Inquiry, The [world Service]

Episodes

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20141104

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping t.

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.

2016111520161119 (WS)

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.

2016112920161203 (WS)

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.

27/09/2016 Gmt2016092720161002 (WS)

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.

Are Sanctions Hurting Putin?20141118

Will sanctions force President Putin to change course in Ukraine?

Vladimir Putin certainly knows how the West views his actions in Ukraine. Sanctions have been in place against Russia for months. There is talk of toughening them. At the G20 meeting in Australia he was rebuked by Angela Merkel, Stephen Harper and other leaders, before flying home early. But are sanctions having any real effect on the Russian president? Are they likely to force him to change course in Ukraine? We hear from a top Moscow economist Natalia Orlova, a Putin loyalist in Vladivostok, veteran European diplomat Sir Robert Cooper and Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in Global Affairs and a close Putin-watcher.

(Photo: President Vladimir Putin. Credit: AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Are We Fighting Cancer The Right Way?2016020220160207 (WS)

The World Health Organisation says the number of cancer cases will rise by 70% over the next 20 years. A huge amount of effort and money is spent fighting the disease. But are we getting that fight right? One leading oncologist, Vincent DeVita, tells us the nature of modern medical research and oversight means we are not able to benefit as much as we might from the extraordinary clinical tools we have at our disposal. Another expert witness, professor Heidi Williams from MIT, describes research which shows incentives for drug companies promote short term gains over treatments that could cure early stage cancers. Dr Christopher Wild from the WHO says it does not make sense to spend most of the cancer research budget on cures when up to 40% of cancers are preventable. And, Pekka Puska, a pioneer in the world of public health, explains how communities can make big changes and prevent many cases of lifestyle-related cancers.

(Photo: Lab Technician preparing protein, Credit: Reuters Archive)

The rising number of cancer cases worldwide poses a challenge for doctors and governments

Are We Fighting Cancer The Right Way?2016053120160604 (WS)
20160605 (WS)

The World Health Organisation says the number of cancer cases will rise by 70% over the next 20 years. A huge amount of effort and money is spent fighting the disease. But are we getting that fight right? In this special hour-long edition of The Inquiry four expert witnesses tell us new ideas are being stifled, that there is not enough money being spent on drugs to treat early-stage cancer and that we are not doing enough to stop people from getting cancer in the first place. We put that evidence to someone in a position to do something about it - Dr Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, the world's largest biomedical research agency, with a budget of $32 billion.

(Photo: Lab Technician preparing protein. Credit: Reuters)

The World Health Organisation says cancer rates around the world are rising fast

Are We Really About To End World Poverty?2016061420160619 (WS)

The UN thinks ending extreme poverty is within our grasp

“More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery,? declared President Truman at his second inauguration. “For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people.? That was 1949.

It is a claim we have heard many times since - that ending poverty is within our grasp. But it is a dream which has - despite decades of effort - eluded us. Now the United Nations has set a new target - to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Will it be different this time?

We have already come a long way. For the first time in history fewer than 1 in 10 people are poor around the world. A billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. But achieving the UN's new goal means reaching another 836 million people in the next 14 years. And that will be tough.

Are we really about to end world poverty? Our experts include an economics professor who was himself born into poverty in China, and Helen Clark, who hopes to be the next leader of the United Nations.

Can A Corrupt Country Get Clean?20161011

How the small country of Georgia kicked out corruption, but with drastic measures

The International Monetary Fund says corruption siphons $2 trillion a year out of the global economy, slowing growth and fuelling poverty. Endemic corruption is very hard to deal with. But not impossible. We tell the astonishing story of one country – Georgia – which did turn itself around. At the turn of the century Georgia was one of the most corrupt states in the world. Now it is one of the cleanest. How did it do it?

(Photo: Two men in suits shake hands while one puts money into the pocket of the other. Credit: Shutterstock)

Can €islamic State’ Be Defeated?2015112120151122 (WS)
20151124 (WS)

We first asked this question over a year ago. So far, the answer has been no. The attacks in Paris killed 129 people. The day before that 43 people died when suicide bombers hit Beirut. Nearly two weeks before that a Russian passenger jet exploded over Egypt, killing all 224 people on board. The group calling itself Islamic State has claimed responsibility for all these attacks. If true, in two weeks, they have killed almost 400 civilians, in places way beyond the areas they control in Syria and Iraq. And they would have managed all that while being challenged on the ground by Kurdish fighters and bombed from the air, by coalition war planes, over 8,000 times. Can IS be defeated? We have gone back to the same expert witnesses we met the first time we asked the question. Now, over a year later, we want to know whether their answers have changed.

(Photo: Female Kurdish soldier on the frontline against ISIL, Credit: Getty Images)

Expert answers to the urgent question on defeating the group calling itself Islamic State

Can Colombia Reintegrate The Farc?2016072620160731 (WS)

How to bring thousands of jungle fighters into society after 50 years of conflict

After more than 50 years of armed conflict that has left 200,000 dead and millions displaced, Colombia is on the brink of peace. A final deal between the government and the Farc guerrilla movement is expected to be signed soon. Thousands of armed fighters will then lay down their weapons in preparation for reintegration into a society from which they have been estranged for years. But the process will not be easy – for the Farc’s fighters, or for the rest of Colombian society.

(Photo: Fighters of the Front 53, a faction of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrilla movement, in Los Alpes, 150km south-east of Bogota. Credit: Getty Images)

Can Coral Reefs Survive?2016090620160911 (WS)

Over the past eight months almost a quarter of the Great Barrier Reef has died – according to some estimates – because of coral bleaching, which can happen when sea temperatures rise. It's not the first time coral has bleached. It happened once or twice in the early 20th century after periods of warm weather. But, since the 1980s, coral bleaching has been happening regularly. And this year's Great Barrier Reef ‘bleaching event’ is the longest in history. Some say it signals the beginning of the end for coral reefs. There are though, rays of hope. In this Inquiry you'll hear from scientists who are pioneering some extraordinary ways of trying to help coral withstand warmer seas. They're hoping they're not already too late.

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Photo: Australia's Great Barrier Reef, climate change is posing the most serious threat to the extensive coral reef ecosystem. Credit: Getty images)

As sea temperatures rise, coral reefs are in decline

Can Islamic State Be Stopped?2014102820141101 (WS)
20141102 (WS)

Expert witnesses outline a strategy to defeat violent jihadis in Syria and Iraq.

The sudden rise of Islamic State in June shocked the world. It now controls a swathe of desert in Syria and Iraq and has declared a caliphate. Iraq’s second city, Mosul, has fallen to the militants and they are menacing the capital, Baghdad. Western powers and their Gulf Arab allies have responded with war planes and bombs. The American general in charge of the campaign says it is buying time for the Iraqi Army to regroup and counter attack. But what would a long-term plan to defeat Islamic State look like? The Inquiry’s panel of experts have some thought-provoking ideas.

