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.
The destructive power of water is often underestimated… until it’s too late. Large areas of Europe and China are still reeling from the damage left by some of their worst floods for decades. Across Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, there were over 200 deaths and billions of euros' worth of damage done. Now there are questions over whether this disaster will make voters more concerned about the effects of climate change. Although the Netherlands was least affected by the latest floods, water management is an existential threat for such a low-lying country. Anna Holligan has seen the worry – as well as the wreckage - on the ground there and in Germany.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro was recently briefly admitted to hospital after intestinal problems made him hiccup uncontrollably. He appears to have recovered and has been out and about, talking to the media and to the public. But his political worries are not over – in fact they’re only growing more acute. Many of his former allies are beginning to peel away. The country’s Senate is now investigating his government’s record of decision-making on Covid, from refusing to lock down to failure to procure medical supplies and vaccines. There are allegations swirling of corrupt vaccine-purchasing deals. Yet Mr Bolsonaro can still count on solid support from some of those who helped to elect him. Orla Guerin heard from them in Brasilia.
The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan for control of Nagorno Karabakh, is over - for now. The conflict there has flared up repeatedly over more than thirty years, with both countries insisting that the region is legally and historically theirs. In late 2020 Azerbaijan launched a lightning offensive – and came out on top this time around, capturing towns and territory with significant help from its regional ally, Turkey. Colin Freeman recently returned to one town which he’d last seen at the centre of a fierce battle.
South Africa is counting the costs of a mass outbreak of looting and destruction. In and around the cities of Johannesburg and Durban, businesses and homes were burned and ransacked. The police were fiercely criticised in some places for not doing enough to stop the violence. As well as criminal investigation, the country is now also doing plenty of soul-searching about the root causes of such widespread chaos. Gregory Mthembu-Salter and his family share the national concern, as his wife’s side of the family live where the looting was worst, in Kwa Zulu -Natal.
The Mexican state of Sinaloa is deeply enmeshed in the drug trade. Profits from organised crime are an important driver of the local economy, especially in the state’s capital. In Culiacán , luxury cars can often be seen cruising the streets. Restaurants, bars, and designer fashion outlets all depend on the cash brought in from narcotics. And there's another expensive consumer fixation fuelled by narco culture – widespread plastic surgery. Linda Pressly talked to one of the city’s busy cosmetic surgeons.
Producer: Polly Hope
The Meaning of Home
In the eastern Mediterranean there are far fewer refugees and migrants arriving by boat than in recent years - but the moral dilemmas of dealing with migration are still acute. In Greece, the government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has tightened its asylum laws, built new walled camps and pushed back boats at sea. Over his reporting career, Fergal Keane has followed many global waves of migrants and refugees, from their home countries, along their journeys and to their various end points. A recent visit to the Greek islands got him thinking about the big picture again.
Life has been good to King Mswati III of Eswatini. He has ruled over a small, peaceable country for decades as an absolute monarch. But his historic privileges are now in question. It seems some of his people have had enough; recently protests and looting broke out, and were met with a violent response. At least twenty seven people have been killed. Shingai Nyoka has met the King in person, and talked to some of his restive subjects.
The situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia is still looking grim. Apart from the armies of Ethiopia and Eritrea and the armed forces of the TPLF, armed forces from other regions of Ethiopia have also become involved. Outside observers have warned of a possible impending famine. But it’s been very hard for journalists to find out exactly what’s happening inside Tigray itself, as the Ethiopian government has tightly controlled access. Fred Harter managed to get there earlier this year, and since then he’s been trying to keep up with events from afar.
In France this week, President Macron sent signals of a distinctly tougher official approach to vaccination. From now on, if you can’t produce a pass showing you're Covid-safe, daily life could become significantly more complicated. Hugh Schofield wonders whether the French may secretly like a bit of strong-arming from their leader.
Over the long months of lockdown many people have taken to walking with new fervour – particularly when it was the only legitimate pretext for leaving the house. In Transcarpathian Ukraine, Nick Thorpe recently joined a group of local enthusiasts who are assembling their own route for a very long hike indeed - a new footpath winding 250 miles through the mountains from the Slovak to the Romanian border.
