed and the British monarchy has had to change with them. The popularity of the Harry-Meghan match appears to show a recipe for a successful modern monarchy - equal parts tradition and change. So, is that the formula to keep constitutional monarchies afloat in Britain, Western Europe, and the Arab World? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests explore the forces working against monarchies and discuss how they manage to survive. (Photo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle by Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
May 18, 2018
What Next for Iran?
"This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," said President Trump as he pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal. "It didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace, and it never will." So what now for Iran, for the stability of the Middle East, and for future nuclear deals? So far Iran's President Rouhani has reacted cautiously but will the country's hardliners force him to resume enriching uranium, paving the way for a nuclear weapon? How will Iran's regional rivals Israel and Saudi Arabia react? Can the European Union, Russia, and China still keep Iran within the deal? And if they can't, what will the effect be on the outcome of any future nuclear deals. That's The Real Story with James Coomarasamy this week.
May 11, 2018
Does the Left have a Future in Latin America?
Thousands of Nicaraguans have been taking to the streets this week to protest against the killing of anti-government demonstrators. They say Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front (FSLN) has betrayed the people in whose name it once fought. For President Ortega - a one-time revolutionary icon - the demonstrations highlight a significant shift. With the Castros out of power in Cuba, and other giants of the Left dead or in jail, Mr Ortega is the last of a generation of Latin American revolutionaries still in office. Ritula Shah and her guests discuss why left-wing politics lost ground in Latin America, and what the future holds for leftist politics in the region.
May 04, 2018
Crossing The Age Divide
The world's population is ageing. According to the UN the number of people aged 60 or over is growing faster than all younger age groups. This is putting new pressures on relationships between generations. In richer countries, younger people are not accumulating the wealth their predecessors did and that's causing tensions. In the developing world, urbanisation and technology are challenging traditional family dynamics. So, how can the young and the old stay connected in a fast changing world? As part of the BBC's Crossing Divides season, Carrie Gracie is joined by a panel of expert guests in front of an audience of international students.
Apr 26, 2018
What Justifies Military Intervention?
The decision by the US, France and Britain to bomb Syria after seeing evidence that President Bashar al-Assad had allegedly used chemical weapons on civilians has divided the international community. Are we living in a world where might, not right determines how states behave, or is a more moral legal framework in the process of being born? This week on the Real Story, Carrie Gracie and a panel of expert guests ask what can justify attacking another country.
Apr 20, 2018
The State of the Unions
The French President, Emmanuel Macron is taking on the country's powerful unions. The response to his proposed labour reforms has been a wave of public sector strikes across France. It's a battle that has played out many times over recent years in industrialised nations and trades unions have, without doubt, been losing influence globally. Why is this happening? Do workers no longer regard unions as an effective way of representing their interests? Have unions failed to adapt to the changing way we work? That's the Real Story this week with James Coomarasamy as he and his guests discuss the future of unions in the 21st Century.
Apr 13, 2018
How Do We Cure Our Plastic Addiction?
We have a problem with plastic. We're making too much of it and not re-using and re-cycling enough of it. Plastic is contaminating our oceans and polluting our world. Until this year China took two thirds of the world's plastic waste, but now it's saying it will no longer be the world's dumping ground. The Chinese ban on low quality plastic has begun to bite with policy makers urgently looking for new solutions. So what happens now? What has the situation done to expose the way our plastics are recycled? And will developments result in a watershed moment where we finally re-evaluate our plastic consumption? Join Carrie Gracie and a panel of experts discuss how we cure our addiction to plastic.
Apr 05, 2018
How Do We Build a Better Internet?
When the first website went live just over 25 years ago, there was hope that the internet would change life for the better. These days, though, there is deep unease about the direction the internet is taking. Allegations that data firm Cambridge Analytica used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook users without their permission to target US voters with tailored - sometimes misleading - messaging highlights how technology is infiltrating democracy. This week the US Federal Trade Commission said it would investigate Facebook's privacy practices and the company said it would overhaul its privacy tools. The internet is now controlled by a handful of companies and how they acquire and use personal data is poorly understood. They have disrupted the way we shop, work, and live. So how did we get to a place where so few players have so much power, and are these companies still serving the public interest? Carrie Gracie and a panel of experts discuss whether we can change direction. And if we did want to build a different internet from the one we're hurtling towards, what would it look like anyway?
Mar 29, 2018
What is Fuelling War in Yemen?