Can Nigeria End Oil Corruption?2015102020151025 (WS)

President Buhari’s promise to end decades of corruption in the oil industry

Oil accounts for around 75% of Nigeria’s economy, but no-one knows how much the country produces or refines. It means corruption is rife. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil are stolen every day, at each level of the supply chain.

It is a problem that has cost the Nigerian economy billions of dollars, and weakened its public services and infrastructure. Schools and hospitals are paid for, but never built; citizens are forced to pay bribes for basic services.

Many believe Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, is the man to end this decades-old problem. He says he will do it, and has taken personal control of the oil ministry. But it is a huge task he has set himself. So, can Nigeria end oil corruption?

(Photo: Buhari inauguration. Credit: AP)

Can The Eu Survive?2016062820160703 (WS)

The UK has voted to leave the EU, sending shockwaves through Britain’s political class and its economy. Whatever the fate of Britain – and many fear years of damaging instability – Brexit is a serious blow to the European Union. Britain is far from the only member state with doubts about the scope of the European project. There are strong Eurosceptic movements in many other nations too. Some think the British precedent will boost their influence or that other nations will be able to use the threat of exit to undermine shared decision-making. And the loss of Britain – which is still, for now, Europe’s second-largest economy – could leave the Union precariously unbalanced, with Germany too dominant within it. As the EU contemplates an uncertain future, we are asking whether the EU even has a future without the United Kingdom. Presented by Chris Bowlby.

(Photo: David Cameron, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bulgarian Prime minister Roesen Plevneliev, Eurozone finance ministers with bank notes, euro coins and a map of Europe in the background. Credit: Getty Images)

The fate of the European Union without Britain

Can Trump Win?2016071220160717 (WS)

Evaluating Donald Trump’s chances of taking the White House

Donald Trump has shocked the US political establishment by knocking out every other Republican candidate to become his party’s presumptive candidate for President. Does he have a realistic shot of taking the White House? His campaign is short of money and some senior Republicans are refusing to endorse him. Current polls suggest his chances are slim. But his message has found an audience other politicians have failed to reach – he has become a lightning rod for many disaffected Americans. So, our question this week, can Trump win?

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Photo: Donald Trump, presidential candidate 2016. Credit: Getty Images)

Can We Learn To Live With Nuclear Power?2015090120150906 (WS)

In 2011, following a devastating tsunami, Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station went into meltdown, leaking radiation. It was the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl. It appeared to send the nuclear power industry into retreat – and not just in Japan. Other nations had second thoughts too. Germany decided to phase out its nuclear reactors altogether. But now Japan has resumed nuclear power generation. At the heart of the 'nuclear wobble' of 2011 is the question of risk. Attitudes to, and understanding of, risk vary surprisingly between nations and cultures. But after one of the most shocking incidents in nuclear power's history, will we be able to cope with our fears? In other words, can we learn to live with nuclear power?

(Photo: A Czech Power plant. Credit: AP)

After the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the country is turning its reactors back on.

Can We Quake-proof A City?2016032220160327 (WS)

They are at once the most predictable and unpredictable killers. We know continent-sized slabs of earth are moving beneath our feet. We know they move at a speed that is often harmless - the same rate as our fingernails grow. But sometimes, without warning, they can slip tens of metres in a second - and bring down whole cities. About a million people have died in earthquakes in the last two decades, most in a handful of huge quakes in urban areas. Yet the populations of cities at risk continue to grow. So, how can we quake-proof a city?

(Photo: A general view shows excavator vehicles and rescue workers in front of a building which collapsed in the 6.4 magnitude earthquake, in the southern Taiwanese city of Tainan early on 9 February, 2016. Credit: Getty Images)

Earthquakes have killed a million people in the last two decades

Can You Make Bankers Behave Better?2016070520160710 (WS)

The $5bn settlement recently agreed by Goldman Sachs is the latest in a long list of multi-billion dollar fines paid by banks implicated in the 2008 financial crisis. But behind these giant corporations are individual bankers, taking everyday decisions. It is those decisions which really matter. If you could find a way to nudge bankers towards better and safer choices, building a culture of integrity, you might avoid future financial trouble. But can you make bankers behave better? Taking evidence from witnesses including a Goldman Sachs insider and a regulator deploying psychologists in banks, The Inquiry looks for an answer.

(Photo Montage: Bankers/Stock market charts/City of London. Credit to Getty)

Exploring how individual bankers might be nudged into better and safer choices

Do Drone Strikes Work?2015092920151004 (WS)

The United States, UK, Israel and now Pakistan all use drone strikes to kill. In September a general in the Pakistani army announced their first ever use of an armed drone. It was directed at a terrorist compound, he said, and killed three. Meanwhile the US is thought to have launched a secret drone campaign to kill so-called Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Armed drones are the counter-terrorism weapon of choice, capable of killing militants from a distance and without putting military personnel in harm’s way. But critics question how far they bolster wider attempts to defeat terrorism. So, do drone strikes work?

(Photo: Reaper flies without pilot. Credit: Getty Images)

The impact of drones, America’s counter-terrorism weapon of choice

Do We Have Enough Genders?2016011220160117 (WS)

Gender identity is considered more fluid than ever thanks to the trans movement

Gender identity is considered more fluid than ever because of the success of the trans movement. But most trans people, just like everyone else, still identify as either a man or a women. For those who feel they are neither – or both – the male-female distinction does not fit. And, for the one in 2000 who are born with indeterminate sex, finding a place in this binary world can be damaging.

So, are there enough genders? We hear from Dr Imran Mushtaq, who works with intersex children at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London; bi-gender vlogger Brin Convenient; Tamara Adrian, Venezuela’s first transgender congresswomen (who wants gender erased from official forms); and the writer Mark Gevisser.

(Photo: Transgender transsexual concept. Credit: Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Do We Have Enough Genders?2016041220160417 (WS)

Gender identity is considered more fluid than ever

Gender identity is considered more fluid than ever because of the success of the trans movement. But most trans people, just like everyone else, still identify as either a man or a women. For those who feel they are neither – or both – the male/female distinction does not fit. And for the one in 2000 who are born with indeterminate sex, finding a place in this binary world can be damaging.

We hear from Dr Imran Mushtaq, who works with intersex children at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London; bi-gender vlogger Brin Convenient; Tamara Adrian, Venezuela’s first transgender congresswomen (who wants gender erased from official forms); and the writer Mark Gevisser.

This programme is part of the World Service Identity Season.

(Photo: Transgender transsexual concept. Credit: Thinkstock by Getty Images)

Does Turkey Still Want To Join The Eu?2016121320161217 (WS)

Turkey first applied to join the European club over 50 years ago. Over the subsequent decades-long flirtation, enthusiasm for the EU in Turkey has remained high. Integrating with Europe, it was thought, would spur modernisation and economic development. But the country is changing under President Erdogan – who recently survived a coup attempt – in ways which deepen doubts in Europe about whether Turkey really shares its values. And enthusiasm in Turkey for the EU has begun to ebb away, as fewer and fewer Turks believe the EU will ever fully embrace them. So, our question this week: does Turkey still want to join the EU?

