Insight, wit and analysis as BBC correspondents, journalists and writers take a closer look at the stories behind the headlines. Presented by Kate Adie and Pascale Harter.
A Taliban show of force in Afghanistan
The White House has announced a deadline for US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the government in Kabul looks isolated. The Taliban are in control of large parts of the country, running a parallel administration. Secunder Kermani visited a Taliban-controlled zone in Balkh province to hear how Talib commanders and fighters have reacted to the American plan.
Russia seems to be concentrating military resources along its border with Ukraine, but why? And how can or should Ukraine prepare to respond? Jonah Fisher has been to the trenches and artillery-damaged villages of eastern Ukraine and sensed a nervy game of 'wait and see'.
The city of Minneapolis has been at the centre of continuing debate over race, crime and policing in the United States. Just as the world's media moved in to cover the trial of Derek Chauvin over the death of George Floyd in 2020, news came on Sunday of the death of Daunte Wright, aged 20, shot and killed by a police officer. Larry Madowo reflects on how much anger and sadness there is to go around.
The South China Sea is dotted with reefs, atolls and islets coveted by rival neighbours, including Vietnam, Brunei, China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines. Tensions have risen recently over an outcrop called Whitsun Reef., The Philippines claim sovereignty there - but it's currently bristling with ships from mainland China. Howard Johnson reports on the latest chapter of a long dispute.
And Joe Myerscough reveals what it's like to travel in the shadow of Greta Thunberg. While filming with one of the world's youngest and best-known climate activists, he saw her dealing with the demands of a global public image as well as fighting global climate change.
Producer: Polly Hope
Jordan’s palace intrigues
Jordan is often portrayed as a stable, moderate country whose royal family have guided it wisely through turbulent times in a dangerous neighbourhood. But that royal family has rifts of its own and they burst into full view in recent weeks, as a public feud broke out between King Abdullah and his half-brother, the former Crown Prince Hamza. The BBC’s Middle East editor, Jeremy Bowen, has his own memories of the country’s intimate power struggles – past and present.
In Rwanda, a man once seen around the world as a hero is now standing trial accused of terrorism. Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager, sheltered hundreds of people from the killers during the 1994 genocide. But he became a critic in exile of the government of Rwanda's President, Paul Kagame - and apparently a target for Rwandan intelligence. Michaela Wrong has spent years investigating the complex background to the story.
As the military crackdown on strikers and demonstrators goes on in Myanmar, journalists are also being targeted as they try and cover the situation. Ben Dunant has just returned to the UK after years spent reporting in Myanmar and reflects on the prospects for the colleagues he left behind.
As you might expect, the residents of Paris have been particularly pained by the closure of their restaurants and cafes. But for those in the know, there were still some illicit ways to eat out: networks of private dining rooms and functions. Recently some of those secret arrangements were revealed to the French public – and many who hadn’t been invited were outraged. Joanna Robertson reports.
*NOTE: Podcast audio has been updated to correct reference to a rebel group
Merkel’s Balancing Act
The German Chancellor is widely respected as good at crisis management, but public confidence in her government's pandemic policies is ebbing away. How will her party, the CDU, campaign during this autumn's general election - is it possible the next Chancellor could be a Green? Jenny Hill reports from Berlin on power struggles and shifting opinions.
While the Christian Democrats confront their future, the German state is still carrying on talks with the government of Namibia about its colonial past. Land rights, official apologies and reparations have all been discussed . So has the treatment of the Herero and Nama peoples in the early 1900s, which some historians now consider "the first genocide of the 20th century". Tim Whewell met black and white Namibians still viewing their heritage though very different lenses.
In Armenia the public mood is mutinous, in the aftermath of the most recent round of conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. A ceasefire agreement is holding, but there's grief and anger on the streets of Yerevan. Mark Stratton has friends in the disputed territory and hoped to revisit them, to see how they had survived the fighting.
Millions of people in Iranian and Kurdish communities around the world recently celebrated Nowruz - the Persian New Year, a joyful festival full of the symbolism of rebirth. But it's enjoyed particularly passionately in the ancient town of Akre in the Zagros mountains in northern Iraq. Leila Molana Allen climbed its stone ramparts and steep hillsides to witness the spectacle.
In eastern Romania, there's a village like no other: Tichilesti, home to Europe's last leprosarium - a facility where people with Hansen’s disease, better known as leprosy, were once sent for life. Nick Thorpe shares some of the stories he heard there.