The UN calls Yemen 'the world's worst humanitarian crisis'. It says more than three-fourths of the population - over 22 million people - are in need of humanitarian assistance. Yemenis face hunger, disease, and the terror of a war which has pitted Iran-backed Houthi rebels against a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia. This week marks the end of the third year of that Saudi campaign - with no end in sight. Yemen's Minister of State resigned Wednesday saying Yemen's President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was under house arrest in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. So what are the Saudi aims in Yemen and why are Yemeni civilians continuing to suffer so much? Carrie Gracie and a panel of expert guests bring clarity to one of the world's most complex wars.
Mar 23, 2018
What Does Putin Want?
Major Western powers are united in their conclusion. Russia, they say, carried out the first offensive use of a nerve agent in Europe since World War Two. The attack happened in the English city of Salisbury, where former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent. This Sunday, the Russian people are expected to elect Mr Putin for a fourth consecutive term. So as Russia and the West begin a new diplomatic showdown, what does President Putin want to achieve - for himself, for Russia, and abroad? (Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin sunbathes during his vacation in the remote Tuva region in southern Siberia by Alexey Nikolsky/AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 16, 2018
Does the US Still Want Free Trade?
Donald Trump campaigned on a pledge to put 'America first'. In his first year in office the policy was pursued in a number of areas including immigration and national security, but, when it came to the economy, despite threats, the status quo more or less remained the same. Now that's changed. President Trump has signed an order imposing a 25 percent tariff on steel and a 10 percent tariff on aluminium imports. So will the move rebuild and protect the US steel industry, as the president has pledged? Will it result in a trade war? And is American economic nationalism pushing its closest trading partners away from the US - towards free trade with each other? (Photo: Getty Images)
Mar 09, 2018
Xi Who Would be King
The announcement was low key but the implications are big. The Communist Party of China has recommended that the constitution be amended to allow President Xi Jinping to serve longer than the currently mandated two terms. The move would sweep aside a system of power-sharing that's been in place for decades and the 64 year-old could now be China's president for life. So, what is behind the decision? Is it a legitimate attempt to safeguard and bolster Xi's campaign against corruption and ensure essential economic reforms? Or is it a big step towards authoritarian leadership? Xi has created a powerful cult of personality, but as the example of Chairman Mao suggests, a charismatic ruler for life can bring disaster to China. Carrie Gracie and a panel of expert guests unpick the latest developments inside one of the most opaque nations on Earth. (Photo of a decorative plate featuring an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen behind a statue of late communist leader Mao Zedong by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)
Mar 02, 2018
Russia's Information Wars
The first edition with our new name: Newshour Extra is now The Real Story with Carrie Gracie. Has Russia changed the rules of the game with the use of fake accounts on social media to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election? The US Special Counsel Robert Mueller has now filed numerous charges against Russian individuals and entities in connection with Donald Trump's presidential campaign. But US spy agencies have themselves practised disinformation and interference in other countries over many decades and so critics say Russia is now delivering the US a dose of its own medicine. Has Moscow transformed modern information warfare? And behind the headlines, what other countries and forces are manipulating information and politics in open societies? Answering these questions is our challenge on the real story this week with Carrie Gracie and her panel of expert guests. Photo: Computer hacker typing on keyboard with binary code abstract background. Credit: Getty images
Feb 23, 2018
Does Europe Need an Army?
As European intelligence chiefs meet in Germany calling for greater co-operation to tackle common security threats, we take a look Europe's move towards a more unified defence strategy. Since the Second World War, the NATO alliance has provided the West's defence umbrella. But there are those within Europe calling for the greater integration of national forces and less reliance on the United States and NATO to resolve Europe's defence problems. Russia's annexation of Crimea and the influx of migrants across Europe's southern borders have renewed this security debate on the continent. Would a Trump administration in the US provide NATO military support for crises such as these in the future? What role will Britain play in Europe's common defence policy after Brexit? This week on Newshour Extra, James Coomarasamy and a panel of guests discuss whether greater European military integration is really feasible - or even desirable. Photo: a Polish officer follows a military training exercise, the 'Strong Europe Tank Challenge' in southern Germany. Credit: Getty Images
Feb 16, 2018
Should Your Pay be Private?
Our pay is still largely a private matter - but why is that? What would happen if pay was transparent? Would it be good or bad for business? Would employers have to address inequality and discrimination? Would workers feel demoralized or empowered? And what effect would such a cultural shift have on society? On Newshour Extra this week Ritula Shah and a panel of experts consider what happens when companies or entire countries dare to reveal all.
Feb 09, 2018
Afghanistan: Time to Talk to the Taliban?
