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From Our Own Correspondent

From Our Own Correspondent

Podcast From Our Own Correspondent
Podcast From Our Own Correspondent

From Our Own Correspondent


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  • Disillusion in Iraq
    When western troops overthrew Saddam Hussein, the argument was that this would turn Iraq from a dictatorship into a democracy. And they have indeed held elections there; the latest vote for a new Iraqi parliament took place last Sunday. Yet when it comes to actually voting, tribal and religious affiliation appear to have trumped any ideological leanings, and with a heavy dose of apathy and disillusionment thrown in, says Lizzie Porter. As with Iraq, Japan also faces much disillusionment with democratic politics. The last election saw only a little over half the voting population turn out, and it’s not hard to see why: in almost every single contest, the same party has won. Now, the Liberal Democrat Party has chosen a new leader, and he automatically became interim prime minister, pending a general election later this month. It is an election nobody expects him to lose, but was the country’s new leader welcomed with great excitement and fanfare? Hardly, says Rupert Wingfield-Hayes: According to mythology, Rome was founded by a pair of twins who had been raised by wolves. But Romulus and Remus might have been surprised to know that in the early Twenty First Century, the “eternal city” would have wild wolves spotted near its airport. Meanwhile wild boars and other animals have been stalking the streets, feasting on the rubbish that sits uncollected. It’s all just one sign of the extent to which Rome has not been particularly well run in recent years, maladministration and the mafia making easy bedfellows. Tomorrow, Romans will have the chance to choose a new mayor, hoping they save the city from this plight. Italian politics is, of course, often rather colourful, and the two remaining candidates in this contest are a radio star with links to the far right, and a former Economics Minister, who has attempted to seduce voters by serenading them with a bit of bosa nova guitar. Watching this spectacle is long-term Rome resident, Joanna Robertson. Someone once said that when it came to British politics, there had only been three issues in recent elections: Brexit, Brexit and Brexit. This was not a subject that other countries necessarily wanted to focus on, most governments having enough challenges of their own to think about. Yet, for the Republic of Ireland, the UK’s rows over Europe were always going to make their mark; the country has so much trade with Britain, as well as an open border with Northern Ireland. Emma Vardy says that the latest developments in the Brexit saga, have left Irish people exasperated, and also rather sad. It was the writer William Faulkner who famously said “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” That’s something which another writer, Colin Freeman, discovered, when he visited Ukraine this month. He was there to hear about a new memorial and museum for the “Babi Yar” massacre, an atrocity which took place in 1941. German Nazi occupiers shot dead more than thirty thousand Jews there, and later, would use the same site to kill gay people, prisoners of war, and the mentally ill - some of the worst mass shootings in human history. Plans for a new museum about the massacres have been underway for some time, but it’s a development, which Colin Freeman say,s tells us much about present day Ukraine, as well as about the moment in history being commemorated.
  • A Haitian Odyssey Across The Americas
    In recent weeks, images of thousands of Haitian migrants living in squalid conditions in a temporary camp in Texas have caused widespread shock and anger in the United States. US Border patrol agents on horseback forced many of them back across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Thousands more were deported back to Haiti, which is in the grip of its deepest economic and political crisis for years. The US Special Envoy to Haiti, Daniel Foote, resigned last month in protest at the Biden Administration’s deportations policy, which he described as “inhumane” and “counterproductive”. Some of the migrants say it was also arbitrary, with no clarity about the process deciding who made it into the US and who was sent home. Will Grant met two families, at the US-Mexico border and in Haiti, whose journeys north came to very different ends: Last year, Thailand was rocked by student-led protests, which for the first time broke a taboo on criticising the monarchy. But the Thai government led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha fought back, using a raft of repressive laws to prosecute the protest leaders. Together with a rapid rise in Covid infections, that appeared to put a stop to the street rallies. The protest gatherings have now resumed but on a smaller scale. As Jonathan Head has been finding out, the heady optimism of the students last year has been replaced by a harder-edged realism over just how long it might take to reform Thailand’s politics. Last weekend, thousands of people from 150 towns and cities across Brazil joined street protests against its President, Jair Bolsonaro. Many of them were angry about his handling of the pandemic which has killed