From Our Own Correspondent Podcast
About this podcast
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.
About this podcast
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
News Management in Belarus
The crackdown on dissent and reporting in Belarus goes on, and its authorities are keen to present their version of events to the world. At a recent press conference in Minsk, Jonah Fisher was presented with a dilemma when detained blogger and protester Roman Protasevich was brought out to speak to assembled journalists and diplomats. High in the Himalayas, Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries, with a weak and under-funded health system, particularly in rural areas. Rajini Vaidyanathan travelled there to report on the impact the pandemic is having on families across the country. Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was one of the most infamous drug cartel heads in Mexico for years - though he's ended up jailed for life in a supermax prison in the USA. Tara McKelvey covered his trial in New York in 2019, where she saw one of his former mistresses give dramatic testimony - and met his wife in the courthouse cafeteria. Two years on, the two women's fortunes have very much reversed. Bukhara is one of the most renowned of the ancient cities along the ancient Silk Road linking China and the West - a storied place with millennia of artistic and intellectual history embedded in its mosques, madrasas and mausoleums. Sara Wheeler chose a more intimate kind of building to get a feel of its history. And Andrew Harding recalls moments on the road across Africa - from Libya to Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire to Zimbabwe - when it took a team to get the job done. While the joke goes that reporters get the credit and camera operators get the fun, what is the producer's lot? Some of them - like his colleague Becky Lipscombe, now leaving the BBC - really can make all the difference. Producer: Polly Hope
Lasting tensions in Jaffa
Israel's new coalition has been sworn in, drawing on the support of parties from across the political spectrum. It includes the first party in an Israeli government to be drawn from Israel's 21% Arab minority - Palestinian heritage, but Israeli by citizenship. One major challenge will be dealing with the tensions sharpened by the worst outbreak of intercommunal violence for a generation. Last month, Jewish and Arab mobs took to the streets of Israel’s mixed cities - attacking passers-by, looting shops and desecrating religious sites. As Yolande Knell reports from Jaffa, these incidents opened up divisions that will be hard to heal. Iranians are due to vote in their next President - but not all of them are likely to turn out to the polls. Public apathy seems to be a growing problem; but there have also been open calls for people to boycott the election. Parham Ghobadi works for the BBC’s Persian Service from London, and has been trying to gauge voters’ opinions about their limited options. The pandemic has hit Romania hard – the country has endured several rounds of lockdowns and re-openings and two significant spikes in deaths in December and April. They all exposed failings the struggling Romanian health system - particularly in rural areas. Stephen McGrath lives in Transylvania and recently lost a neighbour who was a friend not only to him, but to the whole village. On both sides of the Atlantic, there can be no refuge from present controversies in burying yourself in the past - as even matters of historical fact have become incendiary. As a history graduate from Cambridge with a PhD in American politics from Oxford, who's also spent decades reporting from around the world, Nick Bryant is well used to taking the long view. He looks back on his hectic years in New York City covering everything from the rise of Donald Trump to the goings-on at the United Nations HQ - and walks through the many histories of his adopted home. Producer: Polly Hope
North Korea cracks down on outside influences
Recent reports from Pyongyang have hinted at an intensified effort to root out foreign fashion, slang and media in North Korea. Its regime has repeatedly punished people who smuggle in DVDs of South Korean TV and film dramas, but the penalties are now even harsher. Laura Bicker reports from Seoul on the risks for North Koreans who try to break their isolation, whether by consuming forbidden culture or even escaping the country themselves. As Joe Biden meets other world leaders at the G7 summit in Cornwall, there are still many Americans who aren't yet convinced he is the legitimate President of the United States. Gabriel Gatehouse has been to Texas, where he attended a QAnon gathering. Press freedom in Pakistan is a touchy issue - and more so now after