The Inquiry

The Inquiry Podcast

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

Is Kanye West really running for US President?
In July, billionaire musician Kanye West announces on Twitter that he’s standing as a candidate in November’s US presidential election. After a scramble to meet the registration deadlines, his name is on the ballot in fewer than 20 states. His manifesto is confusing, his motive unclear. In the past, Kanye West has been a vocal supporter of president Donald Trump. And it seems his campaign is being run largely by those with close ties to the Republican party. The Democrats say his entry in the race as ...

Will the US presidential debates change the course of the election?
On the 29th September the two US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden will take part in the first of three 90-minute live televised debates ahead of the presidential election in November. Tanya Beckett asks can the debates affect the outcome of the election? (Composite image of Joe Biden (Credit: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) and Donald Trump (Credit: John G Mabanglo/EPA)...

Can the world stop online fraud?
Online fraud takes many forms, from deceptive e-mails and websites which trick us into paying money to the wrong bank account, to romance scams and malicious software copying our bank and credit card details. It's regarded by criminals as a highly lucrative and relatively low risk crime, so why is it so easy for fraudsters to manipulate our personal data and steal our money, what can be done to end online fraud? Charmaine Cozier talks to some of those trying to disrupt the scammers and protect the public...


Will votes be safe in the US presidential election?
President Trump says opening up November’s election to more postal voting will make it more vulnerable to fraud and election interference. Many more Americans are expected to avoid going in person to polling stations because of the coronavirus pandemic and will rely on postal voting to ensure their voices are heard. Tanya Beckett examines President Trump’s claims and how the US postal service will cope with millions of ballots. Producer: Sharon Hemans and Diane Richardson (A voter drops off a mail-in ...

What is “Obamagate?”
A maverick American general, a call to the Russian ambassador and allegations of spying on Donald Trump’s incoming administration. But what exactly is “Obamagate” and what impact might it have on this year’s US presidential election? With Tanya Beckett....

What’s gone wrong in Lebanon?
The massive explosion that tore through Beirut on August 4th left more than 200 people dead, 6,000 injured, and as many as 300,000 homeless. The explosion was caused by a fire that ignited 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored at the port. When the blast hit, Lebanon was already in the middle of an unprecedented economic and political crisis that has triggered hyperinflation, poverty, and hunger. Many Lebanese feel that the blast was not the cause of catastrophe in Lebanon, but the result of it. Tanya Becke...


How close are we to a vaccine for Covid-19?
Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, with more than 170 candidate vaccines now in development. Most vaccines take years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine at record speed. Several potential vaccines are now in the final phase of testing but it could still be months before we discover if they are safe and can effectively prevent people from being infected. If a vaccine can be found, there a...

How close are we to a vaccine for Covid-19?
Researchers around the world are racing to develop a vaccine against Covid-19, with more than 170 candidate vaccines now in development. Most vaccines take years of testing and additional time to produce at scale, but scientists are hoping to develop a coronavirus vaccine at record speed. Several potential vaccines are now in the final phase of testing but it could still be months before we discover if they are safe and can effectively prevent people from being infected. If a vaccine can be found, there a...

Will America’s 'Big Tech' firms be reined in?
US lawmakers are deciding whether to act against the country’s powerful tech giants. Some believe the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Google and Apple are stifling competition. The companies have made huge profits during the Covid crisis and critics believe they will use this cash to buy competitors. With Charmaine Cozier. Clockwise from top left: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook. Getty Images...


Will the pandemic get worse in the winter?
Winter is coming in the northern hemisphere and traditionally it is time for colds and flu. This has raised fears that coronavirus will surge when the seasons change, possibly leading to a second wave of the disease that is even bigger than the first. However, predicting what a Covid winter will look like is complex and uncertainty reigns - there are reasons both to be worried and to be reassured. Contributors: . Micaela Martinez, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences a...

Why isn’t the world doing more to help the Uighurs?
With an estimated million Uighurs in detention camps, China has used a variety of means to successfully stifle world criticism. They include its economic muscle, political alliances with like-minded countries and sanitized tours of the facilities for opinion formers. With Charmaine Cozier. (Uighur prisoners shackled and blindfolded in Xinjiang, China. Still from anonymous drone footage.)...

Should Joe Biden stay in the basement?
The presidential opposition candidate Joe Biden has barely emerged from his home since America’s lockdown at the end of March. But polls suggest that the low-key strategy is working in his favour – as his rival President Donald Trump comes under increasing pressure over his handling of the coronavirus and a resurgence of racial tension. With four months to go until the election, is staying in the basement Joe Biden’s best option? What are the risks if he does? And how could Donald Trump turn things aroun...


Is China versus India the most important rivalry of the 21st century?
The recent border clash between China and India is seen as a watershed moment in the two nuclear nations’ relationship. How will its repercussions affect Asia, and the rest of the world? Contributors: . Chris Dougherty - a senior fellow with the Defence Programme at the Centre for New American Securities. . Ananth Krishnan – a correspondent for the Hindu newspaper. And the author of “India’s China Challenge” . Tanvi Madan – a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy programme at the Brookings Institution. . ...

Why are Covid cases rising in the US?
Why are Covid cases dramatically increasing in some U.S. states, where rates had been low? The number of new coronavirus infections in a single day has passed fifty five thousand. Is it because of more testing, or is something else going on? (Demonstrators outside the State Capitol in Auston.Texas protesting against Coronavirus restrictions. Credit: Gary Miller/Getty Images)...

What does Putin want?
President Vladimir Putin has been in power for 20 years. The Russian people have been voting on a change to the constitution that could keep him in the Kremlin until 2036. While world leaders and opponents struggle to second guess him, some objectives appear to be clear: stability at home, respect abroad and power maintained for his inner circle. Presented by Charmaine Cozier (President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, February 2020. Credit: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)...


Why do we care about statues?
The killing of African American George Floyd ignited anti-racist protests around the world - many centred on statues associated with colonialism and slavery. Why do these figures of bronze and stone generate such strong feelings? And what do they tell us about how countries deal with their past? Contributors: Sarah Beetham Chair of Liberal Arts at the Pennsylvania Academy in the Fine Arts. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad journalist for The Guardian newspaper. AGK Menon, architect, urban planner and founder of the Indi...