at least 600,000 Brazilians so far. Not all the criticism is centred on Covid, though. Some of his former supporters are now calling for his resignation too – and their concerns are more ideological. The President is as combative as ever – and he still has control of Congress, though his public support has slumped to its lowest level yet in opinion polls. Katy Watson reports from Sao Paulo. Questions about the future of coal have caused some of the deepest divisions in modern Australia. The debate may soon get even sharper as COP26 and other climate-change summits try to push rich nations to set a faster pace in giving up fossil fuels. Australia still uses coal to generate about 70% of its electricity, making it the most carbon-polluting nation per person in the world. As Phil Mercer explains, the country’s vast natural resources help fuel its domestic politics, as well as its power stations. And the BBC’s new Middle East correspondent Anna Foster offers some personal first impressions of settling in to her posting to the Lebanese capital, Beirut - and of the extraordinary resilience which keeps the city's people going. Producer: Polly Hope
  • Bumps in the road for the Czech Republic
    The Czech election this week will decide whether embattled billionaire businessman Andrej Babis gets another four-year term as Prime Minister. He’s under pressure from new revelations in the Pandora papers – seeming to show that he was involved in the purchase of 16 properties on the French Riviera using offshore companies. Mr Babis has denied any wrongdoing: “I don’t own any property in France,” he said. “It’s nasty, false accusations that are meant to influence the election.” He has always governed in coalition – but he now faces a tough challenge from the centre-right opposition and also has the far-right nipping at his heels. So which way are the Czechs heading? Rob Cameron reports from Prague. Over the past two months – like many international organisations - the BBC has been busy organising a way out of Afghanistan for many of its staff in the country and trying to get them to places of safety – in the UK and elsewhere. Karim Haidari was one of them. After a nerve-wracking three days spent waiting at Kabul airport, he and his family managed to fly out. They are now safe in Britain – but there’s a lot for him to think about as they try to start their lives again. How can we feed the world – on a planet with finite resources and a growing number of people? Moreover, more of those people are eating more meat and fish – and those animals in turn need feeding, and protein, to grow. At the moment, soy and fishmeal are the main sources of protein for animal feed – but the demand for soy has been linked to deforestation in South America, while the fishmeal trade helps drive over-fishing in the oceans. So now manufacturers are looking for alternative sources of protein. The use of insects has been permitted in fish feed for years, but the European Union recently decided to allow them in poultry and pig feed too. Emilie Filou went to visit an ultra-modern bug farm in France where the animals they raise might be tiny, but the plans and the ambition are very big indeed. The Aland Islands in the Baltic Sea have been settled for over seven thousand years –they’re full of Neolithic remains, showing how their earliest inhabitants hunted seals and birds there. But the islands have changed hands many times since then over their history – sometimes being treated as little more than bargaining chips by their larger neighbours. These days they enjoy a quirky – and carefully negotiated – sort of independence. Mark Stratton asked some of the islanders who they feel closest to in today’s Europe. Smell and taste are the most intimate and evocative of the senses – with a startling power to transport us to other times and places. Reha Kansara recently explored some of her family history in Kenya – and part of her quest centred on a childhood favourite - the delicious potato fritter known as the Maru Bhajia. Would it taste as good in its birthplace in Nairobi? And what else was on the menu during her journeys into Kenya's past?
  • Silence Falls in Libya
    It's not easy to talk in Tripoli; Palestinian anger over Nizar Banat's death; the MH17 trial in the Netherlands; Rwandan forces in Mozambique; a number plate dispute in the Balkans In Libya, the promise of a new dawn after the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime a decade ago now seems to ring hollow. After its revolution came civil war – as militias proliferated and fought for control. For more than six years the country was split between rival administrations in the east and west. There’s been a ceasefire since last year, and an internationally-brokered unity government is now installed. Elections are planned for December. Daily life for Libyans hasn’t got much easier though. There are still frequent electricity blackouts, high unemployment – and regular street protests. But Tim Whewell was more struck by a sense of creeping silence. In Ramallah, a military trial has begun this for 14 members of the Palestinian security forces, charged in connection with the death of a prominent critic of the president. Nizar Banat – who was known for his outspoken Facebook posts alleging corruption among the Palestinian political elite – was badly beaten and died shortly