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Global experts and decision makers discuss, debate and analyse a key news story.

From The Real Story at 2022-09-23 10:00:00

What next for the Commonwealth? (p0d226l6.mp3)

The Queen was seen as a unifying force in the Commonwealth. With her death, will the organisation re-invent itself for the next generation, or fade away? Questions are being asked about whether the Commonwealth is a neo-colonial project and what it can actually do for its members. Others argue that while the Commonwealth has its roots in empire, it is a crucial forum for smaller countries to amplify their voice and work with more powerful allies. We'll look at what the Commonwealth is for and what challenges lie ahead for King Charles III as he takes the helm. What would change if the organisation ceased to exist and what does it mean for Britain's place in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Zak Brophy

From The Real Story at 2022-09-10 00:06:00

Boris Johnson is out, Liz Truss is in (p0czbz10.mp3)

Liz Truss has taken over as leader of Britain’s Conservative Party and has therefore also become Prime Minister. She won the internal party race to succeed Boris Johnson by promising that she’ll cut taxes and deliver economic growth. But the country is facing strong economic headwinds with soaring energy prices, relatively low productivity and the highest inflation rate of any G7 nation. Post-Brexit trade frictions between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK remain a sore point among Tory MPs, a result of the deal struck with the European Union aimed at avoiding a hard border between The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Does Liz Truss have the political skills and policies needed to reverse a sharp decline in support for the Conservative Party? And what will facing a new PM mean for the country’s opposition Labour Party? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-09-02 10:00:00

Are sanctions on Russia working? (p0cxxwn6.mp3)

It’s been six months since the West imposed an array of sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine. Around half of Russia’s $640 billion worth of foreign exchange and gold reserves have been frozen, major Russian banks have been barred from the international financial messaging system Swift, the selling of key technology to the country has been prohibited, and the assets of some wealthy individuals have been seized. But Europe is still buying large amounts of Russian gas, a commodity it depends on to keep its citizens warm and its industries running. So, what are the main aims of the sanctions regime? Are the measures working or is Russia finding new ways around restrictions? And what does the future hold for an economy that’s increasingly cut off from major world markets? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Rozita Riazati and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-08-26 10:00:00

Nasa's plan to go back to the Moon (p0cwh9w1.mp3)

Nasa's first step in their plan to send humans back to the surface of the Moon is fast approaching. The programme, called Artemis, is costing tens of billions of dollars and will begin with Artemis I, scheduled to launch on 29 August. The uncrewed mission will send the Orion spacecraft to orbit the Moon. Subsequent missions in the coming years aim to return humans to the Moon’s surface for the first time in over 50 years and will include a woman and a person of colour. Nasa sees a return to the Moon as a way to prepare for a mission to Mars. But what exactly are they hoping to learn and what difference will any of it make to all of us back here on Earth? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2022-08-19 10:00:00

Salman Rushdie and the fatwa (p0cv1f0k.mp3)

The Indian-born British writer Salman Rushdie was recently stabbed on stage at an event in New York state more than three decades after Iran issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. He is currently recovering in hospital. The novelist spent years in hiding after his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, prompted accusations of blasphemy. So why did a novel provoke such an strong reaction? Ritula Shah looks back at the story of the author, the book and the fatwa.

From The Real Story at 2022-08-12 10:00:00

Is the US getting serious about climate change? (p0cslctf.mp3)

This week the US Senate passed the biggest package of climate change measures in American history. The Inflation Reduction Act, which is expected to be passed by the House and signed into law by President Biden, includes $369bn in funding for climate and clean energy policies. Its backers hope it will reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 compared to 2005 levels. But the bill had no Republican support in the Senate, raising doubts about just how long-lasting its impacts might be. So, is the US getting serious about climate change? And why do the political divisions about what to do about it run so deep? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2022-08-05 10:00:00

Italy’s right-wing nationalists on the rise (p0cr6xjx.mp3)

Italians go to the polls on 25 September after the collapse of the country’s 69th government in just 77 years. Polls suggest a conservative coalition - likely led by the right wing nationalist Brothers of Italy party - may form the next government. Critics accuse Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia) of having fascist roots, a claim it rejects. The beating to death of Ogorchukwu Alika, a Nigerian street trader in Italy last week, has shone a spotlight on growing anti-migrant rhetoric from a number of the country’s right-wing parties. So, is Italy about to elect a hard-right government? If Brothers of Italy leader Giorgia Meloni does become the country’s next Prime Minister what kind of leader will she be? And how could a more nationalist government impact Italy’s relationships with the EU, Nato and the US? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2022-07-29 10:00:00

Bolsonaro vs Lula: The race to lead Brazil (p0cptb8h.mp3)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro this week officially launched his campaign for a second term in office. The election in October will likely come down to a race between the right-wing populist leader and his main left-wing rival Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula has been president before but was barred from running in 2018 due to corruption convictions that have since been overturned by the courts. The incumbent is behind in the polls as the country is buffeted by global economic headwinds exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, which saw Brazil experience one of the highest rates of deaths in the world. So, which issues will decide the election and what impact will the result have on Brazil and the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-07-22 10:00:00

Can our cities survive climate change? (p0cncx8j.mp3)

Europe was this week hit by an extreme heatwave exacerbating drought conditions and sparking wildfires in France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal. The UK also broke its record temperature exceeding 40C. All this just weeks after flooding caused widespread disruption in Sydney, Australia. Scientists agree that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is key to limiting the severity of climate change. But the planet has already warmed by 1.1C above pre-industrial levels and temperatures are expected to continue rising. More than half of the world’s population live in cities and that figure is expected to rise to 68% by 2050. Extreme heat, droughts, wildfires, storm surges and flooding - both inland and along coastlines - will increasingly cause damage and deaths. So, how can we make cities more resilient to the inevitable impacts of a warming planet? What obstacles are preventing greater action? And will the rich world protect itself while poorer communities are left to fend for themselves? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.

From The Real Story at 2022-07-15 10:00:00

A new phase in the Covid pandemic (p0cm0n2j.mp3)

After two-and-a-half years of Covid rampaging across the planet, causing millions of deaths and transforming billions of lives, everyone is keen to move on. But this week the head of the World Health Organization warned the public that the pandemic is “nowhere near over” and that with cases rising 30% over the past fortnight we must collectively “push back”. This assessment comes after many governments have pulled back on testing and removed restrictions such as the requirement to wear masks in certain public spaces. England’s former Deputy Chief Medical Officer says the lethality of Covid-19 is now getting closer to that of the seasonal flu, so how should we adapt to the next phase of the pandemic? Vaccines have prevented many people from getting seriously ill and dying, but only in countries with ready access to jabs and high vaccination rates. The UN estimates roughly 72% of people in high income countries have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, but the figure for low-incomes nations is roughly 18%. How much progress has been made in the fight against Covid-19 and what will the next phase of the pandemic look like? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-07-08 10:00:00

How the Supreme Court is reshaping the US (p0cklh8r.mp3)

Abortion, environmental protections and gun ownership rights are among the controversial topics the US Supreme Court has ruled on over recent weeks. The highest court in the land has the final say on interpreting laws and deciding what’s constitutional and what isn’t. Now - with a clear conservative majority at the helm - the court’s move to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling guaranteeing abortion rights across the country (Roe v. Wade) signals it’s willing to re-visit previous judgments many had considered ‘settled law’. Campaigners fear past decisions on other subjects, such as gay marriage, the right to contraception and even the way elections are run, may now also be overturned. So, what is the role of the Supreme Court within the United States’ system of government and is it changing? How will its rulings impact politics federally and in individual states? And is the system set up by America’s founding fathers working as designed, or is political polarisation undermining the very principles it was built around? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.

From The Real Story at 2022-07-01 10:00:00

Afghanistan's challenges after US withdrawal (p0cj78yr.mp3)

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake last week in Afghanistan destroyed hundreds of homes and left around 1,000 people dead - including at least 155 children. The country, now ruled by the Taliban, was already struggling to feed and provide health services to its people just 10 months after the United States and its allies completed their hasty withdrawal. The UN says millions are going hungry and the hospital system is on the brink of collapse. Meanwhile the Taliban are subject to global sanctions and Afghan central bank reserves remain frozen after the fall of the Western-backed government. The Taliban’s decision in March to bar teenage girls from schools has divided opinion in the group and created headaches for organisations keen to work more closely with the Afghan government in order to improve the lives of citizens. So, is it possible to help the people of Afghanistan without helping the Taliban? Or is that approach wrong and should donors and governments just work alongside them? Owen Bennett-Jones is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-06-24 10:00:00

From rebel to president: Colombia’s new leftist leader (p0cgv6br.mp3)

Colombia this week elected a former rebel as its first left-wing president. Gustavo Petro’s win on Sunday represents a rejection of the establishment in a country facing strong economic headwinds, high levels of inequality, and continuing gang violence fuelled by the cocaine trade. Mr Petro and his running mate Francia Márquez - who will become the country’s first black vice-president - plan to reform taxes, phase out new oil exploration projects, and rethink the war on drugs. Colombia has long been a close partner to the United States in the region, recently designated by Washington as “a major non-NATO ally”. The new leadership team in Bogotá want to take a fresh look at trade relations with both the US and Venezuela. So, who is Gustavo Petro and what does he stand for? What will his historic win mean for Colombia’s place in the region and the world? And can the new president deliver on his promise of sweeping change without control of the country’s congress? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Ritula Shah with a panel of guests. Producers: Rozita Riazati and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-06-17 10:00:00

The repatriation of precious artefacts (p0cfh337.mp3)

The King of Belgium this month handed back a Congolese mask, one of about 84,000 artefacts taken during the colonial-era which the country has agreed to return. In 2018 a report commissioned by the French government recommended the return of thousands of African artworks taken from the continent during colonial rule. This week the director of the V&A museum in London, Tristram Hunt, told The Real Story that he’d like to see a review of decades-old UK laws which prohibit historical pieces being returned to their countries of origin. The clamour for the return of objects which may have been taken, stolen or bought during the colonial era is growing louder. The people and communities who want them back say it's about preserving their cultural identities. So, is it time for some of the planet’s biggest and most visited museums to repatriate many more of the items they’ve acquired from around the world? And how can the educational value of so-called ‘encyclopaedic museums’ continue to educate millions if the number of artefacts they have on display is diminished? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2022-06-10 10:00:00