a string of incidents where reporters have been physically attacked. Secunder Kermani analyses where the 'red lines' lie for broadcast media, and the allegations that the country's security services have been directly pressuring journalists. Turkey's Sea of Marmara is enduring a mucilaginous ordeal - as a slimy, choking layer of so-called "sea snot" smothers its shores. It's a catastrophe for local fishing villages; President Erdogan has launched a clean-up this week. Neyran Elden of the BBC Turkish Service happens to be an experienced scuba diver - so she suited up to go beneath the surface and take a look at the sea bed. What she saw wasn't pretty. Citizens of EU countries in the UK are being strongly encouraged to sort out their residency status before the end of this month. For British citizens living abroad, the experience of getting their own paperwork has varied by country. Luke Tuddenham recently had a surprising brush with bureaucracy in Lower Saxony in Germany. Producer: Polly Hope
Thailand's youth protest movement stalls
Not long ago, a wave of unprecedented public protests in Thailand over royal privileges and youth concerns made some Thais feel they were on the brink of change. Now the picture is very different: many of the movement's leading figures are in jail or awaiting trial and their dreams seem to have been deferred. Jonathan Head considers what the youth protest movement has achieved, and what sort of a precedent its fate sets for others in Southeast Asia - most notably for Myanmar. Colombia is currently living through its own wave of street protests - over everything from tax policy to austerity, job opportunities to racism. Demonstrators and police have faced off in cities across the country, sometimes with lethal results. Daniel Pardo reports from Cali, one of the focal points of the the nationwide 'resistance' - and hears worries that the country's sliding back into division. In the Czech Republic, moves to abolish the rules dictating the correct form for women's surnames are gaining ground. From Praque, Rob Cameron explains the grammatical and gender issues at stake - and the social change reflected in the proposed reform. Ferrara, in Italy's Emilia Romagna region, is a famously prosperous and beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage - but whatever its visual splendour, its greatest arts of all might be the culinary ones. Julia Buckley has been getting a taste of its edible history via recipes from a cookbook first put together in the 1540s, by the man who served as master of ceremonies at the palatial court of the Este family. And in Georgia, Mark Stratton delves into the extraordinary qvevri - the giant earthenware jars traditionally used to store and age some of the the country's renowned wines. These immense, amphora-like clay pots encapsulate Georgia's ancient identity and are key to the special flavour of many of its most treasured reds, whites - and ambers - as well as the extremely potent liquor known as chacha. Producer: Polly Hope
A new coalition in Israel's Knesset
Benjamin Netanyahu has outsmarted many attempts to drive him from power - but a new alliance is manoeuvring to unseat him. Tom Bateman reports from Jerusalem on the unusual array of parties now teaming up in coalition - ranging from right-wing Jewish nationalists to a religious party for Muslim Israelis of Palestinian heritage. Sarah Rainsford has reported on several waves of repression in Belarus for the BBC. But her most recent visit to Minsk revealed a pall of fear settling over the country's news media, dissidents and protesters. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently visited Costa Rica to talk migration and development aid with the foreign ministers of Central America. What changes in policy is the Biden administration considering - and what does it have to offer the region to deter people from trying to make it to the Mexico/US border? Will Grant was in San Jose to see what was on the table. Japan is a nation famous for its team spirit, its hospitality, and its love of a big event. But as Rupert Wingfield Hayes comments from Tokyo, there's little public enthusiasm for the Olympic Games - as the opening ceremony in July draws closer, even as new doubts arise over pandemic safety and travel restrictions. For more than twenty years the late Milan Bandic served as mayor of Croatia's capital, Zagreb - and some citizens say he treated it as a personal fiefdom. He had many colourful run-ins with the law, but there was also a far wider range of accusations that corruption and cronyism were spoiling the city's reputation and driving young Croatians abroad. Guy De Launey explains why nearly two-thirds of voters just chose a young, Green candidate to clean up their surroundings.