January has been bloody in the Afghan capital Kabul, where more than 130 civilians have been killed and many more wounded in a series of attacks by the Taliban and the Islamic State group. Suicide bombers have targeted not only security forces but also a hotel, and a crowded shopping street. Does this latest spike in violence mean their tactics have changed, and if so why? The US has recently committed a few more troops to Afghanistan, but after 16 years of fighting, is a military solution credible? Is it time, once and for all, to make peace with the Taliban? At what price, to whom? Does any answer inevitably depend on Pakistan? On Newshour Extra this week Razia Iqbal and a panel of experts discuss the war in Afghanistan and the prospects for peace. (Photo: an Afghan man holds a wounded child, after a car bomb exploded near the old Interior Ministry building in Kabul on January 27, 2018. Credit: Getty Images)
Feb 02, 2018
What are Turkey's Aims in Syria?
Turkey has sent tanks and warplanes into northern Syria. Their stated target is a Kurdish militia group, the YPG, regarded by Ankara as a terrorist organisation allied to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PKK, which has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey for decades. It's an indication of the complexity of this conflict is that while Turkey regards the YPG as a serious threat, the same group has been a key ally of the United States in the battle against the so-called Islamic State in Syria. If Turkey were to achieve its stated aim of destroying the YPG - or even just loosen its hold in the border region - who would fill the vacuum? On Newshour Extra this week Ritula Shah and her guests discuss Turkey's war aims in Syria and ask whether Ankara can persuade Washington to abandon the Kurds. Photo: a Syrian woman and child who fled from the Turkish offensive on the Afrin enclave. Credit: Getty Images
Jan 26, 2018
Does Coal Have a Future?
President Trump says he is a friend of coal country. He promised to end the "war on coal" and bring back jobs in the coal mines. A year on from his inauguration and he seems to have made good on some of his pledges. Late last year his administration overturned several Obama-era regulations on mining and energy production. But can coal really make a comeback? Coal production remains a source of cheap electricity around the world but it's up against the rising availability of natural gas and increasingly competitive renewable energy. Could clean coal technology help re-brand a dirty fossil fuel? And how will China's move away from coal affect the picture? (Photo: a coal miner in Ukraine. Credit: Getty Images)
Jan 19, 2018
Addicted to the Game
Gaming is big business. More that 2 billion gamers around the world generated more than 100 billion dollars in game revenues last year. But for some people all the fun is coming at a cost. The World Health Organization wants to classify gaming addiction as a mental health condition for the first time. The addiction is described as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behaviour that takes 'precedence over other life interests'. So how concerned should we be? What's the evidence that people can become addicted? And how severe can the addiction become? Do the types of games that are played - role playing vs. shoot'em up - and the environments they're played in make a difference? And how will improvements to augmented and virtual reality technology change the picture? This week on Newshour Extra Jonny Dymond and a panel of experts look at gaming addiction: serious problem or moral panic? (Photo of addicted gamer by Getty Images)
Jan 12, 2018
What is Wrong with Eating Meat?
It's the first week of the new year, which means many people are recovering from consuming large quantities of meat over the festive season. In fact, people around the world are eating more meat than ever. The average American man now eats more than his own weight in meat every year. And in China meat-eating is rising sharply as people grow richer. But all this meat comes at a cost. The WHO has linked red and processed meats to cancer, and the intensive raising of livestock and the growing of the grains required to feed the animals is doing significant damage to the environment. So what should be done? Calls are coming for meat taxes and a move to more sustainable farming. Meanwhile, entrepreneurs are looking into lab grown meat and meat substitutes. But others point out that animal products can be part of a healthy diet and that livestock can eat things that people can't. Razia Iqbal and a panel of experts discuss whether the pleasures of eating meat are worth the costs. (Photo: A butcher holding up cuts of meat during a pre-Christmas meat sale at a market in London. Credit: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images)
Jan 05, 2018
What Now For the Palestinians?
Donald Trump's announcement that he's formally recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and setting in motion a plan to move the US embassy there has been condemned by many world leaders. So where does it leave the Palestinians? The decision has motivated some to take to the streets in protest. Others wonder how peace can now be achieved. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, has said that the US has lost its right to act as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, and Saeb Erekat, his chief peace negotiator, has said 'the two-state solution is over'. So, is that right? Could a one-state solution now be a viable alternative and what would that look like? And how does the peace plan envisaged by Donald Trump's son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner, fit in? Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of experts discuss the options left for the Palestinians. (Photo of Palestinians sitting on a wall overlooking the Dome of the Rock inside the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)
Dec 15, 2017
Bitcoin: Bubble or Brave New World?