The rocky road ahead for Boris Johnson (p0cd2gv7.mp3)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week narrowly survived a confidence vote within his own party, but more than 40% of Conservative Members of Parliament thought he should go. His premiership has come under pressure after investigations into parties in Downing Street during pandemic lockdowns concluded he broke the rules he introduced. His government was elected in December 2019 with a large mandate to “get Brexit done” and his supporters insist that only he can hold the party together and deliver victory in the next election. But given the large number of Tory MPs who now think he’s an electoral liability rather than an asset, will Mr Johnson be able to survive and govern? And what will Boris Johnson staying on in Number 10 mean for the UK and its place in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-06-03 10:00:00

China vs the West in the Pacific (p0cbqhsx.mp3)

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi this week held a meeting with 10 Pacific nations aiming to reach agreement on a region-wide trade and security pact. Consensus wasn’t reached but bilateral deals – like the one China’s already signed with Solomon Islands – are under discussion. The United States and regional allies, led by Australia, see the idea of greater security cooperation between China and Pacific island countries as a threat to Western security. Beijing says it’s offering help in the areas of policing, infrastructure, trade and resilience from disaster. Fiji’s Prime Minister, who's one of those who hosted Mr Wang this week, called on China to increase its efforts to tackle climate change, an existential threat to many of the nations meeting this week. So, what do Pacific states want from their partnerships with China and the West? And could the Pacific quickly become a new front line in growing tensions between East and West? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2022-05-27 10:00:00

How do we stop high inflation? (p0c9c6j5.mp3)

Business leaders meeting this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have warned that high levels of inflation are likely to cause a global recession, or worse. Financier George Soros told the annual gathering that ongoing coronavirus lockdowns in China mean “global inflation is liable to turn into global depression”. Meanwhile the head of the World Bank, David Malpass, told a business event in the US that given the rising cost of energy, food and fertiliser prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s now difficult to “see how we avoid a recession”. Government and central bank spending aimed at cushioning the economic shock of the pandemic is also being blamed for the rising cost of goods and services. So, why have authorities so far failed to get rising inflation under control? If increased spending is contributing to prices going up, what can officials do to cushion the economic impact on the poorest without making things worse? And is another recession likely and perhaps even necessary? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-05-20 10:00:00

What is the 'Great Replacement' conspiracy theory (p0c7y4zp.mp3)

The suspect in Saturday’s killing of ten people at a Buffalo supermarket allegedly wrote a document endorsing the Great Replacement Theory. It’s a racist far-right conspiracy theory that falsely states there’s a secret plan to replace white people through increased immigration and other means. In the United States some politicians and mainstream media figures like Tucker Carlson of Fox News are accused of pushing a version of the theory when they insist Democratic Party immigration policies have the same aim. In Europe too, fears that white, Christian culture is being undermined have been stoked by far-right politicians across the continent. So how has Great Replacement Theory evolved? Is the basic philosophy behind it going mainstream? And what can and should be done to address the fears of people concerned about demographic change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2022-05-13 10:00:00

North Korea spooks its neighbours (p0c6jvg3.mp3)

This week as North Korea continued to test new ballistic missile technology, a new president took charge in South Korea promising to take a harder line with the north. Yoon Suk-yeol used his inaugural speech to call on Kim Jong-un to pursue a genuine path to rid his country of nuclear weapons. If he does, Mr Yoon promised he'd present an "audacious plan" to boost the impoverished North’s economy. Meanwhile in Japan, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is calling for his country to re-think its post-WW2 ban on nuclear weapons. As the only nation to have suffered a nuclear attack, public opinion strongly supports laws prohibiting nuclear weapons on Japanese soil. But some analysts now believe the increased military threat from North Korea and China - including the testing of hypersonic missiles that in theory will be harder to intercept - mean that not only should Japan begin permanently hosting American nuclear warheads, it should even consider developing an nuclear deterrent of its own. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-05-06 06:00:00

Ukraine war impact on climate pledges (p0c55b0y.mp3)

The war in Ukraine has prompted a global reordering of energy markets as Europe looks to replace gas and oil imports from Russia. A few days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, the UN issued a dire warning about the devastating consequences of climate change. The war has complicated the picture further. So, will events in Ukraine derail the green energy transition countries signed up to at COP26 just six months ago? Some African countries would like to step in as Europe scrambles for alternative sources of energy. But much of the energy they'd provide is carbon based. So, are these just short term setbacks that could be overshadowed by a longer term move away from cheap Russian energy supplies? And what happens to climate change cooperation if the war is driving a wedge between the West and Russia? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss how Russia's war in Ukraine will impact efforts to fight climate change.

From The Real Story at 2022-04-29 10:00:00

The future of Twitter (p0c3x5z7.mp3)

The Chief Executive of the social media company, Twitter, has acknowledged the company's future is uncertain after the board accepted a takeover offer from Elon Musk, the world's richest man. Mr Musk describes himself as a "free speech absolutist" and he says he will relax content restrictions on the platform - used by many celebrities, politicians, journalists and commentators. Some people have expressed their fears of a Musk takeover, which they say, will lead to an entirely ungoverned space - allowing propaganda, conspiracy theories and abuse to flourish. Others say they relish the prospect of the end of what they see censorship by a politically-correct West Coast tech elite. So what difference will Mr Musk's vision make to the Twitter user-experience? Will advertisers pay to be on a platform with more provocative content? And how much will change be constrained by the variety of rules governing digital media, around the world? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss the future of Twitter.

From The Real Story at 2022-04-22 10:00:00

Sweden’s hardening stance on immigration (p0c2lggf.mp3)

Sweden has experienced days of violent protests against a far-right group. Danish-Swedish politician Rasmus Paludan’s anti-Islam party Hard Line says it will burn copies of the Quran as part of a tour of cities with large immigrant populations. Sweden has traditionally welcomed refugees, taking in Jews during WW2, Iranians fleeing the revolution, and a large number of people from the former Yugoslavia. But is that approach changing? Per capita Sweden accepted more refugees from the war in Syria than any other EU country. But after the arrival of more than 160,000 refugees in 2015 alone, government policy began to evolve – seeing the introduction of border checks, a reduction in access to permanent residency, and more stringent rules around family reunions. Voters increasingly complain that core government services like health and education are struggling to cope and many migrants still find it hard to secure jobs. The far-right party Sweden Democrats has seen a surge in support and is now the third most popular party nationally. So is Sweden changing? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Ellen Otzen and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-04-15 10:00:00

The appeal of the French far-right (p0c1d97b.mp3)

This week the first round of the presidential election in France has shone a spotlight on the tectonic shifts taking place in the nation’s politics. President Emmanuel Macron, who shocked the world five years ago by winning the presidency as an outsider, has firmly established his party as the only centrist force - peeling off support from the traditional left and right. His main challenger, Marine Le Pen of National Rally, has proved the enduring appeal of the far-right by once again receiving the second highest number of votes. They will face each other in a run-off on 24th April. Analysts believe Ms Le Pen would have performed even better had she not faced stiff competition from another far-right figure, former TV personality Eric Zemmour. So what's behind the popularity of right-wing politics in France? Are policies that used to be confined to the more extreme ends of the political spectrum now becoming commonplace? And what might a far-right president mean for France’s place in Europe and the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-04-08 10:00:00

Are workers back in the driving seat? (p0c030g6.mp3)

Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York have successfully set up Amazon's first ever union in the country. Staff at dozens of other US locations are said to be interested in unionising as well. There are signs workers are now increasingly in the driving seat. The pandemic has galvanised American employees with a tightening labour market providing them with more leverage. An increasing number of workers around the world are drawn to new, more flexible ways of working. But campaigners argue that while gig workers enjoy greater control over the hours they put in, the conditions and benefits they receive make them second-class citizens. And while many high-skilled staff have used the pandemic to demand greater flexibility to work from home or work over fewer days, that’s a benefit many in lower-paid professions have been denied. So as the world emerges from the economic upheavals caused by Covid-19, are workers better off? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Natalia Rolleston and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-04-01 10:00:00

Israel's Arab allies (p0byr9bk.mp3)

History was made this week when, for the first time, the foreign ministers of the UAE, Morocco, Egypt and Bahrain travelled to Israel on an official visit. For decades Arab leaders have criticised Israel for its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which appeared to rule out closer ties. But not anymore. After the meeting Emirati Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan told his Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, “you are not only a partner, you are a friend,” adding that the countries have lost decades that could have been utilised, “knowing each other better, of working together, and of changing the narrative that many generations of Israelis and Arabs have been living.” The United States has spent recent years working to improve relations between its Israeli and Arab partners, an effort that burst into the public consciousness with the signing of the Abraham Accords under Donald Trump. The new allies share a distrust of Iran and a desire for greater economic ties across the region. But the Palestinian leadership has criticised the rapprochement, describing it as “a free reward for Israel”. So what’s been the benefit of the Abraham Accords? Will a new Iran nuclear deal push the parties even closer? What kind of support will these countries require from the United States at a time when US interest in the region is declining? And how many of the government-to-government ties are being translated into people-to-people contacts? Julian Marshall is joined by a panel of experts. Producers Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2022-03-25 10:00:00

Who are Russia’s friends? (p0bxf7t5.mp3)

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine 141 of the UN’s 193 member states voted to condemn the action. But the Kremlin isn’t without its allies. Four nations voted with Russia against the resolution (Belarus, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea) and another 35 abstained. China is the most prominent of these, but India also sat out the vote. The world’s largest democracy has not only failed to criticise the invasion but has also shied away from introducing sanctions. That’s prompted President Biden to describe Delhi’s response to the war raging in Europe as “somewhat shaky”. But India isn’t alone. Israel too is hoping to stay neutral; it says so that it can facilitate talks between Moscow and Kyiv – with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid insisting “the way to stop the war is to negotiate”. So how much are current relationships based on ties dating back to the Cold War? How many countries still need Russia to maintain their own security and energy supplies? And can these partnerships survive in the face of harsh Western sanctions? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-03-18 10:00:00