How will Hollywood respond to the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements?
Why is the movie business having trouble representing the world’s population on and behind the big screen? A rising share of the U.S. population are black, more than half of the demographic are female – so why is it so difficult to translate this into cinema? Hollywood has found itself red-faced in an era of Black Lives Matter and MeToo movements. From #OscarsSoWhite to criticism of who’s behind the films we see, the pressure to change is stacking up. Charmaine Cozier discovers the issues within the indu...

Will Covid-19 change cities?
From the bubonic plague and cholera to tuberculosis, pandemics have changed the ways cities have been designed and built. The coronavirus has been no different: with cities all over the world on lockdown, our cities have changed to become quieter, greener, with wildlife returning on an unprecedented scale. Now, with the lockdowns beginning to ease, Kavita Puri asks: what is the future of our cities? Will they return to the way they were - and do we want them to? Producer: Eleanor Biggs Presenter: Kavita ...


Why do US cops keep killing unarmed black men?
Why is George Floyd the latest in a long line of unarmed black men killed by US police? Studies show black men are three times more likely to be killed by police in America than white people. With Helena Merriman. (A man speaks into a bullhorn as demonstrators march in Los Angeles, California. 2 June 2020. Brent Stirton/Getty Images)...

How far can the Chinese government be blamed for Covid-19?
Ever since a mysterious virus was reported in December 2019 in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the world has been watching China. Silenced whistleblowers, unregulated wildlife trade in wet markets, limited international cooperation, and even a local biosafety lab have been held up as examples of how China mishandled the crisis. But how far can it be blamed for Covid-19 becoming a pandemic? This week on The Inquiry, Kavita Puri asks what the Chinese government could, or should, have done differently to prevent ...

How will the world pay for Covid-19?
As governments spend huge sums to get through the coronavirus crisis, how will they fund it all? Slash spending, raise taxes or just accept debt is here to stay? With Tanya Beckett. (Photo: Variety of world currency notes: Credit: Getty images)...


Why does Germany have such a low number of deaths from Covid-19?
To date, 7500 people have lost their lives in Germany in a population of 80 million. Other comparably sized European countries like the UK, France, Italy and Spain – some with smaller populations have deaths far exceeding Germany several times over. In this week’s Inquiry Kavita Puri tries to find out why. Producer Jim Frank (People walk at Kurfürstendamm, Berlin's popular shopping area during the coronavirus crisis May 2020 Germany. Credit: Maja Hitij /Getty Images)...

Why are so many ethnic minorities dying in the UK and US?
In news reports and newspapers, pictures of British healthcare workers who have lost their lives to Covid-19 sit side by side. And if you look at those faces one thing stands out clearly. Of the 119 cases of NHS deaths more than two thirds are black or an ethnic minority - yet they only make up 20% of the workforce. Figures from the National Health Service in England show a disproportionate number of Covid-19 deaths are amongst these groups. And it’s not just in the UK. In the United States on available ...

Why are people attacking 5G mobile phone masts?
Tanya Beckett looks at 5G and examines why it’s become the centre of conspiracy theories linking it to the coronavirus and others. What is it about the latest mobile technology which some find so alarming that it drives them to attack and burn down this infrastructure? And what draws people to conspiracy theories - even when all available evidence says they’re wrong. Reporter Tanya Beckett Producer Jim Frank...


How do we come out of the lockdown?
As some nations begin to tentatively lift their lockdowns, Tanya Beckett asks how best this can be done. What lessons, if any, can we learn from past pandemics? How do states make the decision, juggling the increasing demands of economic and social factors against public health concerns, amid worries of a new wave of infections from the disease? And what will our lives look like in a post-lockdown world? We hear from contributors based in France, the United States, South Korea and Denmark - one of the first...

How do you help people stay rational in a pandemic?
Last month, everyday supermarket items turned into valuable and vanishing commodities overnight – none more so than toilet paper. There are now billions of us around the world living in lockdown conditions, a situation we’ve not been prepared for. And we seem to be in this for the long haul. In this week’s Inquiry, we’ll be asking how we can help people stay rational in a pandemic. Presenter/Producer: Sandra Kanthal (Empty shelves in the aisles of a CO-OP store in Kent, UK March 14, 2020 due to the Coro...

Can Africa cope with coronavirus?
How will Africa deal with Covid-19? It began in China then reached the Middle East, Europe and the United States, now Africa is bracing itself for a surge in coronavirus cases. But how will the continent, with its weaker health care systems and often poor populations cope? The picture is not the same everywhere. Some countries and some sections of society may fare better than others, but the worry is that many African countries simply don’t have the tools or resources to stand up to this pandemic. Or might ...


Why is it taking so long to develop a Covid-19 vaccine?
The race is on for the world’s scientists to develop a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine. The Inquiry examines quickly how this can be done and what hurdles need to be overcome to roll out a vaccine in 12-18 months, rather than the many years it would normally take. Presented by Kavita Puri. (medical doctor with a vaccine. Credit: Getty images)...

Coronavirus: What can the world learn from South Korea?
After China, South Korea was next in line to be struck by the Coronavirus outbreak. And in the early days the number of cases was going up fast – many of them related to a secretive religious sect. But the country has rapidly managed to get a grip on the outbreak and has kept its mortality rate low. It has done this without an official lockdown. The secret appears to be preparation, widespread testing and acting fast. With the help of four expert witnesses, Kavita Puri investigates what else we can learn fr...

Why did the USA fail in its initial coronavirus response?
‘It’s a failing, let's admit it’ says top health official, Dr Anthony Fauci. He’s talking about the fact that it took a month for a working coronavirus test to be rolled out around the country, while other countries were testing thousands of people. How was this allowed to happen? In this edition of The Inquiry, we explore the ways in which the US lost valuable time in dealing with the coronavirus and how their health system could make things more difficult still. (A cleaning crew adjusts protective cloth...