In March you could buy a Bitcoin, one of a number of ‘cryptocurrencies’, for about US$1,200. Since then its value has increased more than tenfold to over US$15,000. So why the excitement? Is it yet another irrational speculative bubble driven by what John Maynard Keynes used to call ‘animal spirits’? Or is the excitement really about the de-centralised technology that underpins Bitcoin? Some argue that this technology, known as blockchain, is as revolutionary as the internet and will change how we bank, work, and live. On Newshour Extra this week, Owen Bennett Jones and his guest discuss whether Bitcoin and blockchain are leading us to a brave new world or towards another financial crash.
Dec 08, 2017
Brexit's First Big Test
A key deadline is looming for Brexit Britain. The British government has until Monday, December 4th, to finalise its offer on three key issues: the Irish border, a financial settlement and European citizens rights. The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said clarity on the British offer had to be provided in advance of the EU leaders' summit in December. The EU's 27 members will then decide whether "sufficient progress" has been made to move the talks on to the next phase about a future trading relationship. So has Britain's offer gone far enough? What sticking points remain? And would Britain walk away from the talks if its position is rejected? Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of guest discuss the state of the Brexit negotiations. What will it take for them to advance - and what happens if they do not? (Photo of EU/UK flag pin by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dec 01, 2017
The Battle for Lebanon
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri shocked his country when he recently resigned while in Saudi Arabia citing fears for his safety. The move plunged Lebanon into a crisis as Lebanese leaders accused Saudi Arabia of forcing him to go. It has also stoked fears of major showdown between Lebanon’s Saudi-backed Sunnis and the Iranian-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah. On his return to Lebanon this week, Hariri agreed to withdraw his resignation and seek ‘dialogue’. So who is ultimately driving events in Lebanon, Hariri, Saudi Arabia, or Hezbollah and Iran? On Newshour Extra this week Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss what Saudi Arabia wants in Lebanon and whether it's gearing up to take on Hezbollah at all costs. (Photo: the Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri with Saudi Chargé d'Affairs Walid al-Bukhari during a ceremony in Baadba, Lebanon on November 22, 2017. Credit: Getty Images)
Nov 24, 2017
Europe's Growing Culture Wars
One of the explanations for the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election was that Trump had pushed back against the progressive cultural values that had been occupying the US political mainstream. There was a feeling that cultural issues championed on the left around identity, race, religion, gender, and sexuality had taken a seat at the political top table in the Obama years, and that many people - mostly white men - sought a return to times when roles were clearly defined and people weren't worried about 'political correctness'. So called 'culture wars' - pitting progressive tribes against traditional rivals - are nothing new in American politics, but the divisions today are more pronounced than ever. Compare that with Europe, where for decades, mainstream political parties have broadly agreed on socially progressive values and sought inclusive societies. But the picture is changing. The politics around values and identity is driving events across Europe. First, there was Brexit and then came the success of a number of anti-immigration political parties, most notably in Germany. This week on Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of guests discuss whether American-style culture wars have taken root in Europe. What are the flash points causing divisions and what is behind them? (Photo of a Black Lives Matter protester in London by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Images)
Nov 17, 2017
What does Trump want from China?
When President Trump was elected a year ago he promised tough action on China. During his campaign he called the rising Asian power a currency manipulator and threatened tariffs on Chinese goods. But the tone since then has significantly softened. President Trump has gone on to highlight his 'very good' relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and made much of shared cooperation on issues like the threat from North Korea. This week, President Trump put that relationship to the test on his first official visit to Beijing. So what have we learnt? When it comes to security and trade does he view the country more as a partner or a rival? On Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of guests discuss the US-China relationship. Which of the global powers is on the front foot and which has the most to lose? (Photo: US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping in Beijing on November 9, 2017. Credit: Getty Images)
Nov 10, 2017
Do We Need Economic Growth?
Donald Trump has said his proposed tax cuts will be 'rocket fuel' for the US economy. He is the latest in a long line of political leaders chasing economic growth as a key policy objective. We are told again and again that GDP - Gross Domestic Product - growth is good for the economy; it lifts people out of poverty, provides jobs and investment, and improves lives. While there is general agreement about the need for growth in the developing world, what about the costs of growth in the rich world? Is growth accelerating environmental damage? Is it causing greater inequality? Owen Bennett Jones is joined by Tim Jackson from the Centre for Sustainable Prosperity, University of Surrey; Daniel Ben Ami - author of Ferraris for All: In defence of Economic Progress; Jared Bernstein, economic adviser to President Barack Obama; and Annie Quick of the New Economics Foundation, to discuss who really benefits from growth and whether we can have prosperity without it. (Photo: The bronze bull statue near Wall Street in lower Manhattan by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Nov 03, 2017
Is Democracy Working For Africa?