War in Ukraine transforms Germany (p0bw4bv3.mp3)

Within days of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Germany announced a number of significant changes to its economic and security policies. Chancellor Olaf Scholz described it as a Zeitenwende – or watershed – moment for Europe. The country would remove a self-imposed restraint on its armed forces - in place since the Second World War - and invest billions of dollars upgrading its military hardware. The government pledged to increase its defence spending to two percent of GDP making it the biggest military power in Europe. It also broke with tradition and began to supply arms to Ukraine and deploy troops on Nato's eastern flank. There is a shift in Germany's energy policy too. The country is heavily dependent on Russian oil, gas, and coal; but it has begun to cut these ties starting with the cancellation of Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Analysts say regardless of the outcome, the war in Ukraine will bring about profound and long-lasting changes to Germany and its place in Europe. So how significant is Germany's plan to re-arm its military? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2022-03-11 10:00:00

Can Russia’s economy survive? (p0btqz85.mp3)

Just two weeks after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine the conflict has already begun reshaping the world. The bombardment of Ukrainian cities has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians and forced millions to flee the country. But the war has also completely upended the global economy. Russia is paying the heaviest economic price, as it grapples with Western-led sanctions on its banks, major industries and individuals associated with President Vladimir Putin. There are growing fears in Moscow that basic supplies of essentials like food and medicines may be disrupted. But attempts to cut Russia off from the global economy are impacting nations and industries across the planet. Oil and gas prices are up, as are the cost of key commodities such as wheat. Global supply chains have already been disrupted by the pandemic and now the war in Ukraine - and the inflation it’s causing - is adding to the woes of some of the poorest people on Earth. So how long can the Kremlin hold out? As the threat of Russia defaulting on its debts increases, what does the future hold for the country’s economy and its workforce? And how high a price will we all pay as a result of the conflict now playing out in Eastern Europe? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-03-04 10:00:00

Europe's energy future beyond Russia (p0bsfkbj.mp3)

The war in Ukraine has cast a spotlight on Europe's energy dependency on Russia. Nearly half of Europe’s gas, along with petroleum and coal, come from the Russian Federation. But with no resolution to the war in sight, there is concern that Moscow will reduce its gas supply in retaliation to the tough sanctions imposed by the EU. Countries like Germany, Austria and Bulgaria would face severe economic consequences. Gas prices are already at record high and any supply shortage will have a direct impact on households and businesses. Despite the uncertainties, the president of the European Parliament has called for an accelerated transition to greener energy as an alternative to the bloc's reliance on Russian gas. The EU wants to shore up strategic fuel reserves, build more Liquid Natural Gas terminals and streamline its power grids. So how did Europe become so dependent on Russia and what are its options as it tries to build a new energy network? Join Ritula Shah and a panel of experts as they discuss energy security in Europe away from Russia.

From The Real Story at 2022-02-25 10:00:00

The global debt crisis (p0br1q37.mp3)

This month the G20 came under criticism for failing to deliver a promised $100bn of additional funds to poorer countries to help with the economic fallout of the pandemic. Many of these countries suffered a significant financial crunch as their exports dropped while the price of imports went up. The World Bank says the recession of 2020 led to the largest single-year surge in global debt in decades. The Bank says the debt burden of 70 low income countries has risen by more than 12 percent. Countries that are considered middle-income and have relatively stable economies have also been hit. Last month Sri Lanka appealed to China, one of its biggest creditors, to reschedule its debts. Its foreign reserve shortage has led to a sharp reduction of oil imports, resulting in regular power cuts and further undermining economic activity. So how did the pandemic worsen the debt crisis? How much of the problem can be blamed on long-term economic mismanagement and corruption? And what should be the role of creditors like China, which has been criticised for the way it negotiates debt relief. Join Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed

From The Real Story at 2022-02-18 10:00:00

Why is China supporting Russia on Nato? (p0bpsw4v.mp3)

This month President Putin of Russia was the star guest at the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. But his trip to China wasn't just about showing support for the host country. He and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping issued an unexpectedly long statement pledging friendship with 'no limits' and no 'forbidden areas of cooperation'. Beijing and Moscow have maintained a stable relationship since the 2000s, a far cry from the bitter days of the Sino-Soviet split during the Cold War. China has increased its gas imports from Russia and Russia has in turn allowed more Belt and Road investments in its territory. The two conduct joint military exercises, cooperate in exploring Arctic sea routes, and support each other on the world stage. Now, breaking with its previous ambiguity, China has expressed support for Russia's concerns over the potential future expansion of Nato, giving Moscow a significant boost in its border standoff with Ukraine. Russia meanwhile backs China's claims over Taiwan. Even though no formal alliance has been announced, experts see the new Sino-Russia pact as a clear challenge to the United States. So how important is the agreement between Russia and China and what are the countries' longer term goals? Does Russia risk being dominated by China, which is soon to become the biggest economy in the world? And how will the evolving relationship between the two powers impact the future of the democracy-based world order envisioned by President Biden? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-02-11 10:00:00

France's place in the world (p0bnhpcc.mp3)

This week the French president Emmanuel Macron travelled thousands of kilometres across Europe in a diplomatic effort to avert an escalation of the war in Ukraine. He met Presidents Putin and Zelensky in Moscow and Kyiv, as well as German and Polish leaders in Berlin. Diplomats say Mr Macron has made himself a key interlocutor between the EU and the US on one side and Russia on the other. The crisis in Ukraine has galvanised France's alliance with the United States which was at a low point just months ago when Paris lost a lucrative Australian submarine contract to Washington and London. But at home - where the president is facing re-election, there’s scepticism over France’s close alliance with America. So what are President Macron's foreign policy goals? As the EU’s only nuclear-armed state, what role should France play in representing Europe’s broader interests on the world stage? And will Mr Macron’s diplomatic achievements improve his chances of winning a second term in April? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-02-04 10:00:00

China’s zero-Covid conundrum (p0bm34vd.mp3)

As the Beijing Winter Olympics get underway in China this week the host city has reported its highest number of new Covid-19 cases in more than a year. The authorities have put in place a strict 'closed loop bubble’, isolating more than 60,000 athletes, officials and service providers from the rest of the country. China's firm approach to quashing transmission of the virus has been in place ever since the first outbreak in Wuhan. Detection of the virus typically prompts mass testing and can even result in entire cities being placed into snap lockdowns. Only essential travellers are allowed to enter the country and even then only after weeks of strict quarantine. Only a few thousand Chinese citizens are said to have died of Covid-19, a fraction of the number of lives lost in many other nations. But a recent report from the IMF has warned of an economic slowdown in China, blamed in part on the country’s zero-Covid policy. The approach has been welcomed by most citizens, but could public attitudes change if more of the country is forced to stay at home in order to combat outbreaks? Can China follow in the footsteps of other countries that have transitioned towards 'living with the virus'? And will the country have to wait for the next generation of vaccines before opening up? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2022-01-28 10:00:00

Why Putin has his sights on Ukraine (p0bksdz3.mp3)

Growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine have prompted the US and UK to pull the families of staff at their embassies in Kyiv out of the country. Moscow’s forces have been amassing on Ukraine’s border for months prompting fears of a major escalation in a war that’s been underway since Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Vladimir Putin says the Russian and Ukrainian populations are 'one people' and has blamed Nato’s expansion east for rising tensions. Joe Biden has warned Russia that an invasion of Ukraine would result in severe consequences for the Kremlin. So how likely is full-scale war? What is President Putin's strategy? And what is the likely end-game? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-01-21 10:00:00

The future of the BBC (p0bjgbzl.mp3)

The British Broadcasting Corporation is the world’s oldest and largest public service broadcaster. But as it prepares to mark its 100th birthday the organisation finds itself at a crossroads. The UK government has begun a review of the BBC’s long term funding structure with an aim of ending its dependency on television licence fees – effectively a tax on British owners of TV sets. The broadcaster's Director General Tim Davie says services and shows will have to be cut as a result of a funding gap arising from the latest licence fee deal. There are other challenges too. Young people are consuming less BBC content than their parents, preferring to rely on an array of different sources for their news and entertainment. So what should be the role of public service broadcasters in a world where information is curated by search engines and consumers gravitate towards streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime for their entertainment? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2022-01-14 10:00:00

Climate change: A risk to food security? (p0bh4rdg.mp3)

While agriculture remains one of the biggest contributors to climate change, it is also most exposed to its adverse effects. Scientists say that extreme weather events will become more frequent and more intense as global temperatures continue to rise. In 2021, harsh winters, unseasonably warm summers, and sudden changes in rainfall affected food production around the globe - from the farmlands of Europe to the grasslands of Africa. There has been a jump in the prices of essential commodities like wheat and maize and traders are braced for more fluctuations. Climate risk is not only affecting farmers and their livelihoods, it is also exposing more people to food shortages. So what are the most pressing dangers and how can we protect our food supply from extreme weather events? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Ellen Otzen

From The Real Story at 2022-01-07 10:00:00

The Beijing Winter Olympics: High stakes for China (p0bftl60.mp3)

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will begin in 4 weeks’ time with more than 2,000 athletes from across the globe expected to take part. Officials have set up a bubble to keep arriving athletes and officials separate from the general population, all part of attempts to prevent coronavirus infections. Some health officials fear the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant will pose a severe challenge to organisers and athletes can expect to face tougher restrictions compared to last year's summer Olympics in Tokyo. The games are also the subject of a diplomatic boycott by the United States and some of its allies. The White House says it wants to send a clear message that it disapproves of China's human rights record, including its treatment of Uighur Muslims and a crackdown on dissents in Hong Kong. China described the move as an attempt to politicise sport. So what will success look like for the Beijing Olympics? How effective will the Covid protocols be? And how much of an impact will the diplomatic boycott have on the event’s credibility? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-12-17 10:00:00