How China turned the tide with coronavirus
There are now significantly more new cases of coronavirus outside China than inside. On the first day of this week there were only 44 new cases in the whole country. Just a few weeks ago that figure was in the thousands. While the authorities have been criticised for their initial slow response to the outbreak, allowing it to spread quickly, since January they have taken unprecedented action to clamp down on the spread of the virus. Whole cities have been put into quarantine and travel restrictions have b...

Have our climate models been wrong?
Climate change models have been a key tool to project what could happen with global warming in the future. But there’s a debate in the scientific community and some are saying too much emphasis has been put on the worst-case scenarios. Others argue that the impacts of climate change are too unpredictable and all scenarios, even the most serious, less likely ones, need to be kept on the table. All agree, though, that human-induced climate change is happening and that even the most likely projected temperatu...

Why don’t we care about facts?
We have a great capacity to ignore facts and only believe what we want to believe – particularly if those facts clash with our convictions. Why is that and is it getting worse? It’s an area that is being intensely studied by psychologists, political scientists and neuroscientists. Ruth Alexander explores why we ignore facts, even if it’s bad for us. Though she also hears how, in some circumstances, it can be good for our mental health. But our casual attitude towards facts can have serious consequences. A...


Why don’t we care about facts?
We have a great capacity to ignore facts and only believe what we want to believe – particularly if those facts clash with our convictions. Why is that and is it getting worse? It’s an area that is being intensely studied by psychologists, political scientists and neuroscientists. Ruth Alexander explores why we ignore facts, even if it’s bad for us. Though she also hears how, in some circumstances, it can be good for our mental health. But our casual attitude towards facts can have serious consequences. A...

Why are trade deals so hard to do?
Britain is trying to make multiple trade deals since leaving the EU. Some negotiations between countries have lasted for years. The breakdown in the World Trade Organization, the changing nature and complexity of world trade and a general lack of trust between nations means it could be a very drawn out process. Presented by Tanya Beckett....

Will a pandemic ever kill millions again?
The Coronavirus outbreak in China has been declared a public health emergency of international concern. It is raising fears of a global disease pandemic. In the past viral infections have killed millions. Possibly the worst ever pandemic was the 1918-19 flu, which spread just as the First World War was coming to an end. Estimates of the death toll now range between 50 and 100 million. At the upper range that means it was more deadly than both World Wars put together. So could another pandemic emerge today ...


Could India’s Muslims become second class citizens?
Could a new law in India be a step towards making Muslims second class citizens? The government says the Citizenship Amendment Act is a humanitarian law giving protection for people escaping religious persecution. But critics say that by excluding Muslims, the CAA contravenes the country’s secular constitution. Charmaine Cozier reports. (Women hold anti-government placards during a protest in Delhi. Credit: Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Getty Images)...

Is recycling broken?
With countries shutting their doors to foreign recyclable waste and a lack of processing capacity back home, is the recycling system broken? China used to accept 55% of the world’s plastic and paper waste. But it closed its doors in 2018. Initially other countries in South East Asia, like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam took over China’s waste processing role. But they too are now sending much of the waste back, arguing it is contaminated and is harming their own environments. This has created ...

How did Trump get into trouble with Ukraine?
How did Trump’s personality and way of dealing with people lead to a trial in the Senate? The answer involves Trump’s long standing belief in conspiracy theories, his transactional way of doing business, the revolving door of staff turnover at the White House and his admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin. With Tanya Beckett. ( President Trump departs the White House on the day of the House Impeachment Vote, Washington DC. Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)...


Why does Ukraine have such a corruption problem?
On 25 July 2019, the President of the United States made a phone call to the recently-elected President of Ukraine - congratulating him on his party’s election victory. What Donald Trump said in that call to Volodymyr Zelensky has ended up threatening his own presidency, triggering the impeachment of the president. Donald Trump says his interest was in rooting out corruption. Meanwhile Joe Biden’s role in Ukraine was to do the same - root out corruption. The Inquiry asks why Ukraine has such a corruption pr...

Why was Qasem Soleimani killed?
President Trump’s decision to assassinate Qasem Soleimani came as a shock to America’s foes and allies alike. He was Iran’s top general and has been described as one of the country’s most powerful figures, second only to the Supreme Leader Ayotollah Ali Khamenei. He was, effectively, head of Iran’s foreign policy. He’s been credited as being instrumental in the fight against ISIS but has also been accused of arming and supporting terror groups. But why did Donald Trump order his death? Presenter: Tanya Bec...

Will humans become extinct by the end of the century?
What is the chance of the human race surviving the 21st century? There are many dangers – climate change for example, or nuclear war, or a pandemic, or planet Earth being hit by a giant asteroid. Around the world a number of research centres have sprung up to investigate and mitigate what’s called existential risk. How precarious is our civilisation and what can be done to stop a global catastrophe? David Edmonds talks to four expert witnesses to try and find the answer. (Apocalyptic landscape. Credit: ...


Can we eradicate polio?
Despite heroic efforts to vaccinate against this crippling disease, why does it persist? The fight to eradicate polio is an amazing story: It began with a grassroots movement in the United States and led to a global campaign to wipe out a disease that can cause paralysis and even death. There is no cure, but countless cases have been prevented by an extraordinary campaign to vaccinate every child aged five and under. It’s an operation that requires access to some of the poorest and most remote regions...

Is Nato obsolete?
Donald Trump is threatening to withdraw the US from Nato while the French President Emmanuel Macron has called it “brain dead”. Charmaine Cozier asks if the 70-year-alliance can survive? She speaks to Jacob Heilbrunn from The National Interest think tank – a right of centre foreign policy think tank based in Washington; Fabrice Pothier - senior defence consulting fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies and former Nato policy planning director; Sara Bjerg Moller, assistant professor of ...

Should we ban billionaires?
Excluding dictators and royalty, there are around 2,000 people in the world who are billionaires. Some inherit wealth while others might build fortunes through inventions, businesses or investments. Some say individuals holding onto extreme amounts of money is wasteful because it could be diverted to other areas that would benefit more people such as education and healthcare. Others reason than some billionaires should keep what they have because they drive economic growth and inspire others to innovate. ...