Contributors: Aykan Erdemir, former Turkish politician; Amberin Zaman, journalist and fellow at the Wilson Center; Senem Aydın-Düzgit, professor in international relations at Sabancı University; and Sinan Ulgen, scholar in Turkish foreign relations at Carnegie Europe.

Presenter: Chris Morris

Producer: Julia Ross

(Photo: European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the EU Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 05 October 2015. BBC Copyright, Elvis)

Turkey and the EU: it’s complicated

The Inquiry gets beyond the headlines to explore the trends, forces and ideas shaping the world.

Has President Assad Won?2016022320160228 (WS)

Bashar al-Assad still rules Syria after five years of war

Bashar al-Assad and his Syrian National Army appear to have the upper hand. The president has the momentum in a civil war that has raged for five years. It is a very different picture from that of 2011, when a wave of popular protests spread through the country and the international community demanded Mr Assad’s resignation as his army brutally crushed demonstrations.

At home, he remains in the presidential palace, supported by his inner circle. Russian air strikes and support from Iranian Revolutionary Guards have helped the Syrian leader win key battles. And on the international stage, the threat from so-called Islamic State and the role of jihadi groups within the opposition have caused those countries which wanted him gone to consider whether that remains a viable policy. So, has President Assad won?

(Photo: President Assad makes a speech. Credit: AP)

Has Russia Won In Ukraine?2016080920160814 (WS)

The fighting in Ukraine has fallen off the front pages recently after making headline news in 2014. But Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists are still engaged in a frozen conflict with no military or diplomatic solution in sight. Soldiers, rebels and civilians are dying. It looks good for Russia. Ukraine lacks the military power and international support to take back the East of the country where Russian-backed separatists hold huge swathes of land. And President Putin’s approval ratings at home have soared thanks to his annexation of Crimea in 2014. But does this mean Russia has won in Ukraine?

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Photo: Separatist soldiers stand on a military vehicle during a city celebration on September 14, 2014 in Lugansk, Ukraine. Credit to Getty Images)

President Putin’s short term gains may come at a cost

Have We Underestimated Plants?20151117

New research suggests plants might be capable of more than many of us might expect. Some – controversially – even describe plants as “intelligent?, or even “sentient? So, this week, we’re asking: have we underestimated plants? Our expert witnesses include an academic studying how networks of trees communicate through what she describes as a “wood wide web?, and the pioneer who is using plants to develop robotics.

(Photo: US-Fall-Shenandoah, Credit: Getty Images)

An exploration of what plants are capable of and what we can learn from them.

Have We Underestimated Plants?20151129

New research suggests plants might be capable of more than many of us might expect. Some – controversially – even describe plants as “intelligent?, or even “sentient? So, this week, we’re asking: have we underestimated plants? Our expert witnesses include an academic studying how networks of trees communicate through what she describes as a “wood wide web?, and the pioneer who is using plants to develop robotics. (Photo: US-Fall-Shenandoah, Credit: Getty Images)

How Did Governments Lose Control Of Encryption?2016030120160306 (WS)

The clash between Apple and the FBI is the latest battle in a century-long conflict over the power to keep secrets. The FBI wants Apple to build a “backdoor to the iPhone? so that it can read encrypted data on a locked phone used by one of the San Bernadino attackers.

Apple says such a backdoor would be the equivalent of “a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks? Creating such a key, Apple says, would “undermine decades of security advancements?

Cryptography was once controlled by the state, which deployed it for military and diplomatic ends. But in the 1970s, long-haired hippy Whitfield Diffie came up with what has been described as the most revolutionary concept in encryption since the Renaissance.

Diffie’s invention took the keys away from the state and marked the start of the ‘Crypto Wars’ – the fight for the right of individuals and companies to communicate beyond the gaze of government agencies. The Inquiry tells the compelling story of the ongoing encryption war, taking evidence from expert witnesses including Whitfield Diffie himself.

(Photo: Rally support for Apple refusal to help FBI. Credit: EPA Wires)

Spies, hippies, jihadis and the ongoing conflict over the power to keep secrets.

How Did Iceland Clean Up Its Banks (and Why Can't We)?2016020920160214 (WS)

Iceland put its prime minister on trial, cleaned up its banks and jailed senior bankers

At 4pm on 6 October 2008, as the global financial crisis ravaged Iceland’s economy, its prime minister addressed the nation. "There is a danger, fellow citizens," he said, "that Iceland could be sucked into the whirlpool and the result could be national bankruptcy. It was decided this morning to suspend trading with the banks. God Bless Iceland.?

The message was clear. Iceland was about to do what no other country had done - let its banking sector fail. And that was only the start. Over the coming years, Iceland would go on to do much more - clean up its banks and prosecute many senior bankers. And the story is still unfolding. Just two months ago, five more bank executives were jailed. So how exactly has Iceland done it? What happened next to Iceland’s economy? And why aren’t other nations following Iceland’s example?

(Photo: Protest against the Icelandic government 29 November 2008 in Reykjavik. Credit AFP/Getty Images)

How Did We Mess Up Antibiotics?2016101820161023 (WS)

We are moving towards a world where antibiotics no longer work.

Warnings about the approaching post-antibiotics apocalypse have been sounding for years. There are now strains of deadly bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics. This means that doctors are faced with patients who have completely untreatable infections. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are dying due to antibiotic resistance - and this number is set to rise rapidly. If we carry on like this, scientists predict we will return to a pre-antibiotic era, where organ transplants, chemotherapy and C-sections are impossible.

We’ve come a long way since 1928, when the famous chance discovery of penicillin led to a golden age in which antibiotics were seen as wonder drugs, heralding in an age of huge medical advances and increased human life spans. But by the 1990s we were running out of new antibiotics and infections were again a killer. How did this happen?

Our expert witnesses are: Medic and historian, Dr Eric Sidebottom, Dr Scott Podolsky of Harvard Medical School, journalist Maryn McKenna and infectious disease specialist Brad Spellberg.

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Photo: A depiction EHEC bacteria. Credit: HZI/Getty Images)

How Did We Save The Ozone Layer?2016080220160807 (WS)

On 30 June this year, a study was released in one of the world's top scientific journals. It explained how a group of scientists who had been measuring the amount of ozone in the stratosphere had made a startling observation - the hole in the ozone layer had shrunk. Here, they said, was the first, clear evidence that the ozone layer had begun to heal. So how did this happen? It is a story that involves dogged scientific endeavour, the burgeoning green movement of the 1980s and the signing of what has been described as the most successful treaty ever created.