Do digital currencies need policing? (p0bbjnch.mp3)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the stability of some countries’ financial systems could soon be at risk because of unregulated crypto assets. Cryptocurrencies and other digital financial products created using blockchain technology are proliferating. They’re largely free from the controls of governments and central banks, but also free from any significant regulation. The IMF believes “comprehensive, consistent and coordinated” global regulation of the sector is now needed to prevent contagion if major crypto assets begin to collapse. Myanmar’s opposition-led shadow government this week announced that it will accept Tether, a so-called stablecoin, claiming to be pegged to the US dollar, as an official currency - a way of bypassing the control of the country’s military rulers. Meanwhile, across the border in China, authorities are cracking down on crypto and pushing ahead with plans for the country’s own Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) which critics fear could mark the beginning of the end of anonymous transactions. So, is global finance undergoing a transformation? And are more stringent rules of the road necessary to protect consumers and avoid economic calamity? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Zak Brophy and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-12-10 10:00:00

What's going wrong in the Balkans? (p0b92744.mp3)

It’s been more than two decades since the war in Bosnia ended. It remains one of the darkest chapters in modern European history and cost over 100,000 lives. Since the Dayton Agreement was reached in 1995 a fragile peace has held, but last month the international community's chief representative there - Christian Schmidt - warned that conflict might return and the country is in danger of breaking up. Bosnia-Herzegovina's senior ethnic Serb politician, Milorad Dodik, has threatened to pull the territory he governs inside Bosnia out of state-level institutions including the army. The issue that drove so much of the war - Serb nationalism - now appears to be on the rise across the Western Balkans. Serbia has deployed armoured vehicles and aeroplanes along its border with Kosovo and is accused of stoking religious tensions in neighbouring Montenegro. So how dangerous is this moment in Balkans history? Are the EU and the US doing enough to diffuse tensions? And how much of the blame can be laid at the feet of Serbia’s ally Russia? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-12-03 10:00:00

Omicron: Did Africa get a raw deal? (p0b7t7lt.mp3)

The emergence of the Omicron variant has once again highlighted the difficulty in preventing the pandemic from spreading across the globe. Health experts have long argued that regions like southern Africa, where the variant was first detected, are prone to dangerous mutations of the virus when large groups of people are left unvaccinated. Only a tenth of Africa's billion plus population have received their first dose and the continent is yet to create its own Covid vaccines. African nations are reliant on vaccines from the international alliance Covax but the supply is far less than what's required. Meanwhile many on the continent have opted to pursue traditional remedies, with some denying the existence of the virus altogether. So what's the road ahead for Africa as it tries to overcome the pandemic? What sort of public engagement is required to reduce vaccine hesitancy? And how is the fight against Covid made more difficult by other health emergencies? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2021-11-26 10:00:00

Hunger in Afghanistan: Time to work with the Taliban? (p0b6f7x4.mp3)

It has been 100 days since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan and the country is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis. More than half of the country’s 39 million people face acute food insecurity as prices skyrocket. Severe drought, the pandemic and the damage caused by decades of war have all helped to bring the economy to its knees. With winter approaching the World Food Programme has warned that Afghans are at risk of being isolated from life-saving assistance. Previously international aid represented around 40% of the country’s GDP, but since the Taliban takeover the World Bank, the IMF, and the United States have cut off access to more than $9.5 billion in foreign reserves and loans. With the banking system frozen, aid organisations are struggling to pay their staff on the ground and calls for the United States and its allies to ease sanctions are growing. The international community is now asking itself whether it is possible to prevent the Afghan people from starving while at the same time minimising any benefits to a repressive Taliban leadership. Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed, Paul Schuster and Marie Sina.

From The Real Story at 2021-11-19 10:00:00

Fortress Europe: Who gets to come in? (p0b52l7s.mp3)

The European Union is at loggerheads with Belarus over the arrival of thousands of migrants. It alleges that President Lukashenko has created a deliberate crisis by facilitating the migrants' travel into Belarus and onwards to the country's borders with EU members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Belarus says the EU is breaching its humanitarian obligations by blocking the entry of those seeking asylum. The question of what to do with migrants is one of the most divisive issues within the EU. Its southern and eastern member countries - where the bulk of migrants arrive - are calling for a more equitable distribution of refugees among member states. They also want more money to support for processing of new arrivals. Meanwhile in western and northern European states, the rise of far-right groups is being seen as a warning to politicians not to be too accommodating to newcomers. So how does the EU fulfil its international obligations around migration while keeping a lid on populist opposition to it? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-11-12 10:00:00

The future of Chinese capitalism (p0b3pgn4.mp3)

The Chinese Communist Party has held a high level meeting that will help propel President Xi Jinping to a level of power not seen since Chairman Mao. The gathering was essentially a celebration of Mr Xi's time in office, with a new emphasis on establishing him at the core of the party's identity. Despite the initial shock of the coronavirus pandemic China's economy has continued to grow. But there now appears to be a renewed emphasis on reducing inequality across society. The government has taken measures against property developers, tech giants, and even banned private tuition - all part of President Xi's message of 'common prosperity' which envisions a more equitable distribution of the country's wealth. So what influence will market forces have in communist China moving forward? How much control will the state impose on the private sector? And can the government reduce private and public debt without harming economic growth and hurting consumers? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed

From The Real Story at 2021-11-05 10:00:00

Who pays to fix climate change? (p0b2bhnp.mp3)

The UN Climate Conference in Glasgow is being described as a make or break moment for humanity. The purpose of the gathering is to implement the 2015 Paris Agreement - which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times. Currently the world is way off target, with temperatures still projected to rise higher than is sustainable. A big part of the problem is the huge cost involved. Developed countries have confirmed they have failed to meet a pledge made in 2009 to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020. Developing countries say the money is needed now. They require defences to protect their populations from the growing effects of climate change - and to move away from carbon energy and towards renewable sources. So what is climate finance, what's been promised and will it be be delivered? Join Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests from the UN summit in Glasgow as they discuss who pays to fix climate change?

From The Real Story at 2021-10-29 10:00:00

Why do military coups still happen? (p0b0zk67.mp3)

Defiant protesters have been on the streets of Sudan this week after the country's armed forces launched a military coup. On Monday coup leader Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan dissolved civilian rule, arrested political leaders and declared a state of emergency. It wasn't meant to be like this. After long-time Sudanese ruler Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in 2019, civilian leaders and their military counterparts entered a power-sharing agreement designed to encourage democratic reform. So why has the fragile arrangement broken down and what does history tell us about the broader challenges countries face when trying to move beyond military rule? Is democracy possible without strong institutions? Why do countries like Pakistan continue to flirt with military rule despite having elections? And how have others - like Argentina - managed to break away from military rule altogether? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Produced by: Zak Brophy and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-10-22 10:00:00

Nato and China: A new rivalry? (p09zlh1h.mp3)

This week in an interview with a British newspaper the Secretary General of Nato repeated his desire to widen its mandate to include China. His comments coincide with reports that Beijing has tested a hypersonic missile potentially capable of breaching US and European defences. There are concerns about China's cyber activities against Nato member states, as well as the country's increasing presence in the Arctic - raising fears over the security of Atlantic sea lanes. But some argue that Nato is in danger of going beyond its founding remit. That view is echoed by the likes of the French president who's warned that China has "little to do with the North Atlantic." So what should be the future shape of Nato? In the aftermath of its controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan, should the alliance focus more on events closer to home? And with the United States focusing its resources in Asia, is there a case to look beyond Nato and think about a broader European defence mechanism? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Produced by: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2021-10-15 10:00:00

Climate change: Lessons from Denmark (p09yqg9x.mp3)

Denmark is at the forefront of the global effort to fight climate change. It has committed to cut emissions by 70 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. It also wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 and end all fossil fuel exploration. Denmark was an early adopter of climate friendly policies and successive governments have taken a consensus driven approach to putting the green transition into motion. Danish start-ups are among those driving innovation to reduce carbon dependency in the cities and in the country. There is even a plan to build artificial “energy islands” in the sea. As governments grasp for solutions to the growing challenge of climate change, can the success enjoyed by a small, rich, northern European nation be scaled up and applied elsewhere in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts in Copenhagen. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster

From The Real Story at 2021-10-08 10:00:00

Empty shelves and clogged ports (p09y1gzk.mp3)

The world has emerged from pandemic lockdowns more optimistic about the direction of Covid, but the sudden surge in demand for goods is creating new economic shocks from London to Los Angeles. Factories and ports are not functioning as they once did due to the pent-up demand for goods and broken supply chains. Energy prices are surging and some shelves are empty. So is this a temporary blip or a new normal? Who will be the winners and losers of the post-pandemic global economy and what opportunities do new economic landscapes provide for fighting the climate crisis? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2021-10-01 10:00:00

How green is nuclear energy? (p09xdt95.mp3)

Is nuclear energy ‘sustainable’ and deserving of tax breaks? It’s a question dividing member states of the European Union which is considering what role nuclear should play in efforts to wean the continent off fossil fuels. Germany announced it would phase out its existing nuclear power plants after the disaster at Fukushima in Japan in 2011. But others are pushing ahead with plans to extend the life of existing power stations and even build new ones. But with the cost of renewable energy plummeting, critics say money invested in nuclear could be better spent upgrading power grids and improving the resiliency of cleaner forms of energy. Nuclear enthusiasts say new, smaller nuclear reactors will soon become available and could help keep the lights on when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. There’s increasing private sector money going towards the development of the next generation of nuclear reactors, plus Russia and China continue to invest heavily in a sector which provides export opportunities - particularly in the developing world. So, what role will nuclear play in the future and will the technology help or hinder attempts to avert catastrophic climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Junaid Ahmed.

