300 episodes

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.

From Our Own Correspondent Podcast BBC

    • News

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.

    Voting Early in the US Elections

    Voting Early in the US Elections

    Five days before the American election, record numbers have cast their ballots already, making use of the expansion in early voting due to the pandemic. Naturalised US citizens make up one in ten eligible voters this year. Among them Laura Trevelyan, who voted in the presidential race as a US citizen for the first time, joining the queues in New York City.
    For Lebanon, 2020 has been a veritable annus horribilis: the pandemic, an unprecedented economic crisis, and the huge blast that destroyed parts of Beirut, and led to the resignation of the cabinet. Now a former Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, has been asked to form a government. If he succeeds, it’ll be his third time in the job. Plus ca change, or last chance for Lebanon, asks Martin Patience.
    Chile held a referendum on Sunday about replacing the current constitution, which dates from General Pinochet’s military dictatorship. The Yes vote won overwhelmingly. But the poll had been a heated topic of conversation for months, reflecting the deep divisions in society, as Jane Chambers has found.
    Seychelles in the Indian Ocean looks like a tropical paradise. But there’s a tougher reality in the island state ruled by the same party for over 40 years. And now there’s been a political earthquake: an opposition candidate, a priest, won the presidency for the first time. He'll have more than tourists and tuna to deal with, says Patrick Muirhead.
    For those still travelling, much has changed with the pandemic - quarantines, wearing masks, producing negative Covid-19 tests before departure. And then there are the other passengers. It all makes for novel experiences, says travel writer Mark Stratton - including good ones, like seeing the Mona Lisa without the crowds.

    Presenter: Kate Adie
    Producer: Arlene Gregorius

    • 28 min
    Tensions in rural South Africa

    Tensions in rural South Africa

    In South Africa, racial tensions have been heightened in some rural areas, particularly after the murder of Brendin Horner, a young white farm manager. Cases like his have led to claims of ethnic cleansing. But as President Ramaphosa pointed out, the killings are cases of criminality, not genocide. Andrew Harding went to the small town of Senekal to investigate what's underlying these racial tensions.
    In Paraguay in South America, the river of the same name last week dipped to its lowest level ever recorded after months of drought. That’s a problem in this landlocked country which uses the waterway to transport the vast majority of its traded goods. And where does it leave the local fishermen? William Costa has been finding out, and asks what's causing the lack of rainfall.
    The Covid-19 pandemic has severely restricted international travel. That's meant Kamin Mohammadi can no longer divide her time between Italy, Britain and Iran as she used to, for family and work reasons. Now Tuscany has become a true home, not because of remote working, nor even finally having the time to appreciate things like bees on a lemon tree. But it was due to sharing the depths of Italy's sorrow at the height of the pandemic.
    After the First World War, tourists went to France to visit the battlefields. Among them was the future novelist Rumer Godden. Then a girl of 15, she was taken with her three sisters to see the theatres of war of the Marne. They stayed in the town of Château-Thierry, east of Paris. That holiday formed the basis of Rumer Godden’s celebrated later novel The Greengage Summer. It’s a favourite of Hugh Schofield, so it was on something of a personal mission that he set off in search of … the greengage summer.

    Presenter: Kate Adie
    Producer: Arlene Gregorius

    • 28 min
    The King and Thais

    The King and Thais

    Thailand has been rocked by months of student street protests that have intensified in recent days. They're unprecedented in that they don't just criticise the government, but also the monarchy - a taboo in Thailand. Jonathan Head in Bangkok reports on what may be a critical turning point in a political upheaval.
    This week it’s exactly a year since the Spanish government exhumed the remains of dictator General Francisco Franco from his mausoleum. But the question of how to handle the divisive legacy of the country’s 1930's civil war and the ensuing decades-long dictatorship under Franco remains a contentious issue in Spanish politics and society. And now there are new efforts to tackle it, as Guy Hedgecoe reports from Madrid.
    In Jordan, the already high unemployment has risen further during the pandemic, but the country remains attractive to migrant workers from nearby Egypt where wages are lower. But, as Charlie Faulkner hears from an Egyptian cobbler, the choice to stay in Jordan to keep his job, comes at a high price.
    In the US, attitudes to China have hardened in recent years, with trade tariffs, and blame for the coronavirus. In China, attitudes to the United States have changed too, but also in more positive terms, at least when looked at over a longer period of time, such as the lifespan of the grandfather of Vincent Ni.
    The 15th Rome Film Festival is running this week - taking place in a city that is, itself, an iconic cinematic location that still holds an irresistible allure for filmmakers across the world. This brings welcome jobs and much-needed money to the cash-strapped capital, and, as Joanna Robertson reports, headaches – and questions - to many residents.