(Photo: Severe thinning of Earth's protective ozone layer found over Antarctica, by Nasa scientists. Credit: Getty Images)

How scientists, campaigners, business and government came together to avert disaster

How Do Cartels Get Drugs Into The Us?2015120120151206 (WS)

In November the US Drug Enforcement Administration issued its Drug Threat Assessment. Mexican ‘transnational criminal organisations’, it said, are the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana to the United States. Drugs – the DEA says – are killing 46,000 Americans a year. But between Mexico’s criminal enterprises, and their clients, is a vast expanse of difficult geography and an international border. So, how do cartels get drugs into the US? The Inquiry hears from serving US law enforcement personnel tasked with intercepting drugs shipments. Their stories – of tunnels, “narco-subs? and complex criminal networks – are astonishing.

(Photo: Narco-Submarines, Credit: Reuters)

How drugs get into the US via tunnels, “narco-subs? and complex criminal networks

How Do We Fix Antibiotics?2016102520161030 (WS)

From Komodo dragons to Dutch pigs – some promising solutions to the antibiotics crisis

By 2050, experts predict that drug-resistant infections will kill one person every three seconds unless the world’s governments take drastic steps now. But given the complexity of antibiotics resistance, what should their plan be? Some of the possible fixes involve changing ingrained human behaviours such as doctors’ prescribing habits and the intensive farming of animals. But other promising solutions to avert a post-antibiotics apocalypse come from surprising sources. Scientists are now hunting for undiscovered fungi in the world’s most remote places while other researchers stay in the lab deciphering the language of bacteria.

(Photo: A depiction of some EHEC bacteria Credit: HZI/Getty Images)

How Do You Save The Rhino?2015102720151101 (WS)

Rhinos are in trouble. The ancient Sumatran rhino has just been declared extinct in Malaysia, following the fate of black rhinos in West Africa in 2011. Central Africa's northern white rhino has been reduced to four - yes, four - animals, and conservationists say the more plentiful southern white rhinos are under unprecedented attack from poachers eager to sell the horns to Asian and Arab buyers. This week The Inquiry hears four very different answers to the question: How do you save the rhino? Experts include Namibia’s first female dangerous game professional hunter and one of China’s biggest celebrities and campaigner, Yao Ming.

(Image: A baby rhino and an adult rhino. Credit: Getty Images)

How hunting and even legalising the trade in horn might save this endangered species

How Has The Us Gun Lobby Been So Successful?2016012620160131 (WS)

When President Obama wept at a recent press conference to announce action on gun control, his tears might have been born of frustration as well as sadness. Despite frequent mass-shootings, events which some might think would strengthen the case for tighter gun laws, it is difficult for any politician or party to change the rules on gun ownership in the US. One organisation is often credited with, or blamed for that - the National Rifle Association, or NRA.

This programme is not about the arguments over gun control but about the NRA itself. Few could dispute its success. Even if one allows for the possibility that it reflects the public mood, rather than shapes it, it has unquestionably changed the gun debate in Washington DC. So how has it done it? Former NRA insiders recall how the NRA was transformed from a hunting and marksmanship club into a political lobbying group in the 1970s, and the tactics it used from then on to influence Washington lawmakers by organising its huge grass roots base.

(Photo: US-Politics-Guns-NRA, Credit: Karen Bleier/Getty Images)

The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful organisations in the US

How Much Inequality Is Too Much?2016010520160110 (WS)

The richest 10% of Americans earn half of all of income. In Britain, the top 10% hold 40% of all the income. Inequality is not just an issue for rich countries. A billion people have been lifted out of poverty since 1990, and inequality has been rising in many other countries too. So, how much inequality is too much? Many may recoil from such a question - inequality is a dirty word. But this programme isn't about fairness. This programme is about economics – and how far inequality affects growth and prosperity. Presented by Linda Yueh.

(Photo: A woman walks past a poor man. Credit: Getty Images)

How far does inequality affect growth and prosperity?

How Will A Population Boom Change Africa?2015090820150913 (WS)

The UN forecasts that the number of people living in Africa will double in the next 35 years. Nigeria, the fastest-growing nation, is expected to become the third largest country in the world by 2050. By the end of the century, almost 40% of the world’s population will live on this one continent. It raises questions about how countries – some of which are already facing big challenges – will cope with twice the number of inhabitants in just one generation. There are fears about the impact a demographic explosion will have on health, society and the environment. But others say Africa’s population boom could turn out to be a good news story. Ruth Alexander asks - how will a population boom change Africa?

(Photo: Onitsha-Asaba Highway. Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/Getty Images)

The UN forecasts that the number of people living in Africa will double in 35 years

How Will A Population Boom Change Africa?2015122220151227 (WS)

The UN forecasts that the number of people living in Africa will double in the next 35 years. Nigeria, the fastest-growing nation, is expected to become the third-largest country in the world by 2050. By the end of the century, almost 40% of the world’s population will live on this one continent. It raises questions about how countries – some of which are already facing big challenges – will cope with twice the number of inhabitants in just one generation. There are fears about the impact a demographic explosion will have on health, society and the environment. But others say Africa’s population boom could turn out to be a good news story. How will a population boom change Africa? Ruth Alexander investigates.

(Photo: Onitsha-Asaba Highway. Credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/Getty Images)

The UN forecasts that the number of people living in Africa will double in 35 years

How Will Virtual Reality Change Our Lives?2016051720160522 (WS)

VR is finally a reality, and could affect everything from gaming to psychology

Virtual Reality has been with us – at least as an idea – for many decades. Now the technology has come of age. So far the most obvious beneficiaries are gamers, for whom VR headsets can hugely enhance the gaming experience. But there is much more to VR than that. Facebook is investing heavily, seeing VR as a communication tool which can create a sense of proximity far beyond what you might feel speaking to someone over video. There is also evidence that VR could change not just how we go about our day-to-day lives – but also how we think. How will virtual reality change our lives?

(Photo: 3D render of man wearing virtual reality glasses surrounded by virtual data. Credit: Shutterstock)

Is Brexit Inevitable?2016071920160724 (WS)

Britain’s PM says “Brexit means Brexit? But some have suggested it might never happen

“Brexit means Brexit,? says Theresa May, Britain’s new prime minister. It sounds pretty unequivocal: the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, so that’s what it must do. But credible figures from US Secretary of State John Kerry to former prime minister Tony Blair have suggested that Brexit may not actually happen. Is that – legally, politically, democratically – possible? The Inquiry has the answer.

Presenter: Maria Margaronis

(Photo: Illustration flags of the European Union and the Union flag sit on top of a sand castle on a beach in Southport, United Kingdom. Credit to Getty images)

Is Islamic State Finished?2016092720161002 (WS)

So-called Islamic State is on the run. Caught in a pincer movement in Syria and Iraq, the group has lost large swathes of territory over the past year. With its revenues and numbers of fighters also dwindling, the demise of the caliphate appears all but unavoidable. And yet many caution against writing them off too soon, pointing to the group’s proven ability to change tactics. Already, they have redirected their efforts to launching terrorist operations around the world. And their ideology is still proving an effective recruiting sergeant.