From The Real Story at 2021-09-24 10:00:00

How powerful is China's navy? (p09wsy6w.mp3)

China has reacted angrily following this month's announcement of an alliance that will enable Australia to possess and deploy nuclear powered submarines in the region. Australia says the partnership with the USA and the UK, or Aukus, is not aimed at China. But most analysts agree that the initiative is hoping to counter Beijing's rapidly expanding naval capabilities. Chinese patrol boats have clashed with neighbouring vessels in disputed waters, home to billions of barrels of untapped oil and gas. The country has created artificial islands in the South China Sea and there are concerns it may use its growing amphibious capabilities to invade Taiwan. So how important is the Chinese navy to the country's overall strategic and economic plan? How does its expansion affect maritime disputes in East Asia and the safe passage of trillions of dollars worth of commodities each year? And is China right to accuse the West of a 'Cold War mentality' when it criticises the country's military investments? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster

From The Real Story at 2021-09-17 10:00:00

Canada Votes: Is Trudeau in trouble? (p09w5ycb.mp3)

On Monday Canadians will vote in a snap election called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just two years after they last voted. He hopes to turn his minority in parliament into a majority having previously enjoyed favourable reviews for his handling of the pandemic. But since calling the election a fourth wave of Covid infection has gathered pace in parts of the country prompting claims that he’s putting his own political interests ahead of the public’s by going ahead with the vote. Some polls even show the governing Liberal Party slipping behind its main rival the Conservatives, led by Erin O’Toole. The PM also faces a strong challenge from the left in the form of New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh, and Quebec-nationalist party the Bloc Québécois is also polling strongly. So, what are the main issues that will decide the election and are Canadians in the mood for change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-09-10 10:00:00

What's ailing Japan? (p09vk7ht.mp3)

Japan has received much praise internationally for successfully holding both the Olympic and the Paralympic Games in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. At home, however, events have failed to generate much enthusiasm for the government. Analysts say a public backlash over the Olympics is one of the reasons prime minister Yoshihide Suga is not going to contest the coming elections. But it is not just the Olympics. The LDP government is also in trouble over its response to Covid vaccines, and its failure to modernise the economy, which remains sluggish. It is accused of having done little to expand employment opportunities for young people and to give greater rights to working women. So why does Japan find it so hard to bring about the changes necessary to end years of economic stagnation? How is its ageing population and its unwillingness to open up to greater immigration affecting its ability to increase growth? Plus, what does all this say about the cultural shifts taking place in the country? Celia Hatton is joined by a panel of experts. Producers Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-09-03 10:00:00

Methane: The other greenhouse gas (p09tx5cl.mp3)

The latest UN climate report concludes that while carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of global warming, another gas - methane - is likely responsible for between 30-50% of the current rise in temperatures. Methane is much more effective at trapping heat in Earth’s atmosphere than CO2 is, but it also breaks down much faster, raising hopes that quick action to curb emissions could aid efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 C. Methane is the largest component found in natural gas and is also emitted during the process of fracking and coal production. It’s produced in large quantities by farmed animals but also leaks into the atmosphere when organic matter decomposes in landfills. A report published earlier this year claimed that if existing measures and technologies were used more widely, human-caused methane emissions could be cut by as much as 180 million tonnes a year by 2030. But others argue that until CO2 emissions are dealt with, methane will remain 'a sideshow' and that attention paid to the problem must not distract from the bigger threat. So, is enough being done to prevent the leakage of methane? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.

From The Real Story at 2021-08-27 10:00:00

The challenges facing the Taliban (p09t9yfp.mp3)

The World Bank this week halted funding for projects in Afghanistan, following the lead of the IMF and US government which also froze payments and accounts. The increased financial pressure on the Taliban is just one of the many challenges they’ll face now they've taken control of the country. Thousands of professionals who’ve worked with foreigners are fleeing, prompting increasingly urgent calls from the Taliban for them to stay. Internal disagreements within the movement are also likely to make forming a stable government difficult, as will attacks from the Islamic State militant group and rebel forces amassing in the Panjshir Valley. So, does the Taliban have what it takes to preside over a relatively orderly transition? Is the group capable of keeping the lights on and the water flowing in cities that now have much more complex infrastructure than they did back in 2001? And when it comes to the potential for a humanitarian disaster to emerge, should Western powers help the new administration in Kabul or work against it? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Ellen Otzen.

From The Real Story at 2021-08-20 10:00:00

America after Afghanistan (p09spnhp.mp3)

The speed with which the Taliban took control of Afghanistan surprised not just the world but even its own members. The group's rapid rise coincided with an equally fast withdrawal of US-led international forces. In a major speech this week President Biden rejected criticism that the manner of the American withdrawal contributed to the sudden collapse of the Afghan government. He also said that the mission was never about nation building. But critics argue that the events in Afghanistan have not just tarnished Washington’s reputation but they have also exposed the limits of its willingness to invest time and resources to achieve foreign policy objectives. So what does America's departure from Afghanistan tell us about its future engagement on global security issues? Is it an effort to concentrate on more pressing challenges from rivals like China and Russia? Or is it a continuation of Donald Trump's isolationist ‘America First’ policy? How will it affect Washington's international credibility and its desire to promote human rights and democratic values around the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-08-13 10:00:00

Silencing dissidents (p09s2w3z.mp3)

A year on from the disputed election in Belarus, the country’s president has denied claims his security services were involved in the death of dissident Vitaly Shishov, who was found hanged in neighbouring Ukraine last week. The death follows EU accusations that Minsk effectively “hijacked” a plane en route to Lithuania earlier this year, forcing it to land in Belarus where a journalist on board who was a critic of the president was arrested. Technology allows many dissidents to continue impacting events whether they live at home or abroad. But reports suggest spyware developed in Israel and sold to multiple governments may have been used to target rights activists, journalists and lawyers. The company behind the software denies any wrongdoing and says it’s intended for use against criminals and terrorists. But with surveillance systems proliferating and activists increasingly voicing fears over their safety, is the role that dissidents play under threat? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests. Producers: Paul Schuster and Zak Brophy.

From The Real Story at 2021-08-06 10:00:00

How does the Taliban keep going? (p09rgwvh.mp3)

The Taliban is advancing in Afghanistan, launching major offensives to retake key cities as the last remaining US and international forces prepare to pull out. The group has taken more territory in the past couple of months than it has at any time since being ousted from power in 2001. Tens of thousands of Taliban fighters have been killed during twenty years of fighting, yet the militants remain a potent threat to the survival of the Afghan government, its military, and other institutions nurtured by global powers. So what’s the secret behind the Taliban’s longevity? The UN says the sale of opium and illegal mining provides them with a steady stream of income, as do local taxes. Officials in Kabul also allege that the organisation is being propped up by foreign governments and that it continues to welcome foreign fighters in its ranks. Global efforts to starve them of funds have failed and Taliban officials now openly speak of victory, insisting that the United States has ‘lost’. Who’s helping to prop up the Taliban and what does the last two decades tell us about their strength and potential after the last Western forces have gone? Ritula Shah is joined a panel of Afghanistan experts. Producers: Junaid Ahmed and Paul Schuster.

From The Real Story at 2021-07-30 10:00:00

Why has Australia's Covid strategy faltered? (p09qt8cd.mp3)

Australia has been seen as a success story when it comes to controlling the spread of the coronavirus and was praised by US official Dr Anthony Fauci as being a world leader in “containment and management of emerging variants”. The country had zero deaths from locally acquired Covid-19 infections during the first half of 2021 and has seen fewer than 1,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic. But a new outbreak of the Delta variant has thrown Sydney into lockdown and cases continue to rise, prompting other states to accuse New South Wales of not locking down fast enough or hard enough. The national government in Canberra has been criticised for one of the slowest vaccine rollouts among industrialised countries and reports of rare blood clots linked to the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab have left many confused as to which age groups should take it. So what went wrong with Australia's 'gold standard' response to Covid-19? As anti-lockdown protesters take to the streets, why is the policy failing to bring down cases in Sydney? Has Delta changed the game and could vaccine hesitancy delay any return to normal? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-07-23 10:00:00

What's China doing to fight climate change? (p09q5bjs.mp3)

This week a year’s worth of rain fell in just three days in China’s Henan province, flooding roads and public transport systems, killing dozens and displacing thousands. Floods are common in China’s rainy season, but this event is being linked to the climate crisis. China is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world – and many of its most carbon-intensive sectors employ vast numbers of people. At the same time the country has led efforts to develop green technologies like solar and wind, bringing down prices and encouraging the global shift away from fossil fuels. China says it shouldn’t be expected to follow the same decarbonisation timetable as major Western economies. But the US Climate Envoy John Kerry this week insisted that efforts to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be "essentially impossible" without faster action from Beijing. So how crucial is China to the fight against climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2021-07-16 10:00:00

Cuba at a crossroads (p09pk9dp.mp3)

Unauthorised public gatherings are illegal in Cuba and protests are rare. But this week the island nation has witnessed its biggest demonstrations in decades. People took to the streets calling for an end to President Miguel Díaz-Canel's government. They blamed him for food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Díaz-Canel described the demonstrators as 'counter-revolutionaries' and blamed the United States and its economic sanctions - in place in various forms since 1962 - for both the protests and Cuba's wider problems. So how big of a challenge do these demonstrations pose to Cuba's Communist government? Fidel Castro ruled for decades and was succeeded by his brother Raúl. How did their departure from the political stage change attitudes in the country and did it make protests more likely? And what is the Biden administration likely to do now? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts to discuss Cuba at a crossroads.

From The Real Story at 2021-07-09 10:00:00

The pandemic brings more robots (p09nv8dz.mp3)

The world’s major economies are moving again thanks to mass vaccination against the coronavirus. President Biden says a higher demand for workers will help them negotiate increased wages and better conditions. But instead of welcoming them back, many businesses are replacing workers with automation and artificial intelligence - often a much cheaper and more reliable option in the long term. Even before the pandemic, one influential think tank predicted nearly 25 percent of jobs are being lost to automation. And it is believed that the months of lockdowns have accelerated that shift, especially in routine low-skilled jobs that require minimal human interaction. So where is the shift happening and how has the pandemic affected trends? What jobs are under threat, what are educators and policymakers doing about it, and could it actually mean more people doing more creative and fulfilling jobs? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts to discuss how accelerated automation is changing the world of work.

From The Real Story at 2021-07-02 10:00:00

Palestinians turn against the leadership (p09n4tl9.mp3)

There is continuing anger in the West Bank over the death in custody of a vociferous critic of the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. Nizar Banat, an anti-corruption campaigner, was picked up in a violent night-time raid at his home in Hebron. The Palestinian Authority has launched an investigation into the circumstances of Banat's death and has promised action against anyone responsible. But that's done little to placate protesters who allege that the Palestinian security forces use extra-judicial force against anyone who questions or criticises the leadership. They say this behaviour is emblematic of a wider break down of law and order and a thriving culture of corruption in the West Bank, where elections were last held over 15 years ago. So why is corruption such a problem and where is it happening? Is there scope for reforms with the current leadership in charge? And how dependent is any change on the overall relationship with Israel and rival administration in Gaza, run by Hamas? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of Palestinian commentators.