Can we protect our elections from social media manipulators?
An estimated 2.6 billion people use social media, but in the online world not everything is what it seems. Fake accounts and automatic programmes can be used to spread disinformation and influence political narratives. We hear from experts across the world about how elections have been fought, and won, with the help of this electronic – and sometimes not so electronic – army. In a world where social media expansion shows no signs of slowing – how do we protect our elections from social media manipulators? ...

Why is there a backlash against climate policies?
A year ago more than a quarter of a million people took to the streets across France, in what became known as the “gilets jaunes” protests. They began as a reaction to an increase in fuel tax - a tax which was supposed to help the environment, but which the protesters said meant they could no longer afford to drive their cars or get to work. These were the first high profile demonstrations against policies designed to tackle climate change, but they put a spotlight on a sense of unrest that has spread far ...

What can we do about the world’s mental health problem?
If there was a serious illness that we knew thirty percent of us would experience in our lives, wouldn’t we do everything in our power to address it? Well research suggests that one in three of us will experience a serious mental health problem at some point in our lives; it’s a topic many are uncomfortable about discussing but one that shows no signs of going away. Slowly we’re beginning to learn more about which factors cause anxiety and depression but old prejudices are hard to come overcome so – what ca...


What can we do about the world’s mental health problem?
If there was a serious illness that we knew thirty percent of us would experience in our lives, wouldn’t we do everything in our power to address it? Well research suggests that one in three of us will experience a serious mental health problem at some point in our lives; it’s a topic many are uncomfortable about discussing but one that shows no signs of going away. Slowly we’re beginning to learn more about which factors cause anxiety and depression but old prejudices are hard to come overcome so – what ca...

Why are immigrants under attack in South Africa?
In September 2019 violence broke out in the city of Johannesburg. Many people were beaten, at least 12 were killed, and shops were looted and burned down. The perpetrators were mainly poor black South African men, and those attacked were predominantly immigrants from other African countries and from Asia. This just the latest in a long line of xenophobic attacks in the country. In 2015 the army was even deployed to deter further unrest. Immigrants are often subject to threats on social media, and some hav...

How soon can we go carbon zero?
This month activists all over the world have taken over city centres, demanding urgent action to halt climate change. They say we need to eliminate all carbon emissions by 2025. Most people think that’s impossible. But scientists are warning that if we want to stop global warming, we need to cut our CO2 emissions fast. So how soon can the planet achieve carbon zero? Helen Grady speaks to: Chukwumerije Okereke, professor in Environment and Development at Department of Geography and Environmental Science,...


Why are the Kurds always in the firing line?
Turkey’s push to clear the Kurds from its border with Syria has brought howls of betrayal. Many Kurds believed the Americans would protect them, after they’d defeated the so-called Islamic State terror group together. But this is just the latest of the dozens of conflicts in which the Kurds have been involved over the past few decades. Why can’t they find peace? Is it their fault? Should the regimes they live under take responsibility? Or does the blame lie further back in history? We hear from: Dr Afsh...

Why are the Kurds always in the firing line?
Turkey’s push to clear the Kurds from its border with Syria has brought howls of betrayal. Many Kurds believed the Americans would protect them, after they’d defeated the so-called Islamic State terror group together. But this is just the latest of the dozens of conflicts in which the Kurds have been involved over the past few decades. Why can’t they find peace? Is it their fault? Should the regimes they live under take responsibility? Or does the blame lie further back in history? We hear from: Dr Afsh...

Is vaping safe?
After deaths in the US and bans around the world, how risky are e-cigarettes? In some countries, smokeless cigarettes are all the rage. In the UK, doctors say if smokers switch from tobacco to e-cigarettes, it will save lives. But in the US, where the authorities are investigating an outbreak of lung injury linked to vaping, they’re advising vapers to consider stopping. In India, Mexico and dozens of other countries, vaping is banned altogether. It’s a confused international picture. Vaping is sti...


Can we dismiss QAnon?
The far right conspiracy theory featuring child molesters and baby eaters may sound far-fetched, but the FBI names Q Anon in a report warning conspiracy theorists pose a growing threat of violence. So can we dismiss Q Anon? Q releases anonymous internet posts and claims to have a high level of security clearance in the US, signing messages with only ‘Q’. The cryptic posts apparently reveal that Trump is fighting a battle against the deep state and trying to take on an A list paedophile ring. The followers...

Are we heading for a global recession?
The world’s two biggest economies are fighting a trade war, European growth is slowing and global manufacturing data looks grim. Financial markets are flashing warning signs. It’s been a decade since the last global recession and in 2019 so far, the data has started to turn down. Are we on the verge of an economic meltdown? And what can countries do to avoid recession or reduce its impact when it comes? (A container ship being loaded in a harbour in Asia. Credit: Getty images)...

Is Africa facing another debt crisis?
It’s been almost 15 years since a successful campaign to erase the crushing debts of Africa’s poorest countries. Now, debt levels are again creeping up, thanks in part to a risky mix of easy credit and easy spending. We hear from a former Liberian cabinet minister, a Mozambican anti-corruption campaigner, an expert in Chinese financial flows to the continent and the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa. Presenter: Neal Razzell (Photo: Protestors call for debt relief in Durban, South Africa. Credit: Raj...


Is Africa facing another debt crisis?
It’s been almost 15 years since a successful campaign to erase the crushing debts of Africa’s poorest countries. Now, debt levels are again creeping up, thanks in part to a risky mix of easy credit and easy spending. We hear from a former Liberian cabinet minister, a Mozambican anti-corruption campaigner, an expert in Chinese financial flows to the continent and the World Bank’s chief economist for Africa. With Neal Razzell Image: Protestors call for debt relief in Durban, South Africa. Credit: Rajesh Ja...

How can we save our forests?
In the afternoon of August 20th this year, the sky over Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo turned dark. The cause of this premature night was the smoke from fires burning thousands of kilometres away in the Amazon rainforest. The scale of the fires caught the attention of the world, but the Amazon is one story among many. The global community has long worried about deforestation, five years ago nations agreed to work to halve global tree loss by 2020 and end it by 2030. This month, those targets were acknow...