Producer: Polly Hope
Cubans' patience wears thin
The combined miseries of an economic crunch, a spike in Covid infections and simmering long-standing frustration drove hundreds of people to speak out in public last weekend. The Cuban government often brings out the crowds for mass demonstrations of revolutionary will – but it cracks down hard and fast on any shows of organised dissent. Will Grant has been sensing the pressure mount for months.
The world was horrified by scenes from the pandemic in India – but there was less global attention paid to Bangladesh. Covid has utterly changed daily life and families’ fortunes there, too – especially since the country imposed its strictest lockdown yet at the start of this month. New infections and deaths are now at record levels and still rising – and there’s fear that people fleeing the restrictions in cities will be soon spread the virus in the countryside. Akbar Hossein has been considering the balance of risks.
Clearing out a property after relatives have died can be a bittersweet experience, fusing nostalgia with grief. It’s harder still when the house is in a different country. Lesley Curwen has back been to the villa in Valencia where her mother and stepfather used to live – and noticed that many of the old certainties of their comfortable ex-pat circle in Spain are eroding.
This summer, Russia has been staging dozens of official events to mark 800 years since the birth of a national hero: the warrior prince and later saint Alexander Nevsky, renowned for his military success and tactical genius. There’s a clear message being driven home as his relics journey across the country from church to church - as Francis Scarr saw in the city of Tver.
We’ve all had to rethink what balance between isolation and social contact suits us best over the past year and a half. But perhaps not many people have reconfigured their professional and domestic set-up as Stephanie Theobald. She's been living in a cave - as part of an experimental commune in the California desert.
Producer: Polly Hope
What NATO leaves behind in Afghanistan
This week sees the end of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. These are the last days of a 20-year military presence of British and other forces – and the growing Taliban insurgency is moving quickly into the territory they’re leaving behind. The BBC's Security Correspondent Frank Gardner made numerous reporting trips to the country , four of them in a wheelchair; he reflects on some of the more poignant moments and what the future holds.
The killing of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise has convulsed a nation all too accustomed to natural and political disaster. President Moïse had been ruling by decree after elections planned for 2019 didn’t happen - sparking mass protests and accusations that he illegally stayed on past his term. Amid the political chaos, in recent months many Haitian cities have also been facing a state of near-anarchy and escalating gang violence. David Adams met and interviewed the late President and weighs up the dangers and the appeal of power in the country.
Cyprus is assessing the damage of its worst forest fires in decades. It’s yet another place on earth challenged by the consequences of rising temperatures. Many of its farmers have already had to adapt to hotter, drier weather by changing what they grow. Some hope there might be a revival of the island’s neglected carob industry. Until the 1970’s carob exports were a major component of the economy. But as Charlotte Ashton found out, the crop and its products may not be to everybody’s taste….
One of the En’s smallest member states took over the presidency of the European Council at the start of the month. Slovenia – a nation of just over two million people, formerly part of Yugoslavia - will perform the role until the end of the year. But the outspoken personality of its prime minister, Janez Janša, has been causing some concern. The BBC's Balkans Correspondent Guy De Launey lives in Ljubljana and explains some of the awkwardness.
The landscape of Ireland is dotted with churches and shrines – but you don’t have to enter a building to connect with the spiritual. There are also around three thousand holy wells across the Republic where natural springs and streams have attracted pilgrims for centuries - both before and after the arrival of Christianity. In County Clare, there’s a particularly rich heritage of going to take the waters and make your prayers. Trish Flanagan has been to one such spot to explore the source of its power.
Producer: Polly Hope
Face to face with Abiy Ahmed
Two weeks ago Ethiopia held a parliamentary election billed as the first truly ‘free and fair’ vote in its history – after nearly 20 years of continuous economic growth. It should have been a success story – but the election was only held in some parts of the country, as war was still raging in the Tigray region. There have been over eight months of armed conflict there as the central government moved to re-establish control; and there have been many reports of atrocities – and of hunger. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has repeatedly claimed government forces were close to victory and described the rebels as “like flour blown away by the wind”. But after a shock reversal as Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital, Mekelle. Catherine Byaruhanga wonders how much longer Mr Ahmed's confidence can hold.