Presenter: Helena Merriman

Producers: Estelle Doyle and Laura Gray

(Photo:Syrian soldier sets fire to an Islamic State (IS) group flag after Syrian troops regained control the previous day of al-Qaryatain Credit: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Is It Too Late To Save Syria’s Antiquities?2015111020151115 (WS)

The threat to Syria’s cultural heritage from looting, war and wanton destruction

Syria’s cultural heritage is being attacked from all sides - the Assad regime, opportunistic looters, opposition forces, Islamic State fighters and even Russian air strikes. Ancient sites like Palmyra have been destroyed, and it is feared that hundreds of precious valuables have been smuggled out of the country to be sold on the international art market. Is it too late to save Syria’s antiquities? We speak to experts including the specialist trying to recover stolen items being sold on the global antiquities market, the volunteer organising a kind of archaeological resistance inside Syria, and the team reconstructing the country’s historic sites using technology.

(Photo: Baalshamin detonation, Credit: AP)

Is Japan Abandoning Pacifism?2015092220150927 (WS)

New laws mean Japanese troops can fight overseas for the first time since World War Two

Japan is a pacifist country - at least that is what its constitution says. The wording, introduced under the occupying forces after World War Two, seems unequivocal: “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation?

But new laws championed by conservative prime minister Shinzo Abe introduce a broader interpretation of what the constitution does, and does not, permit. Abe calls it “proactive pacifism? Opponents say the laws are “war bills?, betraying the pacifism that has, for many, become central to Japanese national identity. There have been dramatic scenes in parliament with opposition MPs in tears. The majority of the public are opposed and people have taken to the streets in their tens of thousands. So is Japan abandoning pacifism?

(Photo: Sumiteru Taniguchi. Credit: AP)

Is Retirement Over?2016083020160904 (WS)

People are living longer, but not saving enough for their old age.

For millennia human beings worked until they dropped. Then in the late 19th century, Otto von Bismarck started the first state pension in Germany. The idea caught on. By the 20th century, advances in medicine meant that many more people were surviving childhood and living longer and longer into old age.

This was great news for those individuals, but not such good news for governments and companies who found themselves having to fund ever-longer retirements. Many of the most generous schemes have now been withdrawn and it’s increasingly up to the individual to save for their retirement – but many aren’t saving enough.

Volatile stock markets and low interest rates are making the situation worse. Many think retirement will turn out to be a "blip" in human history; it didn't exist in the past, and it won't exist in the future. So, is retirement over?

Our expert witnesses are: Professor Noel Whiteside of the University of Warwick, UK; Thomas B Jankowski, research director at Wayne State University, US; David Blake, director of the Pensions Institute at Cass Business School, London, Andrew Scott, professor of economics at London Business School.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander

(Photo: Clayton Fackler, 72, works at the check out at a supermarket in Ohio. Credit: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

Is Russia Vulnerable?2015101320151018 (WS)

The White House has described Russia’s action in Syria as motivated by 'weakness'

Russia’s intervention in Syria caught the world by surprise. Moscow gave Washington just one hour’s notice before it began its aerial bombardment. Russia claims its jets are attacking the so-called Islamic State. But reports suggest the Russian pilots are in fact targeting groups linked to the Free Syrian Army - the main opposition to Syria’s President Assad, who is a Russian ally. It is the first time President Putin has deployed force beyond the borders of the former USSR and another dramatic step in his increasingly assertive foreign policy. But Josh Earnest, President Obama’s press secretary, has described Russia’s action as motivated by “weakness? Is he right?

Ambassador William Courtney of the Rand Corporation argues that the Middle East is the last place in the world where Russia can play a great power role, and that Syria is the last place in the Middle East where Russia can exert its power.

Andrei Kolesnikov explains what he sees as Russia’s weaknesses; a weak economy, declining living standards and a working age population that is deteriorating.

Dr Andrei Korolev disagrees. While international isolation and a faltering economy may have forced Russia to adapt, he says, it has done so in ways that make it stronger such as by forming a new alliance with China.

The Hudson Institute’s Hannah Thoburn explains how a new politics is emerging. Russians are being asked to accept financial sacrifices in order to help return the country to its place as a global super power, and that so far its working.

(Photo: President Putin at the UN General Assembly. Credit: Getty Images)

Is Saudi To Blame For €is’?2015121520151220 (WS)

Many claim that ‘Islamic State’ is the ideological offspring of Saudi Arabia; that the strict form of Islam originating in the Kingdom - and the Saudi state's aggressive promotion of it around the world – has fostered terrorism. Saudi Arabia is also accused of funding IS, either directly or by failing to prevent private citizens from sending money to the group. But what is the evidence for these claims? Our expert witnesses include: a former recruiter for Al Qaeda who explains what motivates jihadists; an Islamic law scholar who explains the little-understood beliefs of the so-called Islamic State; and a Saudi government official who says, far from aiding IS, his country is at the cutting edge of countering it.

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Photo: Kingdom Tower in Riyadh. Credit to Shutterstock)

Many claim ‘IS’ is the ideological offspring of Saudi Arabia

Migrant Crisis: What Else Could Europe Try?2015082520150830 (WS)

We examine examples from other places, and times, from which the EU’s leaders could learn

Tens of thousands of migrants continue to queue at the borders of the European Union in search of a better life. Their journeys are often hazardous and thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy or Greece. Attempts to share the burden among EU member states have been dogged by internal politics. And Europe’s actions so far have focussed on deterrence despite little evidence that such a strategy will work. So, in this week’s Inquiry, we’re asking what else Europe could try – and whether there are examples from other places, and other times, from which the EU’s leaders could learn. We look at the 1980s resettlement process in response to the Vietnamese “boat people? crisis; we examine Australia’s offshore processing of migrants; and we ask whether focussing on the “front line?, helping those countries migrants are leaving, is a realistic option.

Presenter: Ruth Alexander

(Photo: Young migrant at Psalidi on Kos, Credit: Press Association Wires)

Should Anyone Ever Talk To Is?2015081120150816 (WS)

We test the argument that stopping the so-called Islamic State will mean talking to them.

In June last year the world's attention became fixed on the progress of so-called Islamic State, or IS. They had just captured Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. Since then a reported 20,000 fighters from all over the world have joined them. They have killed and enslaved thousands. They have captured towns, oil fields and dams. They control vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. IS are more brutal, sophisticated and enduring than anyone could have predicted. We test the argument that stopping IS will ultimately mean talking to them.

(Photo: ISIS Propaganda image)

Should Governments Drop Money Out Of Helicopters?2015120820151213 (WS)

We examine one crazy-sounding but very serious idea to prevent a low- or no-growth future

Imagine waking up one morning to the sound of a helicopter overhead. You look out and see that packages are being dropped in front of the homes of everyone on your street. You race downstairs, and tear open your package. Inside? Exactly $10,000 in new bills. A gift of freshly-printed money from your government – no strings attached. What would you do? Economists hope you would go out and spend – and that your spending would help kick start the post-industrial economies which many fear are grinding, inexorably, to a complete halt.