From The Real Story at 2021-06-25 10:00:00

Hydrogen: A climate game-changer? (p09mgmh3.mp3)

With less than six months to go before the next big climate conference (COP26) in Scotland, the world's major polluters are under pressure to significantly increase their ability to cut greenhouse gas emissions. One of the solutions being discussed is to increase the production of clean hydrogen. At present most of the world's hydrogen has a high carbon footprint, but engineers are coming up with innovative ways to produce the gas with the help of renewable energy. They say it will allow for a faster reduction of carbon emissions without the need to overhaul existing industrial infrastructure. It’s also claimed that hydrogen-powered cells can drastically cut pollution from aviation and transportation. But others argue that using large amounts of wind and solar power to create ‘green hydrogen’ is wasteful and that governments should instead focus on improving the supply of renewables. So how clean can hydrogen get and how valuable could it be in the fight against climate change? Will the high costs involved in developing the industry pay off in the long run, or does the technology give us all false hope? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss the role of hydrogen in attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

From The Real Story at 2021-06-18 10:00:00

China's global project has a new rival (p09lt90b.mp3)

This month at their annual summit in Britain, the Group of 7 industrialised nations, or G7, has agreed to an infrastructure development plan for developing countries. The Build Back Better World – or B3W – is seen as an alternative to the multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) launched by China about a decade ago. The BRI has been a relatively easy source of funding for power plants, mining, road building and a range of other development projects, and more than a hundred countries have partnered with Beijing as part of the scheme. But these projects aren’t without controversy and there are questions about China's long-term intentions in the countries taking part. The White House says its plan is not about confronting China, but about providing a better and more transparent alternative that reflects the democratic values of the countries involved. But critics say that without a consistent China policy across its member states the G7 plan is bound to face difficulties. What exactly is B3W trying to achieve and how will it benefit the developing world? Will it compete or compliment China's BRI? Can the G7 strategy be as consistent as China's? And how open will developing countries be to accepting the promotion of Western values? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2021-06-11 10:00:00

Iran’s presidential election: What do the people want? (p09l4r9r.mp3)

Iranians go to the polls next week to decide who’ll be the country’s next president. Hundreds of potential candidates were disqualified, some of whom represent the reform movement, leaving just seven men in the running. Whoever wins will inherit a dire economy, with one-in-ten Iranians unemployed, inflation running at roughly 50%, and growing queues to buy everyday items like chicken. The victor will also have to share power with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC), and parliament. So what kind of mandate will he have? How democratic are the country’s elections? And what impact will the new leader’s policies have on Iran, its people and its place in the world? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of Iranian guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-06-04 10:00:00

Israel divided (p09khrxb.mp3)

Israel will soon have its first new prime minister in over 12 years if a freshly formed coalition holds. Benjamin Netanyahu is the country's longest serving leader, but in recent years he’s presided over an increasingly fractious political system. In a recent speech Israel’s largely ceremonial president repeated his warning that the country's population has evolved into four unique groups, often attending separate schools and living in separate communities. Israel’s had four elections in two years and there’s talk of another before the end of 2021. Mr Netanyahu has been criticised from the right for failing to stop rockets being fired into Israel by the Palestinian group Hamas, and is accused from the left of encouraging extremist nationalists. But internationally he’s forged new alliances with Middle Eastern countries through the Abraham Accords, successfully persuaded the United States to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, and celebrated the moving of the US embassy to Jerusalem. After 15 years of leadership by the man they call ‘Bibi’, Israel is at a crossroads - but where will it go next? Are the religious and cultural divisions making the country ungovernable? What changes are needed in order to encourage the formation of more stable governments? And what could such changes mean for the country’s Arab minority? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-05-28 10:00:00

Why is corporate America getting political? (p09jv2rf.mp3)

This week Exxon Mobil saw a board revolt over its stance on climate change. One of the energy giant's biggest shareholders supported rival directors to successfully replace two Exxon board members with more green-friendly candidates. This reflects a growing trend across the United States of corporations and investors being more willing to take a stand on climate, race and other social issues. Following the new and restrictive voter laws in Georgia, Major League Baseball pulled its All Star Game from the state. Nike announced a fund to help Black communities during the Black Lives Matter protests. While these moves are being welcomed by many activists and politicians, there's also been a backlash from those saying CEOs should focus on serving customers and not get involved in debates. So, what's behind corporate America's desire to delve into issues not necessarily linked to their companies' bottom line? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss why corporate America is wading into politics.

From The Real Story at 2021-05-21 10:00:00

China in space (p09j58dr.mp3)

China has successfully landed and operated a rover on the surface of Mars, a feat only previously achieved by the United States. It follows Beijing’s successful robotic mission to the Moon to return lunar samples to Earth and comes just weeks after the launch into orbit of the first module of the country’s very own space station. China only sent its first human into space in 2003, but since then its technological capabilities have multiplied. But so too have the controversies. The mission to launch the space station module resulted in the uncontrolled return to Earth of debris from the Long March-5b rocket used, and a good deal of the ‘space junk’ currently orbiting the planet can be blamed on a Chinese missile test back in 2007. China says it has no intention of taking part in the militarisation of space and that its intentions are purely scientific. The country’s been banned from working with the United States and its partners on the International Space Station, but it is forming new alliances - with Beijing and Moscow agreeing to develop a joint base on the Moon. But what are the ultimate goals of China’s space programme? And as technologies needed to take humans to Mars are developed, are we about to witness a new ‘Space Race’? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-05-14 10:00:00

Ransomware on the rise in the US (p09hj34h.mp3)

A cyber-attack on an oil pipeline in the United States has caused widespread disruption and alarm. The Colonial Pipeline stretches thousands of kilometres from Texas to New Jersey and was shut down as a result of the attack, causing fuel shortages and price spikes on America's East Coast. This is the latest in a long list of recent ransomware attacks on US institutions and infrastructure, where groups have shut down crucial information networks or threatened to reveal trade secrets unless a fee was paid. President Biden has blamed a group based in Russia for the Colonial Pipeline attack; and while he did not hold Moscow directly responsible, he has blamed it and other nations for conducting cyber-espionage against America on a regular basis. Despite the advanced technological abilities of many US companies, and the investment of millions in digital security, hackers are continuing to find ways to break into government and commercial networks. So who are the hackers and how are their methods evolving? And how can the Biden administration ensure global cooperation in the fight against cyber-crime? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2021-05-07 10:00:00

Germany after Merkel (p09gvs1c.mp3)

Angela Merkel is the longest serving leader in the European Union. Known as Mutti, or mother, to her supporters, Merkel is credited with keeping Germany stable in the midst of global and European crises with her steely yet non-confrontational style of leadership. But the German Chancellor is stepping down later this year when the country goes to polls. Voters will then decide whether to choose a successor who'll maintain her style, or back more dramatic change. Support for Mrs Merkel’s CDU has dropped after a series of unpopular lockdowns and a patchy coronavirus vaccine rollout. The Greens, who are promising more climate-friendly policies at home and a pivot towards Nato and the United States abroad, are polling well. And the far right still garners hundreds of thousands of votes. So what does the future hold for Germany after 16 years of Angela Merkel? Will it now enter a period of uncertainty after years of stability? Does it have the right leadership to navigate the uncertainties of a post-Covid economic recovery? And how will it balance the economic and strategic interests of the United States and EU on one side, and Russia and China on the other? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2021-04-30 10:00:00

Is the EU stifling AI innovation? (p09g683d.mp3)

The European Commission has published draft proposals that will, if implemented, constitute the most expansive attempt anywhere in the world to regulate the use of artificial intelligence. AI is becoming increasingly commonplace and automating jobs previously done by humans. From the algorithms that decide which social media posts to show you, to help desk chatbots capable of answering your questions, many AI applications make our lives easier and are set to receive fairly ‘light touch’ regulation. Others, such as computer programmes capable of reading thousands of CVs and drawing up a shortlist of job applicants to be interviewed, have been accused of bias and will face extra scrutiny. But under the plan some more controversial technologies could be banned altogether - such as the deployment of real-time facial recognition systems in public spaces. Some in the industry welcome clear rules of the road, but others fear that restrictions will hamstring companies and force innovators to flee. The United States is a global leader in the development of AI and the EU hopes it will adopt similar measures. But industry figures there are warning that Europe’s proposals go too far and would, if mirrored in America, result in China gaining dominance of the sector as it develops similar capabilities - but free from many of the regulations likely in the West. So, which AIs are good, which are bad, and how should they be regulated? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-04-23 10:00:00

What is the cost of climate reform? (p09fh0xj.mp3)

It’s been a week of tough talk on climate action. President Biden set out US plans for fighting climate change and called on the industrialised world to join his efforts to dramatically slash carbon emissions this decade. The global shift towards a greener world is transforming the way we work and live, but for many the changes are coming at a steep cost. Fuel taxes have increased the cost of farming, the shutting down of carbon-intensive industries is disproportionately affecting those in low-paid jobs, and while many big businesses have the resources to go green, levies for failing to reduce carbon footprints are increasing costs for many small and medium-size businesses. So how can the burden of a green transition be shared more evenly? Is the world at risk of leaving marginalised communities behind, and - if so - what can be done to minimise any increase in inequality that results from attempts to battle climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-04-16 10:00:00

Why is Myanmar’s military killing civilians? (p09dt221.mp3)

Over 700 people, including children, have now died during pro-democracy protests in Myanmar following a coup on February 1st. Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing has declared a year-long emergency and promised to hold fresh elections at some time in the future. The armed forces of Myanmar are guaranteed a minimum number of seats in the nation’s parliament, retain control over many of the country’s institutions, and profit from a sprawling domestic business empire. But the military says the 2020 vote - which returned the governing NLD party under Aung San Suu Kyi to power with a larger majority – was flawed. Many politicians, including Ms Suu Kyi, are under arrest. She’s been charged with criminal offences and if found guilty can be barred from contesting future elections. The coup has taken place at a time when Myanmar, also known as Burma, is continuing to battle the coronavirus pandemic, an economic crisis, regional insurgencies and is also facing an international investigation into alleged war crimes over the killing and expulsion of tens of thousands of minority Rohingya people. So, what's behind the military's decision to row back democracy and attack its own citizens? And what can the international community do about it? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the military in Myanmar.