The South China Sea contains some of the world’s most hotly-disputed waters - with particular strife between the Philippines and China over the rights to some of its reefs and atolls. These are not just useful places to park military assets - but also particularly rich spots to fish. Given the diplomatic tension between Beijing and Manila over the area, Howard Johnson decided to board a fishing vessel and see more for himself.
The Dalmatian pelican is something special in the bird world – the largest pelican on earth and one of the heaviest things on wings. It’s huge: just as big as the very largest swans, with a wingspan nearly as wide as an albatross's. The global range of the species is also vast – from the Mediterranean shores of Turkey, all the way across central Eurasia, as far east as China. But there are only about 5,000 breeding pairs left in the world, with around 450 of those in the delta of the River Danube. Abdujalil Abdurasulov waded out with a pair of Ukrainian conservationists trying to make the birds feel more at home.
New York City – once the epicentre of the pandemic in the USA - is emerging from the nightmare of last spring. Hospital admissions are at a record low; restaurants and bars are serving again; the theatres on Broadway are due to reopen in September. But the city has lost a million jobs and many businesses – and it’s still losing New Yorkers. 187,000 households packed up and left in 2020. Lucy Ash has been considering the city’s longer-term future – and seeing how it hopes to lure people back.
Money might still talk – or even shout – on Wall Street, but on a global level it’s not as much of a physical presence as it used to be. Cash was king once, but these days debit cards or smartphone apps are often more welcome. Yet in many countries around the world, the number of banknotes in circulation is still rising. Kevin Peachey was recently given rare access to a site where millions of these notes are printed and - for one brief moment - thought he might be in for a windfall...
Producer: Polly Hope
Russia's Vaccine Paradoxes
Attitudes to Covid in Russia have been very different to those in western Europe. At its government played down the risks and scoffed at ‘pandemic panic’ in the West. That changed as the virus swept across the country and its healthcare system creaked under the pressure – especially in regions far from Moscow. Russia makes its own vaccine, Sputnik V, which it has shared widely with other countries and is now promoting heavily at home. But as Sarah Rainsford explains, the drive to get people jabbed must contend with public cynicism, scepticism and fear.
Everything in Hong Kong these days points to tighter control from Beijing. The draconian national security law recently introduced in the territory is being applied to stifle protests, criminalise dissent and to get its previously lively press working within stricter limits. China’s government calls this “restoring stability”. Danny Vincent has seen the process unfold. .
Western Canada is still reeling from a week of record temperatures on the Pacific coast. A freakish heatwave caused snowmelts, which in turn triggered flood warnings; tinder-dry forests burst into flame; and deaths spiked in cities simply not built for the heat. Neal Razzell lives on Vancouver Island and reports on life under the 'heat dome.'
The lockdown is working - that seems to be the message from India. Daily case numbers and death rates are now far lower than just a few months ago. As very few people have yet been vaccinated, the dip in new cases is being put down to strict lockdown measures imposed in states across the country. But isolation is far from easy to sustain – even if you’re in a rural area. Writer and poet Tishani Doshi has spent the time in a secluded spot in Tamil Nadu where even grocery shopping has become a complex process.
Governments everywhere have been warned about the global rise in obesity – and its likely costs to public health. But how far can they really change what individuals choose to eat? Chile introduced laws a few years ago to limit the advertising of junk food and to ensure healthy school meals. But three out of four adults - and more than half of all children - in the country are still overweight or obese. In Santiago, Jane Chambers has seen just how resistant some Chileans can be to well-meaning efforts to cut their calories…
Producer: Polly Hope
I love the content but please ask the reporters to slow down!
Maybe they aren’t being given long enough to read out their pieces at a measured pace, so have to rush them.
Child camp in El Paso
What created these camps
Under who authorities
Yes Biden in power and the buck ends with him BUT what the history behind this?
Then what does child best interest mean to the care takers of this prison because that what it sounds like
Child protection services are the involved? Who is the voice for the children ?
Are these human right issues?
You say or imply abuse and rape is or has taken place what is going on ?
America has an appalling police system but what I am hearing is a child version of living hell
Where are the parents and what their story? Are these abandoned children ? Where is mental health support they need
I could go on but hearing this is like hearing tortures in the name of why
Humanity is need compassion is lacking just a different form of hate and racism
Great insight of what’s going on in our global village.