Somaliland's can-do spirit
Somaliland claims to be an independent republic, though it is not internationally recognised and Somalia still claims the territory. It issues passports, has its own army, flag and president - and this week it held long-delayed elections. Mary Harper, a regular visitor, explains what the polls meant to Somaliland's people - especially some of its most marginalised. This weekend, Peruvian voters have to choose between two candidates for the Presidency - after a fragmented and confusing first round, the contest is now a neck-and-neck race between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori. In Lima, Dan Collyns senses the mood polarising - and hears how heated the rhetoric has become. Iraq's Jewish community was once hundreds of thousands strong - but it's been whittled away drastically since the 1940s by persecution, emigration and ageing. Lizzie Porter has witnessed how Jewish sites across the country have changed, and how many are crumbling into disuse and neglect. But there are also people working to preserve this unique heritage. The pandemic meant many Singaporeans haven't been able to travel far for months, so there's been a surge of interest in the city-states last remaining wild spaces - the green areas where birds and tropical plants still flourish. Sharanjit Leyl is a keen birdwatcher herself, and says her fellow twitchers are worried over the future of their forests. And in southwestern France, Chris Bockman recently met a village mayor with unusual powers. Nothing to do with local government guidelines; rather, he's believed by many to be capable of healing illnesses, lifting curses - and even exorcism. Producer: Polly Hope
Zuma on Trial
Former President Jacob Zuma's long-delayed fraud trial saw a surge in interest this week as the accused arrived to plead not guilty to all charges. Andrew Harding has been following this intricate case for years and was in court in Pietermaritzburg. The worst of the pandemic may have passed in India's megacities, but the virus is still spreading fast in rural areas - and leaving lasting grief and trauma across the country. Rajini Vaidyanathan reflects from Delhi on the sadness now permeating all levels of society. Chinese consumers have been knocking back Australian wine with gusto in recent years, even as political relations between Beijing and Canberra have grown ever more strained. But the export boom might not last. Shaimaa Khalil reports from the Barossa Valley in South Australia, where they're bracing for the impact of new Chinese tariffs on imports. In Canada, a Catholic archdiocese has been found liable for damages to be awarded to several survivors of physical and sexual abuse in a Church-run orphanage. Greg Mercer talked to one man who grew up in the Mount Cashel home. The city of Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo is surrounded by dangers - armed rebel groups, a lake with dangerous levels of dissolved CO2 and methane - and now an erupting volcano. Olivia Acland was one of the tens of thousands who had to join a mass evacuation as Nyiragongo rumbled. Producer: Polly Hope
Caught in the crossfire along the Thailand/Myanmar border
: Laura Bicker reports from a remote corner of Thailand’s border with Myanmar, where villagers’ lives are being disrupted as the Burmese military pursues insurgent groups. Since the generals' takeover in February, hundreds of people have died in Myanmar's cities after mass protests. In rural areas, several rebel militias – most formed by ethnic minorities – which have been resisting the military for decades are renewing their fight. Last weekend the diversion of a Ryanair flight to Minsk in Belarus – though it was meant to be going to Lithuania – caused generalised outrage. After an alleged bomb threat, the plane had to land straight away. But it seems the real target on board was a young critic of the Belarusian government, James Landale analyses the shock felt across Europe as other countries judge how to respond. After Idriss Deby, Chad's longtime head of state, was reportedly killed in battle in April, many hoped his death might offer a chance to hold free and fair elections. Instead Mr Déby’s son, a general, now rules the country. Activists fear that their window for change might soon slam shut. In N'Djamena, Mayeni Jones found those in power don’t always share the priorities of ordinary Chadians. In recent days, several thousand migrants crossed from Morocco into the Spanish city of Ceuta. It's happened before but the numbers this time were unprecedented. Guy Hedgecoe reflects on the backdrop to this incident and complex history binding Spain and Morocco. As Chileans’ household budgets have grown tighter, they’ve also grown more worried about their country’s once-emblematic pension system. Now a new breed of politician is seizing the limelight by suggesting voters should just go ahead and raid the kitty, says Jane Chambers in Santiago. Producer: Polly Hope
The bravery and anger of Afghanistan's schoolgirls
The attack on a Kabul school on May 8th heightened fears about what will happen when US and NATO troops fully withdraw from the country. More than 80 people were killed – most of them schoolgirls. It was in an area west of the city, home to many from the minority Hazara community, often targeted for attack. Lyse Doucet talked to some of the survivors and heard of their anger at the failure to protect them. In East Jerusalem, a battle over property has channelled long-held tensions and unresolved grievances. In the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, protestors have been trying to stop Israel evicting eight Palestinian families. Israel’s Supreme Court has delayed a hearing on the evictions, but the case, along with complaints of heavy-handed policing of the Al Aqsa compound during Ramadan, ignited the recent round of violence in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. Paul Adams visited the streets at the heart of the dispute. Indonesia's capital Jakarta is one of the world’s most polluted cities. Now some of its residents have launched a court case trying to push the government to clean up its atmosphere. Rebecca Henschke, who lived in the city for over a decade, reports on their fight to breathe more easily. For now, Portugal is one of the places British tourists can go without quarantining and the hospitality industry in the Algarve is eager to welcome them back. Nick Beake spoke to local businesspeople hoping to get back in gear. Emma Jane Kirby has reported for the BBC from across Europe and beyond – in settings ranging from the glitz of the Cote d’Azur to the squalor of Sangatte. She's covered big stories and described plenty of dramatic scenes, from shipwrecks to furious street protests. But she’s now working in a different world … the fictional universe of the Archers. Producer: Polly Hope