Is rock music doomed?
Bruce Springsteen is turning 70; rock’s gods are getting on. It’s not clear who’s there with electric guitars to replace them. Younger acts are failing to make hit singles. Veteran rock journalist Mark Coles believes rock music has lost its ability to surprise and innovate. Record label boss Vanessa Higgins describes how the writing of hit songs no longer favours the rock format. Music critic Michael Hann blames the high costs of making rock as part of the reason for its decline. But Chris Woltman, manager ...


Is rock music doomed?
Bruce Springsteen is turning 70; rock’s gods are getting on. It’s not clear who’s there with electric guitars to replace them. Younger acts are failing to make hit singles. Veteran rock journalist Mark Coles believes rock music has lost its ability to surprise and innovate. Record label boss Vanessa Higgins describes how the writing of hit songs no longer favours the rock format. Music critic Michael Hann blames the high costs of making rock as part of the reason for its decline. But Chris Woltman, manager ...

Why the race to build a quantum computer?
Quantum computers could transform our lives. Based on a branch of Physics that even Einstein found "spooky", the machines are still in their infancy. But governments and corporations are spending billions trying to turn them into workable technology. Neal Razzell finds out why by talking to four experts: Shohini Ghose, Professor of Physics and Computer Science at Wilfred Laurier University in Canada Stephanie Wehner, Professor in Quantum Information at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands Win...

Why does Donald Trump seem to have such a problem with the truth?
Fact-checkers say the President of the United States has made more than 10,000 false or misleading statements since coming to office. Whether it’s the size of the crowd at his inauguration, the pay rise offered to the military or where his father was born, Donald Trump often says things that are untrue. And he doesn’t rush to correct them, even when they’re outright fabrications. Ruth Alexander examines Donald Trump’s long record of falsehoods, which stretch back even to his schooldays. And she explores ...


Why are we having less sex?
Porn, smart phones and the ‘slutty transmitter’. Adults in the US have sex on average about 50 times a year, which has dropped by 20 per cent over the last two decades. It’s a similar story in the UK, Australia, Germany, Finland and Japan. Could it be down to porn or our smart phones? Or is it actually down to something much harder to switch off? Some of the answers might surprise you. Picture: A couple in bed using their phones. Credit: Getty Images...

Is Germany OK?
It’s known for precision and punctuality but Europe’s engine is slowing down. Germany’s economy relies heavily on selling its products abroad. Famed for luxury cars like Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, exports are nearly half the German economy. So if countries decide they don’t want to buy, or can’t afford to buy, the things that Germany makes, it’s a problem. And that’s what’s been happening to Germany today. China – the most important market for most German car makers - is slowing down. Much of Eur...

How is space changing Earth?
Many nations have now entered the space race. China first sent a man into space in 2003 and in the last few months made a successful, unmanned, landing on the far side of the moon. This was a world first. India has its own record. A few years ago it launched more satellites into space, in one go, than any other nation. Nigeria is talking about sending an astronaut into space. And Kyrgyzstan is developing its first satellite, built entirely by female engineers. The Inquiry explores what lies behind all this ...


Do children in two-parent families do better?
In 1965 a report from within the US government noted that the number of children born outside marriage, and the number of divorces, in the parts of the American population were rising rapidly. It argued that having many households run by a single woman risked holding back the progress of the next generation. At the time it was very controversial, rejected by mainstream academia and described as victim blaming. More than fifty years on, from the 'Moynihan' report we look at what modern research tells us ab...

Can you reduce Central American migration?
Families from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador now make up the majority of migrants arriving at the US southern border. Many from urban areas are fleeing endemic gang violence, while those from rural regions are affected by droughts and food security issues. The Mexican government is increasing security along their borders, while the Trump administration has been changing asylum law. Could these measures help to lower the number of people choosing to make the dangero...

Will China crack down on Hong Kong?
Last month Hong Kong witnessed its largest ever protests, the most violent in decades. A proposed law to allow extradition of criminals to mainland China caused uproar. This bill exposed the cracks in relations between Hong Kong and the Beijing government. The current ‘one country, two systems’ arrangement gives the region some autonomy from Beijing. Pro-democracy protesters worry that this is being eroded as the Communist party is trying to bring it further under its influence. Complicating matters is Hon...


What kind of Prime Minister would Boris Johnson make?
With his unruly blond hair and shambolic appearance, Boris Johnson is Britain’s best-known politician. He’s also favourite to become the UK’s next Prime Minister. To his supporters, the former Mayor of London is charismatic, entertaining and a man of the people. His critics say he’s unprincipled, ruthless and flexible with the truth. If he wins the Conservative party leadership race, he’ll have to deliver Brexit. But what kind of leader might he be and how will he unite the country? Becky Milligan talks t...

How can Chennai’s water crisis be solved?
South India’s biggest city, Chennai, is currently in the grip of drought. With the four main reservoirs which supply the city dry, residents have to queue for hours to collect pots of water from government tankers. Critics argue that the shortage isn’t just the result of a single failed monsoon season, but also the responsibility of the government who failed to plan for this scenario. Experts say 21 Indian cities could run out of groundwater next year, and that demand for drinkable water could outstrip supp...

Is the deep ocean the answer to some of our biggest problems?
Our species is facing a whole lot of problems. Antibiotic resistance is on the rise, land based minerals are depleting and there are serious concerns about how warm everything’s becoming. As the population grows these problems are only going to get worse, but what if we could find some of the solutions to our most pressing problems beneath the waves? Scientists have discovered that deep sea sponges could help fight MRSA, your smart phone could be powered by minerals located thousands of metres beneath the ...


Can a government make you happy?
New Zealand is the first western country to state it should be judged not by its economic prosperity but by its citizens’ wellbeing. Might these wellbeing policies be masking an inability by governments to effect any real change in citizen’s lives or do they actually end up making economic sense after all? (Photo: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Credit: Getty Images)...