We explore whether so-called “helicopter money? (more likely, money would simply be wired to your account) really is a solution to the problem of a low- or no-growth future. Our expert witnesses include: Adair Turner, the former head of Britain’s Financial Services Authority, who is prescribing just such economic medicine; Mohamed El-Erian, chairman of President Obama's Global Development Council; Professor Barry Eichengreen of Berkeley University in the United States and Richard Koo, formerly of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and an economic advisor to successive Japanese governments. Presented by Linda Yueh.

(Photo: Helicopter at G7, Credit: Getty Images)

Should We Give Homeless People Homes?2016042620160501 (WS)

It is a surprisingly simple idea - to end long-term homelessness, give every person living on the streets a home. It can also be surprisingly effective. Medicine Hat, a city in Canada, recently became the first city to end homelessness in this way. The approach is known as Housing First, and – unlike many other homelessness initiatives – it does not require homeless people to make steps towards solving other issues like alcoholism, mental health problems or drug addiction before they get a home. But is this approach solving the problem, or simply moving it off the streets?

(Image: A homeless man with his dog outside a building. Credit to Getty)

How the city of Medicine Hat in Canada, gave every person living in the streets a home

Should We Solar Panel The Sahara?2015122920160103 (WS)

The world has a problem. The climate is changing. At least, most people think so. That’s why global leaders have been meeting in Paris to work out a way to deal with the problem. They blame carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, much of it released by the human need for energy, obtained from fossil fuels like oil and coal. But believe it or not the world also has a solution at hand: sunlight. Harvest it where it shines brightest, in the Sahara Desert for example, and you have the ultimate get-out-of-jail-free card: a techno-fix to the mother of all problems. So, our question this week: why don't we solar panel the Sahara? Our contributors include: Gerhard Knies, a German physicist who has developed the idea; Tony Patt, who leads on this issue for the European Research Council; Daniel Egbe from the African Network for Solar Energy; and Helen Anne Curry, a technology historian, from Cambridge University in the UK.

Presented by Michael Blastland

(Photo: Sahara Desert. Credit: Getty Images)

Solar could provide clean energy on a vast scale. But the politics are difficult.

Was This The Most Divisive Us Election Ever?2016110820161112 (WS)

Two of the most unpopular presidential candidates ever have fought a bitter campaign

The Clinton–Trump race has been extraordinary. Two of the most unpopular presidential candidates ever have slugged it out through a bitter campaign. They are both – for different reasons – deeply polarising figures. Hillary Clinton is viewed with suspicion by Americans who have turned against what they regard as “the elite”. Donald Trump has exploited crudely divisive, sexist, even racist, rhetoric. The tone of the contest has been ugly. But there is historical precedent for much of this – divisive policy positions on slavery or the famous attack ads of the 1960s. How should we view this campaign compared to the candidates, rhetoric, policies and media climate of past elections?

(Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as she answers a question i their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. Credit: Rick Wilking)

Presenter: Maria Margaronis

What Does The President Need To Know?2015100620151011 (WS)

Top-secret documents, released by the CIA, shine a light on intelligence advice.

The CIA has just released 2,500 top secret presidential briefings from the 1960s. The President’s Daily Brief – or PDB – is the US intelligence agencies’ best assessment of global threats, delivered directly to the president every morning. The CIA’s director, John Brennan, has described the PDB as “among the most sensitive and classified documents in all of our government?

The decision to release some PDBs, even documents relating to events many decades ago, was not taken lightly. And, the briefings highlight an almost impossible dilemma – one still faced today by every Director of National Intelligence - what should, and should not, be said? The president cannot absorb everything - there has to be a choice. We explore the relationship between the intelligence, the advisers and the president. What does the president need to know?

(Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson (seated, foreground) working with (background L-R): Marvin Watson, J. Edgar Hoover, Sec. Robert McNamara, Gen. Harold Johnson, Joe Califano, Sec. of the Army Stanley Resor. Credit: LBJ Library)

What Happened To Al-qaeda?2016040520160410 (WS)

Charting the fortunes of the group that once led the global jihadist movement

A deadly al-Qaeda attack on an Ivory Coast resort town in March reminded the world that the terror network once led by Osama bin Laden has not gone away. But in recent years it has been eclipsed and diminished by the so-called Islamic State group. IS has attracted not just global attention, but fighters and funds too. So how depleted is the group which in 2001 triggered America’s “global war on terror?? In other words: what happened to al-Qaeda?

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Photo: A fighter is seen standing in front of an image of Osama bin Laden, the late head of al-Qaeda, in the town of Rada. Credit: Getty Images)

What Happened To The European Dream?2016050320160508 (WS)

The search for the vision that inspired the European project's founders

In June, the UK will vote on whether to become the first country ever to leave the European Union. Anti-EU political parties are on the rise across the continent. In April, the Dutch people rejected an EU agreement with Ukraine. Even the president of the European Commission admits that "the European project has lost parts of its attractiveness".

But what is that project? And has it lost its shine? The Inquiry goes in search of the vision that inspired the EU’s founders and - with expert witnesses from Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany - asks: what happened to the European dream?

(Photo: French Minister of Foreign Affairs Robert Schuman signs the official treaty of the Schuman Plan in 1951, which created the European Coal and Steel Community. Credit: Getty Images)

What Is China Doing To Clear The Air?2016011920160124 (WS)

The air in much of China is so bad the government has repeatedly declared "war" on it

The air in much of China is so bad the government has repeatedly declared "war" on it. The enemy are tiny particulates which spew forth from countless cars, coal-fired power stations and steel plants to create a dense, putty-coloured smog. Known as PM2.5s, after their length in micrometres, the particulates contain toxic droplets so small they embed deep in the lungs and sometimes even the bloodstream. A former Chinese minister of health has estimated that as many as 500,000 Chinese citizens die prematurely because of them every year. Others have suggested the figure is far higher. Campaigners speak of an ‘airpocalypse’.

Public anger is rising, and winning this war has become a top priority for the Communist Party. Beijing recently issued its first pollution 'red alert', closing schools, factories and construction sites. It ordered half of all private cars off the road. But such draconian measures were only temporary. The real question, in a country where millions of people still look to industrialisation to lift them from poverty, is this: what can China do to clear the air? Guests include a man who used to write China's environmental laws and a leading activist with some surprising answers.

(Photo: A man and his child wear masks to protest against pollution. Credit: Getty Images)

What Kind Of Person Becomes A Violent Jihadi?2016041920160424 (WS)

The search for a 'terrorist type' and understanding people who kill for their beliefs

For decades researchers, academics and psychologists have wanted to know what kind of person becomes a terrorist. If there are pre-existing traits which make someone more likely to kill for their beliefs – well, that would be worth knowing. In this edition of The Inquiry – part of the BBC World Service Identity Season – we tell the story of that search for a ‘terrorist type’. It’s a story which begins decades ago. But, with the threat from killers acting for so-called Islamic State, finding an answer has never felt more pressing.