Kenya's disputed presidential election has plunged the country into crisis and brought the legitimacy of the whole democratic process there into question. So on this week's Newshour Extra we take a look across Sub-Saharan Africa, and ask whether democracy is the best system of government for the continent; and if so, are there uniquely African models of the democratic process. Join Owen Bennett Jones and his guests as they discuss ethnic division, democracy and autocracy in Africa. (Photo of voter's marked finger in Kenyan election by Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images) (NB: This audio has been altered from its original format due to an inaccuracy.)
Oct 30, 2017
Is a Stronger Japan Good for the World?
After its traumatic defeat in the Second World War, Japan turned its back on military power and concentrated instead on economic growth. Japan’s alliance with the US was enough to protect it from threats in the Cold War. But times have changed. China has now overtaken Japan in both economic growth and military spending. And while China flexes new found muscles, Japan’s watches as North Korean missiles fly over its territory. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono announced last month that Tokyo would be seeking a greater role in world affairs, including boosting its military. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was quick to establish a relationship with Donald Trump. But is the anti-globalist and America-first President a solid ally? This week on Newshour Extra Owen Bennett Jones and his guests looks at how Japan is responding to threats – and how a tougher new posture might affect the world. (Photo: Ships sail in formation behind the flag of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force during a naval fleet review. Credit: Getty Images)
Oct 20, 2017
Iran: Deal or no Deal?
A nuclear weapon in the hands of the Ayatollahs has long been a nightmare of Iran's opponents in the Middle East and beyond. So when, in 2015, the world's big powers signed a deal with Iran that prevented it from developing a nuclear bomb it was seen as a triumph for diplomacy. But the deal has always had its critics. US hawks want to scrap it or at least bring Iran back to the negotiating table. President Trump is listening, calling the deal 'an embarrassment' and 'the worst deal ever'. On Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of guests discuss the deal's faults and merits, and explore whether or not it has made the world a safer place. (Photo of an opponent of the Iran nuclear deal by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images)
Oct 13, 2017
What Does it Take to Make Peace?
We live in dangerous times. Conflicts in the Middle East continue unabated; President Trump threatens to "totally destroy" North Korea; and Catalonia opts to secede from Spain with potentially violent consequences. UN Secretary General, António Guterres recently said “We are in a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace”. So why is it so hard to resolve conflicts and what makes an effective peace-maker? On Newshour Extra this week, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss the art of conflict resolution and the people who make it possible. Photo: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Israeli Premier Yitzhak Rabin display their Nobel Peace Prizes December 10, 1994 in Oslo, Norway. Credit: Getty Images
Oct 06, 2017
Why Secede?
What’s so important about having your own country? On Monday many Kurds in Northern Iraq voted for independence, and the Spanish government is seeking to stop a separatist referendum in Catalonia this Sunday. But why do many Iraqi Kurds and Catalans want an independent state given that both regions already have a large degree of autonomy? Is it about national identity or economic independence? Are there common themes or is every case unique? And what are the legal precedents for secession? Owen Bennett Jones and his guests look at self-determination, secession, and what it means to be a nation. (Photo: students in Barcelona demonstrating in favour of Catalan independence. Credit: Getty Images)
Sep 29, 2017
Who Do You Trust?
With journalists disbelieved, politicians distrusted, judges called ‘enemies of the people’, and scientists and experts dismissed out of hand, established democracies seem to be undergoing a crisis of trust. But what has caused it: growing affluence, austerity, growing inequality, the social media, or aggressive journalists? To what extent is the old democratic model damaged? Or is democracy becoming so advanced, is the attack on unelected authority so vigorous, that liberal democracies are starting to undermine themselves from within? Does the erosion of trust matter, and if so how can it be rebuilt? This week on Newshour Extra Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss trust and the lack of it. (Photo: A man dressed in blue surgical scrubs holds up a large syringe. Credit: Getty Images)
Sep 22, 2017
Extreme Weather: Who Foots the Bill?
The trail of wrecked buildings, overturned cars, and broken boats in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma have reminded the world of the ferocious power of nature. Extreme weather events are becoming more common, more destructive, and much more costly. So who foots the bill to pick up the pieces? The global insurance industry is unable to cover the mounting losses. Meanwhile, governments hesitate to make taxpayers plug the growing gap between damage and the cost of repair. There is also hot debate over to what extent climate change is to blame and by extension what responsibility big industry and the developed world carry. This week on Newshour Extra Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of expert guests looks at how we are going to pay the price that comes with extreme weather. (Photo: A woman walks on a street on the French Caribbean island of Saint-Martin after it was hit by Hurricane Irma. Credit: Getty Images)
Sep 15, 2017
What's Gone Wrong in Myanmar?
As tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees flee Myanmar for Bangladesh we ask who's responsible for the violence in Rakhine state that's forcing them out. It all looked so different two years ago when Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won landmark elections in Myanmar at the start of what looked like a new era for the country, free from dominance by the army. On this week on Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss what has gone wrong in Myanmar and ask why Aung San Suu Kyi - who made her reputation defending human rights - is refusing to denounce the military's actions against the Rohingya. Photo: Rohingya refugees from Myanmar's Rakhine state arriving at the Bangladeshi border. Getty Images
Sep 08, 2017
Are Smartphones Harming Teenagers?
The spread of smartphones has come with increasing rates of depression in teenagers. Psychologists are debating whether too much time online and looking at screens is causing rising rates of obesity, depression and even suicide, or whether these problems are - for some reason - affecting all of society including teenagers. (Photo: Teenager using smart phone in bed. Credit: Getty Images)
Sep 01, 2017
Toppling statues: When should they come down?
The violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia - which left one woman dead and many others injured - have intensified the debate about the hundreds of statues and plaques commemorating Confederate leaders right across the United States. So, what is the best way to remember troubled history? Should monuments be re-named, removed or ignored? Does pushing for more removals risk inflaming the identity politics at the root of the clashes in Charlottesville? Plus - what parallels are there with the UK, where events in the US have renewed debate about the many monuments to historical figures in Britain? Owen Bennett-Jones and a panel of guests debate what should be done about statues that offend. (Photo of the statue of Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, in Charlottesville, Virginia by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Aug 25, 2017
Facing the Future
Facial recognition technology - once a thing of science fiction - is coming to a screen near you. It’s already helping to smooth our travel experiences and assisting police to track and arrest suspects. Facial recognition offers alternatives to fingerprints, passwords and PINs. So where will the technology improve our security, and where will it ‘nudge’ our behaviour? What does it mean for society when corporations can increasingly recognise us as individuals? Are laws and procedures keeping up with the technology – particularly when it’s abused or it goes wrong? Plus - are there warnings in the widespread way the technology is being applied In China? Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss how facial recognition is quietly changing the way we live. (Photo: Facial recognition system showing a blue interface with a human head and biometrics data. Credit Maxiphoto/Getty Images)
Aug 18, 2017
Pakistan at 70 - Success or Failure?
As the 70th anniversary of the partition of British India approaches, Owen Bennett Jones is in Pakistan. In the massive, energetic, creative and sometimes violent city of Karachi, Owen and his guests ask how successful has Pakistan been, what was its purpose and have these goals been fulfilled? Also, was it meant to be an Islamic state at its birth and if so, how has that project gone? Pakistanis often blame foreign powers for their problems but how fair is that? Join Owen for Newshour Extra as we consider Pakistan's record and ask where the country might be heading. (Photo: a Pakistani labourer hangs wedding fabrics to dry after the dyeing process in Lahore. Credit: Getty Images)
Aug 11, 2017
How secular is India 70 years after Partition?
In 2014 Narendra Modi's BJP returned to power winning a majority in India's parliament. He offered a billion Indians a blend of pro-business economics and a vision of India as primarily a Hindu state. In recent months, Muslims and Dalits - formerly known as untouchables - have been beaten and sometimes killed on suspicion of having slaughtered cows, which are sacred to many Hindus. So as India approaches the 70th anniversary of its independence Owen Bennett Jones is in Delhi to discuss with a panel of experts the BJP's Hindu Nationalism and ask how much of threat is it to India's secular republic. (Photo by Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)
Aug 04, 2017
Water: The Stuff of Life
Water supplies are coming under pressure in many parts of the world. Too much water is taken out of rivers or pumped from underground aquifers to be sustainable. While water has been used as a weapon of war for centuries, could its scarcity become a cause of future conflicts? With a finite supply of fresh water and increasing demands being placed on it, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss the consequences on food production and social stability of an increasingly strained water supply for the planet's growing population. (Photo: waterfall Credit: Getty Images)
Jul 28, 2017
Living Longer Lives: Blessing or Curse?
Half of all people born in industrialised countries today can expect to live to 100. What implications does that have for individuals and for societies around the world? Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss the many issues arising from an ageing society and ask whether one day we could live forever. (Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Jul 21, 2017
What Next For Islamic State?