Can vaccines stop Ebola in the DRC?
The Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the midst of an Ebola epidemic, with over 2,000 cases now confirmed. In June the virus spread to neighbouring Uganda. Amidst this bleak picture, there is some hope; past epidemics have helped progress medical responses. This week, we ask: can vaccines contain Ebola in the DRC? Image: A health worker wearing Ebola protection gear, Beni, DRC Credit: Reuters....

Why is it always Alabama?
Alabama has long been the butt of jokes in America. The stereotype is that it is backward, racist and right wing. This month the state passed one of the most restrictive laws on reproductive rights in the USA, banning abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. But it is not alone - many other states have similarly restrictive abortion laws but they do not get the attention that Alabama does. So why is it Alabama that always gets picked on? (Photo: Selma to Montgomery, USA historic street road sign in capi...


Is time travel possible?
Ever wanted to meet your historical heroes or explore the inventions of the future? Travelling in time has long been a dream of writers and filmmakers, but what does science tell us about how possible this would be to achieve in real life? We explore how physics shows us that time runs at different rates depending on where we are and how we’re moving - time goes more slowly for astronauts on the international space station for example. We hear about the very dangerous ways we could possibly exploit this t...

Is the US heading for war with Iran?
On 8 May 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - a nuclear deal between Iran, the US and other countries. Since then, tensions between Iran and the US have escalated to the point where some believe a conflict is imminent. Kavita Puri and experts try to work out how the two countries got to this point, asking: is the US heading for War with Iran? Presenter: Kavita Puri Producer: Chloe Hadjimatheou and Lizzy McNeill (image: the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has...

How do you move a capital city?
Indonesia has announced it is thinking of building a new capital city, moving the government away from Jakarta which is overcrowded and suffering from subsidence. Other countries, including Brazil, Kazakhstan, Russia and Tanzania have previously moved their capital cities, so just how difficult is the process, and can Indonesia learn from their mistakes? (Photo: Jakarta's expanding skyline. Credit: Gerhard Joren/Getty Images)...


How did K-Pop conquer the world?
It's a multi-billion dollar industry, with bands selling out stadiums across the world. K-Pop, or Korean Pop has created some of the biggest global music stars. How did bands, singing in Korean come to such prominence? The Korean government has capitalised on the soft power that its music industry has offered. But with the latest scandals involving the rape and abuse of women is there a darker side to it all? And could it tarnish brand Korea? Photo: BTS performs 'DNA' onstage Credit: Getty Images/Michael ...

What’s next for Sudan?
After months of protests, the Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir was removed from office on 11th April by a military coup. Initially there were celebrations, but weeks later, with no clear plan for the military to hand over power to a civilian government many in the country are starting to worry whether their victory has been lost. So is the country heading towards democracy or another autocratic regime? Photo: Sudanese protesters wave national flags near the military headquarters, Khartoum, April 2019. Cr...

Can you make gangs good?
In 2007, Ecuador decided to recognise some of its street gangs as cultural and social organisations. Since then its murder rate has fallen sharply. Can inclusion policies turn gang membership into a force for good? Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Jordan Dunbar and Bethan Head (Photo: Members of the Latin Kings gang pose for photographs and throw up their gang sign, New York. Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty Images)...


How can we feed 11 billion people?
The world’s population is set to grow from 7.7 to 11 billion by the end of this century. The challenge is to produce enough food to feed this number of people. In the 1960s the Green Revolution provided answers to similar problems – but the projected population growth of the future is on a much greater scale than before, and so new measures are required. In east Africa they’re working to reduce the amount of food that’s lost before it even gets to market – globally this stands at around 30 per cent. In the ...

How scared should we be?
Who benefits from our fear and is there more than just global reporting behind it? Has the world become more dangerous or has our perception of the world just changed? Rolling news and social media makes us aware of every threat no matter where in the world. From Ebola to flying we investigate the deeper reasons behind our modern fears. Speaking with experts in public health, risk and fear to find out why we are all so afraid. This week The Inquiry asks ‘How Scared Should We Be?’ Presenter: Ruth Alexand...

Why has the Kashmir crisis lasted so long?
In February a bomb blast killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police officers in Kashmir; the worst attack by Pakistani militants in years. Indian military jets were deployed and one was shot down. As concerns over the pilot’s fate grew, fears mounted that India and Pakistan might go to war over Kashmir – again. The countries have been at war four times since partition in 1947. And Kashmir, which both countries claim in entirety but each one controls only in part, has been a key factor in the conflicts. ...


How long can we live?
Life expectancy is going up as we develop new cures for the diseases that kill us off. But can we beat the most fatal condition of all - old age? We talk to scientists on the frontier of fighting the ageing process itself, when our bodies just start to wear out. In India, Tuhin Bhowmick is working towards 3D printing new organs so people don’t die waiting for transplants. In the US, Meng Wang is developing ways to use the tiny creatures that live in our guts to extend our lives. And in the UK, Lorna Harries...

How is space changing Earth?
Many nations have now entered the space race. China first sent a man into space in 2003 and in the last few months made a successful, unmanned, landing on the far side of the moon. This was a world first. India has its own record. A few years ago it launched more satellites into space, in one go, than any other nation. Nigeria is talking about sending an astronaut into space. And Kyrgyzstan is developing its first satellite, built entirely by female engineers. The Inquiry explores what lies behind all this...

What is the Wagner Group?
In recent years, in trouble spots and war zones around the world – places such as Syria, Eastern Ukraine and Central African Republic – The Wagner Group has been active. They are fighters for hire. But very little else, for certain, is known about them. Are they mercenaries working for the Russian intelligence service? Or are they muscle men securing the financial interests of powerful oligarchs? The Inquiry traces the history of the group; why they emerged and how they operate now. It is a story that twi...


Will populism destroy the European Union?
The European Union was formed in the years after the Second World War to secure peace and promote economic progress. It aimed to achieve that by ensuring that countries worked together. But that optimistic vision has now been shaken. There is mounting anxiety about whether the EU can hold together. Some are even saying that the EU is facing an existential crisis. That’s because the elections in May are likely to bring in another wave of populist politicians promoting nationalist agendas. The Inquiry will d...