(Photo: Somali soldiers stand at the scene of car bomb at a restaurant in Mogadishu, 2016. Militant Islamist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. Credit: Getty Images)

What Went Right In 2016?2016122720161231 (WS)

Four amazing stories united by the ambition to achieve the seemingly impossible

A lot has gone wrong this year. We are not talking about Brexit or the election of Donald Trump – both of which split opinion in Britain and the US. We are talking about terror attacks, the brutal conflict in Syria, and the thousands of migrants who died trying to reach Europe.

Good things did happen. But the good news was mostly buried under the bad. So we wanted to find about four things that went right in 2016. And, we talked to the people who made those things happen. Four amazing stories united by one thing - the ambition of a small number of extraordinary people to achieve the seemingly impossible.

(Photo: Betrand Piccard in his pilot seat, permission from Solar Impulse, Teresita Gaviria watches the announcement made by the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, Getty Images, Sophien Kamoun and Dr Herath with kind permission)

What Will Happen When Robots Take Our Jobs?2015081820150823 (WS)

Robots are coming for your job. Blue-collar jobs in industries like manufacturing have been disappearing for years but now white-collar work is under threat too. Machines are already taking roles that used to be done by journalists, lawyers and even anaesthetists. One recent study calculated that 47% of total employment in the US is at risk of automation in the next 20 years.

So what will happen to all the human beings who did those jobs? Will we invent enough new jobs to keep them occupied? If not, how will they fill their time? And how will they earn money? The Inquiry – still made by humans, for now, – brings you answers.

(Photo: A robot stands with workers at a Japanese employee supply company. Credit: Getty Images)

Exploring the not-so-distant future when more and more humans lose work to automation.

What Would It Take To Put A Human On Mars?2016031520160320 (WS)

Nasa is planning a manned mission to Mars. But the challenges are enormous

Astronaut Scott Kelly has just returned to Earth after almost a year in space aboard the International Space Station. His mission was to understand what a long period in zero gravity does to the human body. The research is a vital part of preparing to send a manned mission to Mars. In 2010 President Obama tasked the US Space Agency Nasa with the goal of putting an astronaut in Martian orbit, and later to land on the red planet itself. The challenges, of course, are enormous. So, what would it take to put a human on Mars?

(Photo: Mars Lander, Credit: Nasa)

What’s The Point Of Lotteries?2016091320160918 (WS)

National lotteries exist all over the world. What are they for?

It is now hard to find a country that does not have a state sponsored lottery – even the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan recently adopted one. They have famously been called a “tax for people who are bad at maths? and make little economic sense for the individuals who play. Instead, lotteries allow governments to raise much needed revenue to be spent on ‘good causes.’ But there is more to lotteries than power-balls and million dollar prizes. Should we embrace them as a way of making life more fair? Presented by Michael Blastland.

(Photo: Lottery balls are seen in a box at a Liquor store in San Lorenzo, California. Credit: Getty Images)

What’s The Story Of Aleppo?2016110120161105 (WS)

Four Syrians reveal the long and turbulent history of Syria’s second city

We see and hear about Aleppo almost daily as news stories emerge of the hardship endured by its besieged people. After years of bombardment this once majestic place, the 'jewel' of Syria and one of the world's oldest inhabited cities, has been reduced to rubble. Thousands are dead. The residents who remain in the rebel-held parts of the city suffer from the ever-present threat of barrel bombs, while the international community has repeatedly failed to find a workable solution.

But why is Aleppo such an important part of the story of the war in Syria? The answer lies in Aleppo's historic role as a strategic city for so many people over the centuries, from Silk Road merchants of medieval times to the Assad regime and the forces currently battling for control of the country. Four Syrians, including one current Aleppo resident, tell us what life has been like in the city during its long and turbulent history.

(Photo: The Unesco-listed citadel (C) in the government-controlled side of the divided Syrian city of Aleppo. Credit: Getty Images)

What's Killing White American Women?2016051020160515 (WS)

The rich world has got used to health and longevity getting better, and death rates falling – for everyone. But over the past few years data has been accumulating which suggests that this trend has stopped for poorly educated, white Americans. And for one group in particular - middle-aged women – death rates are going up. It’s a shocking finding, meaning many will die at a younger age than their mothers. What’s happening? Certainly, life is tough for many low-income American families. “What the data look like,? says the economist Paul Krugman, “is a society gripped by despair, with a surge of unhealthy behaviours and an epidemic of drugs.? Is he right? Are the conditions of working class life in America killing white women?

Presenter: James Fletcher

(Image: A cemetery in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Credit: Getty Images)

The mysterious case of rising death rates in the world's richest country

Who Wins In A Cashless Economy?20160920

The trend away from cash is gathering momentum across the world

The death of cash has been predicted many times over the years. But in the last decade a future without coins and notes has become a real possibility thanks to the global development and adoption of cashless systems. Some banks in Scandinavia are already refusing to accept or hand out cash. And, in nations with poor banking infrastructure, the growth of cashless has been explosive. Millions of people around the world now conduct their lives with hardly any cash at all and in terms of convenience, most of us are winners. But warnings are sounding about the driving forces behind this shift. Are we in danger of getting rid of our cash without really understanding the consequences? Presented by Linda Yueh.

(Photo: View of a smartphone displaying the 'Contactless' application. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Are 10,000 Children Missing In Europe?2016100420161009 (WS)

Migrant children are going missing after landing on Europe's shores at an alarming rate

Earlier this year Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, announced 10,000 children had arrived in Europe, part of the wave of migration that has swept through the continent in recent years. They had been registered and identified. And then they had disappeared. Many of these children are travelling alone. Some are as young as six years old. But the authorities across Europe – the police, the border agencies, NGOs and care organisations – have no idea where they have gone. They are at risk from trafficking and exploitation as well as the hazards of the journey across Europe – jumping onto lorries at Calais, sleeping rough in Northern European weather.

Under international and EU law children should be protected. There are various systems and regulations in place to deal with unaccompanied child migrants, whether refugees or not. But the system is failing and children continue to go missing at an alarming rate. Why?

(Photo: A young boy walks past the Jungle Books Cafe in the Jungle migrant camp Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Why Are Wages So Low?2016030820160313 (WS)

Pay packets in developed economies have hardly grown in decades.

Economic output and the number of people in jobs have both improved since the global downturn. But with income levels failing to rise, ordinary workers aren't feeling the benefit. And for many, the good times were over long before the 2008 financial crash.

In this edition of The Inquiry we hear from experts in the three largest economies to have suffered flat wage growth in recent years: Japan, Germany and the US. What lies behind the experience in each country – and can those answers help to explain the wider phenomenon?

Presenter: Linda Yueh

Why Can't Egypt Stop Fgm?2016060720160612 (WS)

Some 92% of married Egyptian women aged between 15-49 have had their genitals cut. FGM is more common in Egypt than anywhere else in the world. These astonishing statistics are all the more surprising when you consider that Egypt banned the practise in 2008. So why is FGM so prevalent in Egypt? Four expert witnesses tell us about the challenge of turning a widely-followed tradition into a crime.