From The Real Story at 2021-04-09 10:00:00

Why is Russia massing troops near Ukraine? (p09d42d4.mp3)

The security situation in eastern Ukraine is flaring up again, seven years into a simmering conflict between Moscow and Kyiv that started with Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. Increased numbers of Russian armed forces have been moved to the region, Ukraine says two of its servicemen were killed earlier this week, and Moscow is blaming Ukraine for the death of a five-year-old in a reported explosion in a region controlled by Russian-backed separatists. The European Union is ‘severely concerned’ about the situation and the United States has put its troops in Europe on high alert. So why is Russia massing forces near Ukraine now? Is it a test for new US President Joe Biden and – if so – could it exacerbate tensions between the old Cold War rivals? What do events tell us about the intentions of Russia’s President Putin and Ukraine’s President Zelensky? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the latest escalating tensions between Ukraine, Russia and the West.

From The Real Story at 2021-04-02 10:00:00

What is the US plan for Africa? (p09cjnz1.mp3)

US special operations forces have agreed to help “support Mozambique's efforts to prevent the spread of terrorism and violent extremism”, with dozens of people reported killed during an Islamist attack in the north of the country this week. Joe Biden’s Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and other members of the global coalition against the Islamic State militant group have warned of a “serious and growing threat” from radical Islamists across Africa. But American’s interests in the region don’t end with security. Over recent years China has been extending its economic and military presence there and critics of Donald Trump’s presidency claim he failed to prioritise Africa policy - symbolised by the fact he didn’t visit during his 4 years in office. So, if the Biden administration is re-engaging with Africa, what does that mean? What should the priority be for US foreign policy across the continent? And what does China’s growing influence mean for America’s diplomatic credibility in the region? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-03-26 10:00:00

Covid mutants: What are the risks? (p09bv8qk.mp3)

A year into the Covid crisis, German Chancellor Angela Merkel this week announced her country was facing what amounts to ‘a new pandemic’. “The mutation from Great Britain has taken over,” she warned. “It is clearly more lethal, more contagious, and contagious longer.” Even in countries where attempts to vaccinate the population are continuing at pace, the threat from mutant variants that have shown a greater ability than the original pathogen to evade vaccines is threatening any recovery. The US Centers for Disease Control this week warned that variants now dominate cases in California, and that increased air travel for spring break - combined with a rise in the number of states easing mask and social distancing mandates - may result in another surge. The UK hopes to curb the spread of variants as part of its roadmap to reopening, but in the last week an adviser to Boris Johnson’s government warned that any return to international travel was “unlikely” given the threat new mutations pose. So how long will Covid variants rule our lives and what can be done to curb their influence? Paul Henley is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2021-03-18 20:33:00

Why are Asian Americans under attack? (p09b4hf4.mp3)

The killing of eight people at a number of massage parlors in Atlanta this week has brought fears that the crimes may have targeted Asian Americans. Six of the people killed were of Asian descent. Although it is not yet clear whether there was a racial motivation in the shootings, they come against a backdrop of a sharp rise in violent attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic. An elderly Thai immigrant died after being shoved to the ground, a Filipino-American had his face slashed on the subway and a Chinese woman was slapped and then set on fire. These are just some of the thousands of cases reported in the US in recent months. Advocates and activists say they are hate crimes, and often linked to political rhetoric that blames Asian people for the spread of Covid-19. They point to the language used during last year’s election campaign by Donald Trump, who used terms such as the “China virus” and “kung flu”. During his first prime-time address to the nation last week, President Joe Biden denounced the attacks as un-American and urged federal agencies to fight “a resurgence in xenophobia”. Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests as they discuss the causes of these attacks, who is carrying them out and what should be done about them.

From The Real Story at 2021-03-12 10:00:00

How dangerous are deepfakes? (p099fmg9.mp3)

When a series of chillingly convincing Tom Cruise deepfakes went viral on TikTok this month, it brought home how fast synthetic media technology is evolving. Deepfakes are like photoshop for video – using a form of artificial intelligence called deep learning to create a realistic depiction of fake events. Are we entering an era where AI will let anyone make fake videos of anyone else? What will be the implications for individual dignity and privacy, and the shaping of public opinion and spreading disinformation? How might the technology bring new story-lines to filmmakers and joy to people who can now hear from their deceased relatives? What are the ethics of these developments and how do we regulate the technology as it continues to get better? Ritula Shah and a panel of experts discuss how deep fakes might change the world – for better and worse - and what we need to do now to get ready.

From The Real Story at 2021-03-05 10:00:00

Can Biden reset US Saudi Arabia relations? (p098rbns.mp3)

It took President Joe Biden more than a month to schedule a phone call with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a contrast to his predecessor Donald Trump, who chose the kingdom as his first foreign destination after the election. Even though Saudi Arabia is considered a key ally in a volatile region, Mr Biden took a tough stance on the kingdom during his campaign. He promised to end the sale of offensive weapons used in Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, and accused its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, of directly ordering the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Mr Biden also pledged to restart nuclear talks with Iran, and further reduce America's dependence on fossil fuels, putting Washington at odds with the political and economic priorities of Riyadh. Now, as his administration looks for a reset of relations, what are the friction points in the decade old alliance between the two countries? Will a push for recalibration encourage Saudi Arabia to seek out new alliances at the expense of the United States? And can US policies succeed in the region by antagonising one of the leading countries in the Muslim world? Join Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2021-02-26 10:00:00

Has Covid rolled back democratic rights? (p0982gbm.mp3)

Countries around the world are using the coronavirus pandemic to 'crush dissent and silence independent reporting' according to the UN chief Antonio Guterres. He says some nations are using restrictions meant to halt the spread of Covid-19 to weaken political opposition. Governments say a tighter grip over freedom of expression is essential to curb disinformation and confusion at a time when societies are under lockdown. Countries with authoritarian tendencies aren't the only ones under fire - the criticisms are being leveled at governments with well-established democracies too. So what are governments trying to get away with under the cover of Covid? How have the changes taken away democratic rights, and can the trends be reversed? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss dissent in the time of Covid.

From The Real Story at 2021-02-19 10:00:00

Who should pay for the news? (p097dwzw.mp3)

Google this week signed multi-million dollar deals with a number of major news providers in Australia, agreeing to pay for the journalism it features on its new ‘News Showcase’ pages. It comes as Australia’s parliament debates a proposed new law that would force tech giants to negotiate with news outlets big and small. Facebook, which like Google opposes the draft law, responded by blocking access to news content on the platform nationwide. But critics argue the proposed laws don’t go far enough and that the traditional business model of funding journalism through advertising revenue is broken. The pandemic has meant reduced income for many small newsrooms, despite an apparent rise in appetite for local information surrounding Covid-19. If access to reliable news is crucial to the smooth running of democracy, who should step in to pay for the journalism voters need? When it comes to paying the bills, what is the future of news? Join Paul Henley and a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2021-02-12 10:00:00

Is China erasing Uighur culture? (p096r9wv.mp3)

This week, lawyers in London concluded that the genocide of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province by the Chinese government is a ‘very credible’ allegation. The London based court also said that it is ‘plausible’ that the country’s president, Xi Jinping, is driving that policy. The allegation of genocide - levelled by Uighur activists, international human rights groups, as well as the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken - stems from an industrial scale crackdown in China’s Xinjiang province which has seen more than a million Uighurs and other ethnic minority Muslims imprisoned in a vast network of camps, where people say they have been subjected to rape and torture. The Chinese government has vehemently rejected the claims. It says measures are necessary to put an end to violent attacks in the region and it describes the facilities as re-education centres. So, what do we know about what is really going on in Xinjiang? Is there any merit to China’s argument about the need to defeat violent extremism in the region? Why is the Communist party intent on assimilating Uighurs into Han Chinese cultural traditions? How much is Xi Jinping’s vision for China behind it, and to what extent is Uighur culture - with its unique history and traditions - at risk of being destroyed in Beijing’s plan? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether China is erasing Uighur culture.

From The Real Story at 2021-02-05 10:00:00

Cryptocurrencies: fad or the future? (p0962tv4.mp3)

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have been back in the news this week after the endorsement of SpaceX and Tesla boss Elon Musk. His comments prompted the price of bitcoin to rise sharply. It’s thought that a perfect storm of inflationary coronavirus stimulus spending by governments, plus eroding trust in financial markets is pushing investors towards the volatile investments. Hundreds of so called ‘alt-coins’ have followed Bitcoin into the highly unregulated cryptocurrency marketplace and worthless coins are being marketed on social media with prices rocketing hundreds of percentage points in minutes. It all has institutional investors wondering whether to dip their toes in for fear of missing out - and regulators scratching their heads about what to do next. New US treasury secretary Janet Yellen says cryptocurrencies are of ‘particular concern’ and the Indian government is now seeking to prohibit private cryptocurrencies altogether. So what are they and how have they evolved since the early days of Bitcoin a decade ago? Ritula Shah and a panel of guests discuss cryptocurrencies and what should be done about them.

From The Real Story at 2021-01-29 10:00:00

China's advance into Latin America (p095fjl2.mp3)

This month, in a highly unusual move, an American government agency bought nearly $3bn of debt from Ecuador that was owed to China. The aim – in the form of fresh loans – was to help Ecuador pay off 'predatory Chinese debt', strengthen its alliance with the United States and exclude Chinese companies from developing the country's telecoms network. Although the deal came at the end of the Trump presidency, it may encourage other South American countries to reach similar arrangements in the future. According to the UN, Chinese companies have invested $10bn a year in Latin America. Although the amount is far less than that of the United States, Chinese companies have made rapid inroads into the heart of Latin American economies, including in crucial sectors such as mining, power grids and telecommunications. There's speculation that many leaders find Chinese investment attractive because it's rarely tied to anti-corruption measures. Others say countries are walking into a Chinese-made 'debt trap' which will have negative economic consequences over the long run. So is China viewed by those across the region with suspicion, or as a welcome alternative to the United States - which has a controversial history operating outside its own borders? What's been the tangible impact of China's economic advances in Latin America, and will President Biden seek to cooperate with China in the region - or treat it as a strategic threat? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss China's growing influence in Latin America.