Are smart cities dumb?
Driverless cars powered by renewable energy whisking their healthy and happy citizens between gleaming skyscrapers, criss-crossing efficient roads. That’s the dream of many so called smart cities. The trend for ‘smart cities’ has grown immensely over the last decade and their definition has evolved too. Hundreds are planned or are already being built around the world, in both rich and poor countries. From Google’s Sidewalk city to Eko Atlantic in Nigeria, tech companies are seeking to tame our ever more...

Can radicalised kids recover?
Tens of thousands of children have been forced to join militia or terror groups in recent years. The Inquiry looks at conflicts around the world to find out what it takes to rehabilitate a child who has witnessed or taken part in violent extremism. We hear from experts who say it is as important to mend the community as much as the child. And we consider the position of stateless children, including those who have never been registered anywhere and those whose nationality is in dispute. If they end up bel...


How do we stop young people killing themselves?
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally. But innovative and unexpected ways to tackle this public health issue are emerging. From Nigeria to Finland, ordinary people and experts are putting their own experiences and expertise to use in coming up with ways that help prevent deaths in their communities. School timetables, video games and social media are among some of the new ways being trialled to cut deaths and break the taboo surrounding youth suicide. We ask what can ...

Why don't we care about Yemen?
Three million people in Yemen have been forced from their homes, and the dead are estimated to number many tens of thousands. But, compared to similar conflicts, global attention has been slight. The Inquiry asks why. It explores how the media has told the Yemeni story, and the impact valuable arms sales have had on international pressure – or the lack of it – to bring the conflict to an end. There are other factors too. The conflict in Yemen has created countless refugees, but they have not fled beyond the...

What’s so scary about Huawei?
The tech giant has had a meteoric rise over the last ten years. It has overtaken Apple in the global smartphone market, and its equipment is in telecommunications systems in 170 countries worldwide. But Huawei now finds itself at the centre of a global scandal. Its chief financial officer - the daughter of the company’s founder - is under house arrest in Canada, accused of selling telecom equipment to Iran in contravention of US sanctions. A week later, a US court charged the whole company with bank fra...


Why Can’t So Many Children Read?
More children than ever before attend school – so why have reading rates been so slow to improve? In some countries teachers are absent from class one day every week, in others early years education barely exists. And many children are taught to read in languages they do not speak. The Inquiry explores what reading skills get measured, and whether they are the right ones. And it asks how the quality of literacy education could best be improved. Presenter: Kavita Puri Producer: Rosamund Jones (ima...

Should We Fear ‘Designer Babies’?
In November 2018, a Chinese scientist stunned the world by announcing that he had successfully edited the genes of two embryos. These twins had their DNA changed to try and make them resistant to HIV, it was only successful in one. Shock and outrage followed as the media proclaimed that the age of the designer baby had arrived and we had opened a door that could never be closed. The Chinese government ordered an inquiry and the scientist rumoured to be put under house arrest. For many in the genetics comm...

What Would It Take to Impeach Trump?
Ever since Donald Trump took office in 2016 his critics have been focussed on getting rid of him. As the Mueller probe into Russian collusion in the presidential election heads into its last six months, several members of President Trump’s inner circle have been convicted of serious crimes. For some, it’s only a matter of time before Trump himself is implicated. For others, the evidence so far is simply not substantial enough. With Democrats now in control of Congress, the votes are there to impeach Trump...


Can We Stop a Mass Extinction?
Human activity is sending animals and plants extinct. But there is a fightback going on. Scientists all over the world are coming up with radical solutions to save them - from transplanting polar bears, to “de-extincting” a very strange frog. And experts say each one of us can make a difference. So is it too late to save the planet, or can we stop a mass extinction? Contributors include: Dr Simon Clulow – Macquarie University, Australia Dr Karen Poiani – CEO, Island Conservation Professor Jane Hill...

Are We Heading for Another Mass Extinction?
This week we’re looking at nothing less than the state of life on earth. The planet has seen mass extinctions before, periods of widespread and dramatic species loss. Some now fear human activity is driving another one: land cleared for farms, homes and roads; waters filled with pollution and emptied of fish; skies choked with gasses causing climate change. But does it add up to a mass extinction? In the first of a two-part series, we examine the evidence of species loss and compare it with the geological r...

How Did We Get Hooked on Vitamins?
Millions of us take a vitamin tablet every day - how did they become so popular? We follow the rise and rise of vitamins from their discovery just a century ago, to the multi-billion dollar market of today. The story of how the vitamin supplement entered our daily lives takes us from the targeted guilt-tripping of concerned mothers, to the use of vitamins as a weapon against the Nazis, via a plan for vitamin doughnuts. Experts question whether most of us need to take them at all – so how did we get hooked...


What did #MeToo Really Achieve?
#MeToo became viral following allegations of sexual harassment and violence at the hands of Harvey Weinstein. Now women and men in their millions around the world have been mobilised by the hashtag to share their stories of abuse. But its founder Tarana Burke fears the movement has moved away from its original remit to give a voice to victims of sexual violence. She worries it is being talked about as a vindictive plot against men. So what is the reality on the ground around the globe? We hear about the imp...

Is this the Most Dangerous Time to be a Journalist?
Journalists have been subject to more killings, and increasing levels of violence and intimidation in 2018, according to monitoring groups. This year alone more than 30 have been murdered, including Mexican veteran journalist Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez who was stabbed to death in January, 5 journalists shot dead at their office in Annapolis in the US in June, and the story that has dominated the news, the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his consulate in Istanbul in October. The suspects rang...

Why Is Brexit So Hard?
The UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016. More than two years on, it’s still not clear how that will happen, or what will come after. Consensus within Westminster seems impossible, and if the deal currently on offer from Brussels is voted down on December 11, the UK could crash out of the EU with no deal at all. What makes it so hard to come up with a solution? The BBC has followed all of the twists and turns of the Brexit negotiations in minute detail. In this special programme, four corre...