A change of pace in the White House
President Biden’s administration has plenty to do – and has gone about doing it at a less hectic pace than its predecessor. The Democrats say their plans are all about ‘rebuilding America’ with proposals for huge infrastructure projects as well as social care reform. Senior Republicans have called it “the most socialist agenda” Congress has ever voted on. Anthony Zurcher has been feeling a different mood in DC. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabakh last year cost Armenia dear, in territory and lives. A truce deal, backed by Russia, was meant to get all prisoners of war back home. But Armenia says around 200 of its citizens are still in captivity. Rayhan Demytrie reports. Nick Thorpe, the BBC’s correspondent in Budapest, is no stranger to the River Danube. He’s travelled its length twice, has written a book and made a series of documentary films on it. But this week, he met his match - a hardy couple of adventurers who've been paddling upstream for weeks, only leaving the water to sleep. The buzz over the Eurovision Song Contest is a little quieter this year in Rotterdam – though we can still expect blaring power ballads. Singing indoors is a high-risk activity these days. Covid restrictions don't make the easiest conditions for a festival of unity. But Steve Rosenberg’s enthusiasm is undampened. The work of Claude Monet is deeply rooted in nature. For him, plants and landscapes weren’t simply pretty things to be observed, but the core of his inspiration. From 1883, at his home in Giverny in Normandy, he cultivated specific views to contemplate. His gardens are usually a major visitor attraction but languished unseen through much of 2020. As they got ready for a limited reopening, Christine Finn had an early look. Producer: Polly Hope
A Spiral of Violence
As missiles have rained down on Gaza and on Israel, violence at street level has also been at its worst for years. There have been clashes between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel within Israel’s own borders. There have been confrontations between security forces and Palestinians in the West Bank. On a far greater scale, Gaza has been under heavy rocket fire as the Israeli Defence Forces struck back against what they identify as control centres for Hamas. Jeremy Bowen weighs up the damage. In Brazil, Congress is conducting an inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic. But the president still has keen backers, who admire his energy and instinct for confrontation. Mark Lowen is just back from Brazil and reflects on Jair Bolsonaro's playbook - and its echoes of another leader whose tactics he knows well. The number of boats carrying migrants keen to reach the shores of Europe is on the rise again. Enforcement is stricter across the Mediterranean so other routes are getting busier. But the journey via the Atlantic and Spain’s Canary Islands can be lethal. Bruno Boelpaep reports on a tragedy at sea and a moving reunion. Mexico’s Sea of Cortez is home to the most critically endangered sea mammal on earth: a small porpoise called the vaquita . There are fewer than a dozen left and they risk getting tangled in the nets cast out for fish. Those fish, in turn, are also under threat – even though they’re legally protected. Linda Pressly saw the pressures at work in the town of San Felipe. And a historic collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture is back on public view for the first time in decades. The new display of the Torlonia marbles delighted David Willey, who has lived in Rome for nearly fifty years. He remembers them looking rather different… Producer: Polly Hope
India’s pandemic politics
The pandemic’s impact on politics is being picked over in India after a disappointment for the BJP in West Bengal's state election. Mark Tully was born in India in 1935 and reported from across the subcontinent for the BBC for many years - working as the chief of its Delhi bureau for some of that time. He still lives in the city and has recently been shielding at home – and sent us this long view of how Narendra Modi’s government has dealt with this emergency. After a sluggish start – and some concerns about public reluctance - Germany’s vaccination campaign is gathering pace. The government has agreed to lift some restrictions for vaccinated people. But the new social divide between the vaxxed and the un-vaxxed is sparking some awkward new emotions — and some new German words to describe them. Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin. During the last twenty years, a new generation of Afghan girls have grown up aspiring to work outside the home – some even daring to start up their own businesses. But the past year has been tough for them, and there are fears of what increased Taliban influence may mean for their enterprises. Charlie Faulkner met one young woman wondering how long she can stay afloat. The Galapagos Islands off Ecuador are a showcase of marine life in all its variety - but the country's fishing fleets are fuming over plans to extend the limits of environmental protection zones. Dan Collyns examines the delicate balance between saving the fishing industry and protecting the planet. And in the week that France commemorated one of its greatest sons – Napoleon Bonaparte, who died 200 years ago - Julia Buckley gleans some personal insights into the man behind the myth in an unexpectedly intimate museum of his belongings in the Dordogne.