From The Real Story at 2021-01-22 09:00:00

Afghanistan: Hard choices for Biden (p094r04v.mp3)

The future of US troops in Afghanistan could be Joe Biden's first major foreign policy decision. Less than a year ago the Trump administration reached a deal with the Taliban to withdraw all American troops from the country. The Taliban promised to stop targeting US and NATO forces as they wound down their presence. Now, with the May deadline fast approaching, President Biden will need to decide whether to honour the agreement at a time when the Taliban is being blamed for a string of deadly attacks targeting journalists, judges and police officers. The Red Cross described Afghanistan as the deadliest country for civilians in 2020, but despite the violence the government in Kabul is continuing discussions with the Taliban over a framework for peace negotiations. The presence of foreign troops has provided some level of security against an enemy that controls swathes of the countryside, so what will happen if and when they leave? And could advances in gender equality and religious freedoms be rolled back as part of any final agreement? Join Ritula Shah and guests as they discuss the state of Afghanistan and the tough decisions the Biden administration will soon need to make.

From The Real Story at 2021-01-15 10:00:00

A damaged democracy (p0941cdv.mp3)

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.

From The Real Story at 2021-01-08 09:00:00

Britain after Brexit: What’s its role in the world? (p093d41z.mp3)

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.

From The Real Story at 2020-12-18 09:00:00

Big Tech under pressure (p091rz7m.mp3)

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.

From The Real Story at 2020-12-11 10:00:00

Is Macron marginalising France's Muslims? (p09129mb.mp3)

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.

From The Real Story at 2020-12-04 09:00:00

Is Biden facing a new Middle East? (p090fmv4.mp3)

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.

From The Real Story at 2020-11-27 10:00:00

Covid vaccines: An opportunity for science? (p08zr471.mp3)

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.

From The Real Story at 2020-11-20 10:00:00

Ethiopia Crisis: High stakes for Africa (p08z0pz9.mp3)

The fighting between Ethiopian federal troops and regional forces in Tigray has forced thousands of people to flee to Sudan for safety. The UN has warned of a full-scale humanitarian crisis. Ethiopia's Nobel Peace Prize winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, says there will be no let-up in his government's 'law enforcement' mission. His aim is to arrest and put on trial TPLF party politicians who he alleges have put the country's constitution in danger. Ethiopia plays a key role in maintaining security in the Horn of Africa. With a population of more than 110 million, and one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, what happens in Ethiopia will inevitably have a wider regional impact. So how did the TPLF - a group which once dominated Ethiopian politics - end up being accused of destroying national unity? Did PM Ahmed opt for a military confrontation before all avenues for negotiation were explored? And what role should Ethiopia's neighbours play in this conflict? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2020-11-13 09:00:00

Climate change: Can Biden make a difference? (p08y8mp7.mp3)

President-elect Joe Biden has said that one of the first acts of his presidency will be to return the United States to the Paris climate change agreement. His administration is proposing to make US electricity production carbon-free by 2035 and to have the country achieve 'net zero' emissions by the middle of the century. In 2015 the United States played a leading role in bringing together 195 countries that pledged to work together to keep the global temperature rise below two degrees Celsius. But less than six months after taking office Donald Trump said he’d withdraw from the agreement, claiming it was putting American jobs and the economy at risk. By the end of the Trump presidency the US had left - and had also rolled back dozens of environmental protections and implemented plans to expand drilling for oil and gas into public lands. So what has four years of President Trump done to global efforts to tackle climate change? How will America's return to the top table under a Democratic leader change the picture? Will President-elect Biden have the support he needs from Congress and the American people to meet his ambitious targets? And what now for US leadership in persuading other countries to commit fully to fighting climate change? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of expert guests.

From The Real Story at 2020-11-06 10:00:00

Is Trumpism here to stay? (p08xjdw9.mp3)

Before this week's US presidential election, some predicted a landslide win for Joe Biden and a stark repudiation of the Trump years. That didn't happen. The intense criticism of President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic seems to have done little in changing the minds of his core supporters; and former Vice President Joe Biden's appeal for unity seems to have fallen flat in key states like Florida and Texas. Mr Biden called the 2020 election a fight for the nation’s soul. So what does the strong showing for President Trump say about the impact he has had on American politics? Is there such thing as 'Trumpism' and - if so - what defines it? How has he changed the relationship between the presidency and the other branches of government? His willingness to question democratic institutions has set him apart from predecessors - so how lasting will his style of leadership be? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss whether 'Trumpism' is here to stay.

From The Real Story at 2020-10-30 10:00:00

US v China: A new Cold War? (p08wvg7b.mp3)

The central committee of China’s ruling Communist Party has been meeting this week in Beijing to map out its priorities for the next five years. While Americans decide whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden will set the direction of US foreign policy going forward, there is little doubt that Chinese President Xi Jinping will remain in his post for the foreseeable future - party leaders have already abolished his term limits. Whoever wins on 3 Nov, Beijing is likely to continue advancing its interests across the Asia-Pacific region and globally, often at odds with US goals. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned more must be done to avoid ‘a new Cold War’, adding: "our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a great fracture - each with its own trade and financial rules and internet and artificial intelligence capacities.” But as the Communist Party continues to successfully grow the Chinese economy and its influence overseas - while at the same time refusing to give ground on human rights or democratic reforms - is such a split inevitable? China’s military is expanding and the number of countries relying on investment from Beijing is growing too. As the country becomes more technologically and economically self-sufficient, are the chances of avoiding a global schism decreasing? Are we about to witness a new Cold War? Ritula Shah is joined by a panel of experts.

From The Real Story at 2020-10-23 10:00:00

What next for US foreign policy? (p08w2jks.mp3)

While US domestic policy has taken centre stage in the race for the White House, whichever man wins the presidency will also help define America’s place in the world for years to come. President Trump won 2016’s election, in part, on promising to reduce the number of military and diplomatic entanglements the country was involved in across the globe. In the Middle East he pulled US forces out of Syria, withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated during the Obama administration, and has strengthened ties with regional allies such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In Asia the US is engaged in a trade war with its single biggest trading partner - China. During his first term Donald Trump also had a frosty relationship with many of his NATO allies - and a much closer one with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin than any of his predecessors. Did those newly-defined strategic partnerships herald new achievements? Joe Biden has promised to turn back the clock on many of Mr Trump’s ‘America First’ themed policies, but which ones? And has the role the US plays on the world stage changed forever? As part of the BBC World Service's 'US Elections 2020: What the World Wants' series, Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss what's next for American foreign policy.

From The Real Story at 2020-10-16 09:00:00

How dangerous is North Korea? (p08vdxr1.mp3)

This week North Korea celebrated 75 years of communism with a military parade at which it unveiled an giant intercontinental missile. The heavily choreographed event featured all the pomp and circumstance the world has come to expect from North Korea's mass human performances. It also contained a surprisingly emotional speech from Chairman Kim Jong-Un, who at times wept as he spoke about the country's struggles. The country’s first military parade in two years signalled a shift back to the more aggressive stance it used to adopt before the now stalled nuclear talks with the Trump administration. So is there any hope that temporary thaw created enduring opportunities for engagement with the rest of the world - or are we seeing a return to past behaviour? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss - how dangerous is North Korea?

From The Real Story at 2020-10-09 10:00:00

India's Dalits: Fighting for justice (p08ts08d.mp3)

The alleged rape and subsequent death of a 19-year-old woman in India has again shone a spotlight on caste-based violence against the Dalit community – formerly known as “untouchables”. According to official figures, men from India's upper castes rape ten Dalit women a day. Although the northern state of Uttar Pradesh records the highest number of such cases, caste-based violence and discrimination is prevalent throughout the country and in Indian communities around the world. Dalits make up nearly twenty percent of India's population and were given equal protection under the constitution after independence from Britain. But rights groups say while many Dalits have been able to take advantage of quota systems to move up the economic ladder, violence and discrimination against the community is worsening. The current racial justice movement in the United States is inspiring Dalit activists to be move assertive in speaking up for their rights – but what gains can Dalits expect to make? What is at the core of the discrimination and prejudice against them? And why are Dalit women especially targeted for sexual violence? Ritula Shah and guests discuss the future of Dalits in India.

From The Real Story at 2020-10-01 20:27:00

Turkey flexes on the world stage (p08t3fhr.mp3)

The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has taken on a new dimension with the alleged involvement of the Turkish military. Armenia says one of its fighter jets was shot down by a Turkish aircraft over the disputed central Asian region of Nagorno-Karabakh. In the summer, France accused the Turkish navy of confronting one of its frigates in pursuit of a vessel suspected of taking arms to Libya. Meanwhile Turkey's understanding with Russia and Iran over the war in Syria has strained its ties with Washington, as well as several Gulf countries. So do these events suggest that Ankara is becoming more assertive in its foreign policy? Or is this the reaction of a country that finds itself isolated and is being forced to act in order to preserve its interests? Does Turkey still see a future in NATO? And what is the long term vision of president Erdogan; are his critics right to accuse him of trying to return the country to its Ottoman past?

From The Real Story at 2020-09-25 10:00:00

Covid-19: What's best for the elderly? (p08sgj8n.mp3)

Governments across Europe have this week introduced new measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports that over the past fortnight five countries have reported over 120 cases per 100,000 residents, including Spain, France, and the Czech Republic. But the increased restrictions on freedom of movement and congregation in many countries is sparking push-back from some, who argue that the elderly should be shielded - while the rest of society returns to some semblance of normality. It’s a suggestion British Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected this week during an address to the nation. He said such a policy wouldn’t be ‘realistic’ - insisting widespread transmission of the virus would inevitably see infection rates rise in vulnerable communities too. But after months of effectively being locked away from the outside world, many of those who’ve been shielding from the virus are now showing signs of adverse physical and mental health problems due to isolation. So as the pandemic grinds on, are attempts to protect the elderly from exposure to the coronavirus prompting other health crises - and what can be done to keep them safe and happy? Ritula Shah and a panel of expert guests discuss - what is the best approach for the elderly?