'Their fictitious state has fallen,' announced an Iraqi spokesman following the retaking of Mosul this week after a long and brutal battle with Islamic State militants. With IS also in retreat in Raqqa in neighbouring Syria, regarded by the militants as the capital of their caliphate, how will they respond? Will IS dwindle into fragmented criminal gangs or can it regroup, re-arm, and continue to recruit foreign fighters to the cause? Will it continue to inspire militants from Libya to the Philippines? This week on Newshour Extra Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of experts look at the future of one of the most successful Islamist groups of recent times and ask how will IS fight back? (Photo of man removing Islamic State flag by DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Jul 14, 2017
Globalisation: Winners and Losers
Globalisation is under fire. Many voters in Britain and America have turned against it, and in President Trump protectionism has found a champion. But the promoters of globalisation are regrouping. As the G20 group of countries with the largest economies meets in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to keep working towards an interconnected world. And China is working on a massive infrastructure programme to stimulate trade flows. This week on Newshour Extra Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss whether the era of free trade is at risk and which countries will provide leadership in pushing globalisation forward. (Image: The main gates of the Tata steelworks in Wales. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Jul 07, 2017
What's the Best Healthcare System?
Cost, coverage, choice - some of the trade-offs needed to make a healthy nation. As the US Congress struggles to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act - widely known as Obamacare - we ask what makes for a good healthcare system and how does society as a whole get value for money? Is it an insurance based system, like many used world wide, or is a single payer system like Britain's National Health System better and more fair? (Photo: People protesting against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Credit: Getty Images)
Jun 30, 2017
Greece: A Long Road to Recovery
Greece has been through dark economic times over the past decade. Last week a European Union loan of 8.5bn Euros enabled Greece to meet its latest debt payments. The IMF says this deal will help Greece stand on its own feet again over the course of the next year. But after the years of austerity and hardship, do the Greek people believe this will do anything to improve their lives? For Newshour Extra this week, Owen Bennett Jones is in Athens to discuss the consequences of living with long-term austerity and the prognosis for economic recovery. Photo: Anti-austerity protest in Athens, May 2017. Credit: Getty Images
Jun 23, 2017
Qatar Under Siege
Qatar has been economically and diplomatically isolated by its powerful neighbours, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain. They accuse the small Gulf state of supporting terrorist groups and of being too close to the regional Shia power-house Iran. While Qatar enjoys large revenues from oil and gas, it is also highly dependent on imports to feed its population of 2.7 million. So the cutting of trade links is already starting to have an impact with seaports in the region now closed to Qatari-flagged vessels. This week on Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss why Qatar’s Arab neighbours have turned against it and how will a dangerous situation be defused. Photo: a Saudi woman and a boy walking past the Qatar Airways branch in the Saudi capital Riyadh, after it had suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia following a severing of relations between major gulf states and gas-rich Qatar. Credit: Getty Images
Jun 16, 2017
UK Election 2017: The World View
The UK election has produced a much closer result than expected, with the Conservative Party now seeking to form a minority government. On Newshour Extra this week, Owen Bennett Jones and his panel of experts from around the world take a step back and ask what issues voters really take into account when making their choice in democratic elections; what motivates that very personal choice; and whether old ideologies allegiances have been swept aside to be replaced by new and stronger ties fostered by a more individual brand of politics.
Jun 09, 2017
Brazil’s Corruption Crisis
Brazil has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals in recent years - Operation 'Car Wash' is just one of the many ongoing investigations that stretch into the highest levels of business and politics. President Michel Temer is himself implicated in a scandal that could well bring his term of office to an early end - making him the country's second president ousted within a year. His approval ratings are rock bottom, street protests against him are growing, and the Supreme Court has now ordered him to answer police questions about the allegations against him. On this week's Newshour Extra, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests ask how Brazil, once hailed as a bright hope of emerging BRICS nations, has reached this point of crisis and whether the corruption investigations can clean up the mess. Photo: Two Brazilian students shows their hands with the slogan: 'Enough of Corruption' written on them. Credit: Getty Images
Jun 02, 2017
How Can We Make Our Cities Safe?