(Photo: A gynaecologist co-operating with the Coptic Center for Training and Development gives a lecture on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in a village close to Beni Sueif, south of Cairo. Credit: Getty Images)

FGM is more common in Egypt than anywhere else in the world

Why Do Governments Do Stupid Things?2016120620161210 (WS)

Trust in government is at an all-time low in many countries. From failed healthcare policies to missed intelligence, government blunders happen often – and visibly. But successful policy-making is hard (and fixes are rarely as quick as politicians like to promise).

Some argue that governments would do stupid things less often if they based their policies on the careful analysis of good evidence; find out what works, in other words, and then do that.

But that’s not how most governments operate, most of the time.

Why not?

Presenter: Michael Blastland

(Photo: a group of journalists being surrounded by the Media. Credit Shutterstock)

Overconfidence, poor evidence, party politics - why governments blunder.

Why Do Mexicans Drink So Much Soda?2016032920160403 (WS)

Most research places Mexico at the top of the chart when it comes to the consumption of sugary drinks – by some estimates, they get through half a litre per person every day. Mexico also has some of the highest rates of obesity and diabetes in the world, exacerbated by their love of sugar sweetened beverages.

To understand why, we look at how Coca-Cola became the country’s most popular fizzy drink brand, seen everywhere from sports fields to religious ceremonies. We explore the role the country’s poor water quality plays, and ask whether a tax on sugary drinks is helping Mexicans change their habits.

(Photo: A variety of fizzy drinks stocked on a shelf in a shop. Credit: Getty Images)

Mexicans are among the world’s biggest soda consumers, and it’s affecting their health

Why Do So Many People Dislike Hillary?2016062120160626 (WS)

How the US presidential frontrunner got to be so unpopular

Hillary Clinton is the odds-on favourite to be the next president of the USA. But polls show more and more Americans view her unfavourably. In fact, the public's hostility towards her is record-breaking. Only Donald Trump elicits greater antipathy. That’s perhaps less surprising. He is a political outsider, and a divisive figure. But why does Hillary Clinton - a mainstream, centrist politician - provoke such strong, negative feelings?

Presenter: Helena Merriman

(Image: Montage of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with a sign 'Hillary You Liar')

Why Does Anyone Still Smoke?2016112220161126 (WS)

Tobacco kills up to half of its users, so why would people still choose to smoke?

Smoking tobacco is the single most dangerous voluntary activity in the world. It kills six million people a year, and if current trends continue that figure is expected to rise to 8 million people by 2030. Even if it does not kill you, it will give you bad breath, bad skin and cost you money. So why do so many of us still smoke?

(Photo: A man holds a cigarette over an ashtray. Credit: Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)

Why Don’t Cities Want The Olympics?2016081620160821 (WS)

The Olympic Games has a problem. In recent years the number of cities entering bids to host either the Winter or Summer Olympics has dropped dramatically. For the 2004 Summer Olympics, 12 cities bid. For the 2024 summer Games, there are only four cities running.

The 2022 Winter Olympics bidding cycle saw just two cities compete - winners Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan - after the other five cities that expressed an interest pulled out due to public and political opposition. And in cities that are hosting, the Olympics has been met with hostility.

Protesters tried to put out the Olympic torch in Rio, and in Tokyo public outcry at the cost of the stadium for 2020 has led to a complete redesign. Four expert witnesses pin-point exactly what is putting off potential host cities and discuss radical solutions.

(Image 'No Boston Olympics' permission from Liam Kerr and Chris Dempsey)

The number of cities bidding to host the Olympic Games is falling

Why Don’t We Eradicate Mosquitoes?2016021620160221 (WS)

Mosquitoes cause a huge number of deaths. But getting rid of them would be complicated.

Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on the planet. They spread diseases - malaria, dengue and zika – that kill huge numbers of people and cause suffering to many more.

So why not eradicate them?

It wouldn’t be easy. Scientists in Mali have found the mosquito is a surprisingly formidable foe, able to hide for months and evade capture. Other scientists are working on genetically-modifying mosquito populations so that they can’t breed.

But could releasing these re-modelled mosquitoes have unintended consequences? And might we accidentally destroy ecosystems by removing mosquitoes altogether? It turns out this tiny creature presents us with huge practical and ethical problems.

Presenter: Michael Blastland

(Image: Fumigation against the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Credit AFP/Getty)

Why Is Argentina Still So Sexist?2015091520150920 (WS)

Tens of thousands of people have marched in Buenos Aires and elsewhere in outrage at the astonishing frequency with which women are being killed in Argentina - the vast majority at the hands of their partners or former partners. Violence directed at women and girls is at the extreme end of the scale. But the protesters believe it grows out of the 'machista' culture - where men have to be macho, and women have to do as they are told.

In many ways, Argentina is not a special case - we could, perhaps, ask the same question of many nations. But this week The Inquiry is focusing on Argentina because the protests started an urgent debate inside the country about why women are seen as disposable. And, also because the most powerful office in the land is held by a woman - Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner - twice elected president. Why is this power not trickling down? Why is Argentina still so sexist?

(Photo: Argentina Femicide Demo. Credit: Getty Images)

Despite women’s progress in Argentine politics, society there has remained macho

Why Was Mohammed Akhlaq Killed?2015110320151108 (WS)

What a murder tells us about modern India.

Mohammed Akhlaq’s murder shocked India. A mob broke into his house last month and beat him to death. They believed a rumour that Mr Akhlaq, a Muslim, had broken a Hindu taboo by slaughtering a cow. We find out how the cow became such a political animal and look at whether Hindu nationalists are feeling bolder in today’s India.

(Photo: An Indian woman sprinkles yoghurt paste onto a cow's forehead. Credit:Getty Images)

Would A New International Convention Help Refugees?2016052420160529 (WS)

The case for rethinking the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to deal with today's crisis

The 1951 UN Refugee Convention was forged at a time when the world was recovering from a global war which had displaced vast numbers of people. Sixty-five years on, it is still the benchmark for refugee rights. But as the world grapples with a new refugee crisis, many think it's no longer up to the job. So – our question this week – would a new international convention help refugees?

Presenter: James Fletcher

(Image: Refugees push each other as they wait for tents, as Syrians flee the northern embattled city of Aleppo in Bab al-Salama, near the city of Azaz, northern Syria, near the Turkish border crossing. Credit to Getty)

Would Donald Trump Be A Dangerous President?2016082320160828 (WS)

Fifty US security officials have said Trump “would be a dangerous president?

Earlier this month 50 senior Republican national security officials signed a letter arguing that Donald Trump “lacks the character, values and experience? to lead the United States. “We are convinced?, they wrote, “he would be a dangerous president? We want to know if they are right.

Our expert witnesses are: Timothy O’Brien, author of The Art of Being The Donald; Peter Feaman, Florida representative for the Republican National Committee; Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts; and Elaine Kamarck from the Brookings Institution, an expert on presidential power and its limits.

(Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an event at Trump SoHo Hotel, 2016, New York. Credit: Getty Images)