    Presenter: Kate Adie
    Producer: Arlene Gregorius

    • 28 min
    Looking at America

    Looking at America

    Journalists in Africa like to play a game where they take language often used in Western reports on African stories ("armed militias", "strongmen", "rigged elections") and apply it to the US. This has become more tempting, and yielding more ironies, recently. There is a further similarity in South Africa: could ex-president Jacob Zuma be a "proto-Trump"? Andrew Harding teases out the parallels.

    China, too, is watching the US elections closely. And opinions are quite divided. Not, however, between those who are pro-Trump and pro-Biden, but between those who are pro- or anti-Trump. And, as Stephen McDonell reports, the pro-Trump camp unites some unlikely bedfellows, from Hong Kong activists and Falun Gong believers to Communist party leaders.

    In Brazil, fires are burning again in the Amazon, to turn land that's been deforested into pasture. Jair Bolsonaro's government supports turning the rainforest into ranches. But with the Pantanal wetlands badly affected this year too, what does this mean for the future of Brazil's environment asks Katy Watson.
    In Russia, investigative journalist Irina Slavina was a thorn in the side of the local authorities in the city of Nizhny Novgorod, and was often punished with huge fines. And then after a dawn raid on her flat, she killed herself by setting herself alight, leaving a note to blame the Russian Federation. Sarah Rainsford went to Nizhny to find out more.

    When coronavirus rules restrict our movements, going for walks closer to home can become more appealing. And previously unheeded details, such as who the streets are actually named after, can suddenly become interesting. Kevin Connolly finds his own neighbourhood's street names reveal a lot about the local history.

    Presenter: Kate Adie
    Producer: Arlene Gregorius

    • 28 min
    Stuck on Lesbos

    Stuck on Lesbos

    Last month a fire burned down the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, which had been hugely overcrowded. The cause was arson, but what was the real reason, and who stoked the fire once it was lit? Gabriel Gatehouse has been investigating the blaze, and Europe's dysfunctional migration policy.

    In Kenya, schools have reopened this week for the first time since March, at least for some year groups. The seven-month closure was to help stop the spread of Covid-19. But how have schools, teachers and students been faring in the meantime? And what's it like being at school now? Anne Soy has been finding out in Nairobi.

    Hong Kong has been a gateway to China, while enjoying freedoms such as a free press that do not exist on the mainland. But following months of often violent pro-democracy protests, and a new security law imposed by Beijing, the territory's identity is changing. Can it keep its status as a global powerhouse, asks Karishma Vaswani.

    Arunachal Pradesh, in India’s tribal Northeast, is home to more than 20 tribes – among them the Tibeto-Burman Idu Mishmi, one of the few to have retained their animist beliefs. Antonia Bolingbroke-Kent attends a rare Mishmi festival – and learns about the decline of the number of shamans, and a novel solution to the problem.

    There have been weekly demonstrations, some met with police violence, in Belarus ever since the disputed election in August. Protesters have been calling for the resignation of long-term ruler President Lukashenko. All a long cry from when Ash Bhardwaj went cycling in an ancient forest in the country, on the look-out for a Soviet-era relic - or so he thought. And then he too had a run-in with the KGB....

    Presenter: Kate Adie
    Producer: Arlene Gregorius

    • 28 min
    US: the Covid Campaign

    US: the Covid Campaign

    For President Trump to have had Covid-19 so close to the election presents political dilemmas. Play it down, and you offend the relatives of the dead. Play it up, you highlight the seriousness of the disease that killed so many on your watch. And then there are the pitfalls for the Democrats. Anthony Zurcher navigates the minefield in Washington.
    A state of emergency has been declared in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, and troops have been ordered onto the streets of the capital Bishkek to quell the unrest that erupted after a disputed parliamentary election last weekend. Protesters are angry at alleged vote buying and intimidation. They clashed violently with police and seized government buildings. A new revolution, asks Caroline Eden?
    Despite certain advances, Nigeria still has a way to go to true gender equality. Take renting a home for example. It’s much harder to convince a landlord of your merits as a tenant, if you’re a woman, especially if you’re single, as Olivia Ndubuisi has been finding out.
    Despite the hot climate, cycling has become popular in the United Arab Emirates, and Team UAE's Tadej Pogacar, a Slovenian, won this year's Tour de France. Young women, too, have taken up the sport enthusiastically, all while wearing modest clothing. Georgia Tolley reports from Dubai.
    Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield has had to take a driving test - his old Irish licence had run out, and couldn't be renewed in France. But unlike the first time, this time he had to get his head round a counterintuitive but crucial rule: to give priority to any car coming from the right. How did he get on?
    Presenter: Kate Adie
    Producer: Arlene Gregorius

    • 28 min

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