In the wake of the suicide bomb attack at a concert venue in Manchester, Newshour Extra this week is asking how major cities around the world can minimise the risk to their citizens from such atrocities. Owen Bennett Jones and his guests consider urban security, counter-terrorism, and the compromises different cities make between civil liberties and public safety. Photo: an armed policeman and a soldier patrol the streets of London, 24th May 2017. Credit: Getty Images
May 26, 2017
Trump and Russia: A Long Relationship
President Trump’s connections with Russia is a story that won’t go away. There are so many allegations flying around that it can be difficult to separate what is actually known and what is rumour. The President and his supporters have one key point - that despite all the coverage and official investigations, there is still no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Nor is there evidence that Trump’s business connections to Russia are other than legitimate. But did Russia try to influence the election outcome? And what about the stream of stories linking members of Trump’s team to Russia? As a special counsel is appointed to oversee the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election, Owen Bennett Jones and panel of expert guests marshal the facts and explain what is known for sure about Donald Trump’s longstanding relationship with Russia. Photo: Donald Trump in White House talking on phone to President Putin, 28 January 2017. Credit: Getty Images
May 19, 2017
Iran: Voting for Change?
Next week Iranians go to the polls to elect a new president. But how much of a choice do they really have? All six candidates are men, and all six have been chosen by the unelected Guardian Council. The members of the Council are selected by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has himself never stood for election. So how different are the views of each of the candidates and how much power will the next president have to set a new direction for the country? At a time when the world is looking at Iran following its nuclear deal with the west, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss what difference this presidential election will make. Photo: Woman voting in Iranian parliamentary elections 2016. Credit: Getty Images
May 12, 2017
What's Wrong with Science?
Science has changed the world - it helps us live longer and more productive lives. It helps us communicate, explore the universe, understand our planet and cure our illnesses. It's so powerful a force that it has undermined confidence in religion and challenged humans to rethink their purpose. Yet some of science's keenest advocates fear that there is a problem with science, that there is something wrong with the way it is currently practiced and this at a time when science is under attack not just from old fashioned creationists but from people opposed to vaccination, climate change deniers and those who are suspicious it serves the interest of big corporations. So, are there fundamental problems with the way science is done today? Join Owen Bennett Jones with his guests this week discussing how science can live up to its promise. Photo: Cancer research laboratory, Cambridge UK. Credit: Getty Images
May 05, 2017
Trump’s World: 100 Days of Change
Donald Trump came into the White House promising to tear up the US foreign policy playbook: Russia could be a friend, NATO was ‘obsolete’, and trade deals hurt American jobs. In his first hundred days has President Trump carried out his radical promises or is he beginning to sense the limitations of the most important job in the world? This week on Newshour Extra Owen Bennett Jones and a panel of expert guests discuss Mr Trump’s remaking of American foreign policy.
Apr 28, 2017
Hungary: Protest and Populism
Is the increasingly autocratic brand of populism adopted by Hungary’s right-wing government becoming a laboratory for right wing parties around the world? Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s tough policy against Muslim migrants and his call to defend Europe’s Christian civilisation have put him at odds with the rest of the European Union. On Newshour Extra this week, Owen Bennett Jones and his guests discuss this Hungarian vision of an ‘illiberal democracy’ and ask whether what was once considered on the edge of the European right, is now becoming an increasingly mainstream ideology.
Apr 21, 2017
Hacking the Vote
Highly sophisticated techniques to ‘micro-target’ voters, using personal data and demographics have been credited with contributing to the recent outcomes of both the Brexit vote in the UK and Donald Trump’s victory in America. Strategists involved in the forthcoming elections in France and Germany ignore these latest methods at their peril. But can techniques used in marketing to sell cars and toothpaste really be effective in predicting and then manipulating voters in an election? Join Owen Bennett Jones and his guests on Newshour Extra as they discuss what part micro-targeting will have in the politics of tomorrow.
Apr 14, 2017
President Trump's Promises to America’s Farmers
How will President Trump's pledge to remove illegal immigrants and create jobs for Americans impact America's agricultural heartlands? Owen Bennett Jones and his guests are in the rural American state of Nebraska to discuss whether Mr Trump's trade policies could in fact hurt farming communities rather than help them. Photo: Nebraska cattle farmer. Credit: Getty Images
Apr 07, 2017
Under Scrutiny: America’s Somali Community
The state of Minnesota is home to America’s largest Somali community. This week, Owen Bennett Jones and the Newshour Extra team are there for a special edition of the programme. In front of a live audience, Owen and his guests will examine the impact of President Trump’s executive order to exclude immigrants from majority-muslim countries including Somalia. Mr Trump argues that current immigration laws leave America vulnerable to domestic terror attacks by nationals from those ‘high risk’ countries. So what does this mean for the more than 150,000 Somalis who now live in the United States, many of whom are refugees from conflict in their home country? And what does the future hold for a migrant community President Trump has called a ‘disaster’ for Minnesota. Photo: Members of the Somali community campaigning in Minnesota State elections, Nov 2016. Credit: Getty Images
Mar 31, 2017