Iran’s internal rivalries
A leaked recording has startled observers of Iran’s government and military. Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was caught out when an interview meant for the archive of a state-sponsored think-tank found its way to the media. Jeremy Bowen explains what it revealed about how the country really works. President Biden has issued an official statement that the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks from 1915 onwards were a “genocide” - a term that's always enraged Turkish nationalists. Biden’s statement was welcomed in Armenia and by the Armenian diaspora, but roundly rejected by Turkey’s President Erdogan. Orla Guerin reports on the impact of the White House’s verdict on history. It has been three weeks since the volcano in St Vincent, La Soufriere, erupted. Ash rained down on the northern part of the island; more than a tenth of its people had to to shelter elsewhere and most crops have been ruined. Will Grant reached the red zone and saw how much needs to be rebuilt. Chile has had one of the world’s most successful vaccine rollouts, with over 40% cent of its people having had at least one jab. But infection rates haven’t fallen as rapidly as was hoped. Some experts say the country’s experience is proof vaccination alone can’t keep whole populations free of Covid. Jane Chambers detects some disillusion in Santiago. The self-declared Islamic State attracted around 40,000 foreign fighters to its territory, and many brought wives and children with them. Josh Baker spent years following the story of one American woman who travelled to Syria with her husband, taking her young son, Matthew, too. The boy survived more than two and a half years there and is now back in the US. Tracking him down took Josh to several unexpected places along the way.
The US and China edge closer on climate
Relations between the US and China are going through a rough patch. On trade, diplomacy and military matters the superpowers are at odds; they still have entirely different visions of the world and its future. Yet the world’s two biggest carbon emitters have pledged to cooperate more closely on cutting their emissions. Celia Hatton explores how the promises were hammered out and what it means for the rest of the planet.; Early in 2021 many hoped India might escape the worst of the pandemic, with a vaccine roll-out under way and infection rates dropping. But Covid cases and deaths have soared. The surge in patient numbers, and severe shortages of oxygen, have overwhelmed the health system in some places. In Delhi, Rajini Vaidyanathan sensed a marked shift in mood.; Brazil is also hard hit. Its President Jair Bolsonaro has scoffed at the virus, and clashed repeatedly with regional governors who wanted to impose stricter lockdowns and other measures. In the northeastern town of Lencois, Richard Lapper gauges the political fallout. Thousands of people gathered last week calling for the release of opposition politician Alexei Navalny. But Russia’s laws on public protest have tightened recently, and attending unauthorised rallies these days can mean a beating, a sacking or a prison sentence. Sarah Rainsford talked to some who still feel it’s worth speaking out. Idriss Deby, leader of Chad for more than 30 years, embodied the African "military strongman" until his death, apparently in the thick of fighting with rebels. The son of a herdsman, he faced down many uprisings and regional crises and was often considered an indispensable ally by the West in stopping jihadist groups in the Sahel. Andrew Harding considers the dilemmas he's left behind. Producer: Polly Hope
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.
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