after he was taken into custody in June. The official line was that he’d died of natural causes. But his death sparked some of the biggest protests against the Palestinian Authority in years.. Yolande Knell reports on the case - and the public anger it's triggered. Since 2017, Mozambique has been trying to stop a shadowy insurgency in its northern province, Cabo Delgado. The rebels there claim to be affiliated to the Islamic State – but little is known about the group. It started with small-scale, isolated attacks, but the conflict escalated last year, driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. It is estimated that 2,500 people have died in the fighting so far. This March the militants gained the world’s attention when they launched attacks in the gas-rich area of Palma, forcing French petroleum giant Total to shut down its operations there. To fight back, Mozambique has called on help from military forces from Rwanda – who now say they’ve retaken 90% of the province in a month-long operation. The rebels have now been pushed deep into the area’s forests - but Mozambique says it is not claiming victory yet. Anne Soy has been to the region with the Rwandan forces. A court in the Netherlands has been hearing emotional testimony from those whose relatives died aboard flight MH17, which was brought down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine in 2014. Dutch prosecutors have brought charges against three Russians and a Ukrainian citizen: they are all suspected of having key roles in transporting the missile system used to launch the rocket which hit the plane. None of the men have appeared in court; only one has appointed a team of lawyers. Two-thirds of MH17's passengers were Dutch citizens, and the Netherlands blames Moscow for the attack. Anna Holligan has seen and heard some of the evidence submitted by the bereaved. Armed conflict can break out for all kinds of reasons. But a row over car number plates seems one of the more unlikely flashpoints. Yet in the Balkans this summer, that’s exactly what prompted Serbia to put its troops on high alert, Kosovo to deploy its special police – and NATO to step up its peacekeeping activities in the area. As Guy De Launey knows from long experience – it’s always important to consider what’s on your number plate before you set off on any journey in the region. Producer: Polly Hope
  • Anxiety over Afghanistan
    More than six weeks after the Taliban announced their full takeover of the country, Afghanistan is still up against huge challenges. The economy is contracting fast, there’s a punishing drought, and many people are finding it harder to find food, even if they can afford to buy it. The news on human rights and security has been worrying. Journalists have been arrested and beaten up; women’s and girls’ right to education appears to be eroding; and former critics and enemies of the Taliban have been targeted for threats and violence. Jeremy Bowen first went to Afghanistan more than thirty years ago and reported on many cycles of its wars since then. Back in Kabul again, he reflects on the deeper tides of history. On La Palma in the Canary Islands, the volcanic eruption that started last week is still threatening homes and lives. It’s produced a spectacular display of dramatic images. After destroying more than 700 properties, the lava has now reached the sea - which means a risk of toxic gases and dangerous projectiles. The Spanish government has declared a disaster zone and promised ten million Euros to help reconstruction and rehousing efforts. What will the eruption mean for La Palma in the long term – and how might its altered landscape change even more? Dan Johnson saw the destructive power of the Cumbre Vieja at first hand. While it’s now clear that Chancellor Merkel’s CDU party suffered a historic defeat in Sunday’s elections in Germany, the rest of the picture is a little paradoxical. Everything looks a little more complicated than before. The smaller, newer parties have certainly gained momentum – and the old left-right divide doesn’t define voters’ world views as much as it once did. There are still regional loyalties, but also signs that other divides – of age and outlook – are emerging among voters. Are there whole new political tribes being formed? John Kampfner followed the election campaign as the opinion polls swung wildly - and ran into a few surprises along the way. Lausanne in Switzerland, is an ancient place – first put on the map as a Roman military encampment a in the second century AD – and the Celts had a settlement there well before that. It’s also kept a good deal of its heritage restored and on show, with one of the best-preserved medieval old cities in Europe. Respect for the past isn’t just about architecture – or even tangible relics – though. There is intangible heritage too. Heidi Fuller Love recently spent a night shift with a man whose job might be described as public service broadcasting the really old-fashioned way: the nighwatchman, who cries the hours as well as looking out for danger. And like many a British late-summer traveller, Paddy O Connell recently got back from a charming but occasionally nerve-wracking break spent motoring through France. He has a lesson to share for anyone venturing onto the roads … Producer: Polly Hope

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