Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Intelligent questions and guests. Brexit episode was illuminating covering large as well as subtle issues and controversies
Thorough. Well backed up.
Real news analysis podcast
A welcome podcast in these times of sound bites. In-depth analysis of a theme, interviews where the question is not longer than the answer and opportunity to see different sides to a story - the real 50 shades of grey in news