The EU and The Vaccine
The EU’s vaccination programme has had several setbacks with repeated delays and safety concerns. The commission has blamed pharmaceutical companies for failing to deliver promised jabs, and has tightened export controls. Kevin Connolly reflects on the twists and turns of the vaccine saga – and how history may offer some insight into what happens next.
Israel has held its fourth election in two years - yielding yet another inconclusive result. Neither Benjamin Netanyahu nor his challengers secured a governing majority. Some analysts say the stalemate is further alienating Israelis from the political system. Joel Greenberg says the outcome could turn on an unlikely kingmaker.
The recent shooting of six Asian Americans in Georgia has highlighted entrenched prejudice in the US. In the last year there has been a spike in reports of attacks and other abuse directed against people of Asian descent. Annie Phrommayon is in San Francisco and reflects on how racist attitudes have become normalised.
Germany has gone to great lengths in recent decades to acknowledge its Nazi legacy. But the subject is still highly sensitive. In Berlin, Alexa Dvorson had an improbable conversation born out of a reader's courage to reach out to a stranger--and find out more about her grandfather's past as a Nazi Youth leader.
We hear the story of Shirley - from her time as an editor on the Japan Times newspaper to her return to Canada, where, due to her insurance, she had treatment for her deteriorating health. In a cruel twist, the pandemic restrictions separated her from her life partner in the US, and prevented them from being reunited before she died. Hugh Levinson tells the story of what the experience meant for the couple.
Presenter: Kate Adie
Producer: Serena Tarling
Poland’s LGBT Crackdown
Rules have been tightening for same sex couples in Poland in recent years. Civil unions are not legally recognized and same sex couples are barred from adopting children, but a loophole currently allows applicants to adopt as single parents. Now the government wants to close that loophole. Adam Easton has spoken to the people affected, some of whom are now considering leaving.
Lebanon's second city, Tripoli, gained notoriety for its flamboyant anti-government protests in 2019 over the severe economic decline seen across the country. Despite the extreme poverty, and the impact of the pandemic, some of the city's residents are keen to be part of an economic revival, finds Lemma Shehadi.
In Taiwan, we hear the stories of couples who were married under the traditional simpua system. The practice, where a family would adopt a pre-adolescent girl as a future bride for their son, eventually phased out in the sixties and seventies, largely due to the economic boom. Sally Howard spoke to some of the men and women who married according to the tradition, with mixed results.
On the Greek island of Corfu there's a small haven set on a hill above the main town - a cemetery set in a well-tended garden, where bougainvilleas, orchids and Cyprus trees line the path ... frequented by a few wild tortoises. The long-serving caretaker recently died and is now buried there. But Julia Langdon visited the garden when he was still alive - he took her for a tour.
In Canada, the authorities have been encouraging people to look after their physical and mental health during the pandemic by getting outside. In Ottawa, this involves winter hikes and cross country skiing - and river surfing, as Sian Griffiths discovered.
Presenter: Kate Adie
Producer: Serena Tarling
Hong Kong’s Exodus
Hong Kong is seeing a wave of departures amid concerns about the erosion of democratic freedoms. China's national security law, imposed in July last year, has been used to clamp down on dissent prompting many to considering leaving. The UK's visa scheme will allow many Hong Kong residents to start a new life in Britain. Danny Vincent spoke to some of the people preparing to leave the territory.
One year ago, New York City was the one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak. Now a massive vaccination effort is underway. Restaurants are allowed to open at half capacity and, helped by the relief package, the city is gradually springing back to life. But some people are wary of the vaccine, says Laura Trevelyan.
In Australia allegations of sexual assault in the corridors of power in Canberra are dominating headlines. Tens of thousands of people have protested in the major cities. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has so far refused to hold an independent inquiry, but the allegations have triggered a public reaction that is gathering pace, says Shaimaa Khalil.
Each year, Afghanistan hosts an annual ski challenge, in the mountains of Bamiyan province. Organisers of this event are hoping the region can attract more tourists, despite the on-going threat of violence. They hope for a more peaceful future - and this event has provided much needed respite. Charlie Faulkner went to watch.
The Netherlands has long navigated the threat posed by rising water levels. In 1953, a catastrophic flood claimed the lives of more than 1000 people. In response, the Dutch created an advanced network of flood defences. These are now being updated thanks to a new plan to climate-proof the country. Jane Labous reports.
Presenter: Kate Adie
Producer: Serena Tarling