Is the West at War with Russia?
There’s talk of a new Cold War between Russia and the West. What responsibility does the West carry for the dismal state of relations? Russian leaders say Nato has expanded far beyond the borders that were agreed when the Soviet Union collapsed and a new European order was thrashed out. They see troops and hardware stationed close to their towns and cities as highly provocative. America and the EU are seen as meddling in the internal affairs of Russia and the states surrounding it by funding pro-democracy ...

Is Russia at War with the West?
There are currently a number of serious allegations made in the West against Russia. They include the attempted murder of the former spy Sergei Skripal on British soil; interference in the 2016 US election; the hacking of the American electricity grid. To some, it feels like the West is under attack. But do any of these actions amount to war? Olga Khovostunova, a Russian media analyst, describes the effect of the collapse of the Soviet Union on the psyche of President Putin and his close knit circle of s...

What Makes A Pariah State?
There are different routes to pariah status. North Korea, with its gross human rights abuses and illicit nuclear weapons programme tops the list and represents the classic pariah - completely ostracized from the international system. Another sure-fire way to become a pariah is to sponsor international terrorism, like Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya in the 20th century. But as his example shows, international rehabilitation can happen almost overnight. Then there are less clear cut pariahs like Zimbabwe, condemned b...


How Did We Mess up Antibiotics?
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...

Is the China-Africa Love Affair Over?
The burgeoning relationship between China and Africa has been one of the great economic stories of the 21st century. Billions of dollars of investment and loans from China have created radical change in many African countries. But not everyone is happy, with some even claiming this is a new form of colonialism. As signs of discontent grow in countries like Zambia, and investment numbers start to slip down, we ask: is the China-Africa love affair over? Contributors include: Dr Lauren Johnston – Research F...

What Went Wrong in Indonesia?
Thousands died when an earthquake and tsunami struck Palu, Indonesia – but could more lives have been saved? Accusations have been made of a host of failings: alert systems that were out of action, sirens that didn’t sound, a government slow to give emergency help - even people who were too busy filming the disaster to run away. How much truth is there to this? Was everything done to warn people beforehand, and rescue people in the aftermath? We speak to experts on the ground and around the world to find ou...


Can Delhi Clean Up Its Air?
Delhi is one of the worst polluted cities in the world. Radical ideas like skyscraper-sized air purifiers are being proposed to clean the smog – can they work? There are lessons to be learned from other cities around the world about how to manage emissions. But will any city’s air ever be really clean? (Image: A heavily polluted street in Delhi. Photo Credit: Arvind Yadav/Getty Images)...

Should We Rethink the Ban on Child Labour?
Most countries in the world have signed up to the idea that no child should work at all under a certain age – but is this the best approach? This week Nicolle, a 17 year old from Peru, has been part of a delegation of child labourers visiting the UN to ask them to rethink their ban on child labour. She’s been working since she was 8 years old, and says not only did her family need the money she earned, but working brought her status and respect. Some charities and experts working with child labourers agree...

Is Genetic Testing Overrated?
DNA testing is big business. Millions of people worldwide are finding out about their ancestry and genetic health traits by sending off a spit sample to one of the big consumer genetic testing companies. But what do your genes really tell you? And could genetic testing have harmful consequences for our health and for society? Four experts chart the rise of consumer genetic testing and examine the claims made and our expectations about the results. Presenter: Helena Merriman Producer: Lucy Proctor (image: ...


The Inquiry Junior - Why are North and South Korea divided?
The story of how a line on a map becomes a hard state border that no one can cross. Korea was ruled as one Kingdom for a thousand years. They valued poetry and scholars helped rule the country. But their Kingdom was invaded by Japan. When Japan left, Russia and America raced to take their place. Amid frantic organising, a line dividing Korea in two was suggested. Who knew that line would become the front line in a war, eventually creating a hard border between two new countries? This is a special edition...

The Inquiry Junior - What’s Killing Africa’s Elephants?
This is a special edition that younger listeners aged 10 to 14 can also enjoy. If you’re no longer in that bracket, don’t worry, The Inquiry as you know and love it will be back to normal after the next two episodes. It’s an experiment and we’d love to know what you think of it. Please email us [email protected] or tweet @bbctheinquiry. What’s Killing Africa’s Elephants? Poachers, jewellery makers and angry farmers: the story behind the drop in elephant numbers across Africa. Presenters: Priscilla Ngeth...

Is Women’s Sport In Trouble?
Ever since it began, women’s sport has been beset by a fundamental question: who gets to compete as a woman? It’s a debate which is more heated now than ever. That’s because in a few months, athletics’ governing body, the International Association of Athletics Federations, will introduce controversial new rules, regulating the participation of athletes with disorders of sexual development, commonly known as intersex conditions. It’s a debate that goes far beyond sport - throwing up difficult questions abo...


How Do You Run A Hacking Operation?
Thousands of cyberattacks occur every single day. Some hackers steal credit card details or pilfer money from online bank accounts. Others cripple businesses, or even governments. As tensions mount in cyberspace, what are countries doing to strengthen their cyber power and build a hacking army? In this Inquiry, we delve into some of the world’s most intriguing cyber operations – including Iran, Russia and North Korea. (Black Hat DEF CON cybersecurity conference in Las Vegas, Nevada USA. Photo Credit: ...

Who’s in the Driving Seat of the US – Saudi Relationship?
It’s graduation day at the end of a religious summer school in Yemen’s Saada province. A class of young boys are off on a trip to a shrine. In a land of war, they are happy - jostling and full of energy on their school bus. Moments later, most of the boys are dead. A Saudi-led coalition airstrike has hit their bus. The bomb that was dropped by the Saudis was made in the United States, and Saudi Arabia is the America’s single biggest customer when it comes to buying arms. Critics argue that Donald Trump ...

Could We See Another Aids Pandemic?
The year 2030 was set by the UN as the world's deadline for halting the spread of HIV, stopping Aids deaths, and having the first generation since 1980 born and raised completely free from infection. But at last month’s 22nd International Aids conference the mood was less optimistic. Deaths from the disease, having stabilised, are now beginning to increase, with some people fearing the disease is now poised to add massively to its global death toll. As global funding for Aids decreases, and drug resistan...


Can We Control 3D Printing?
It was May 2013 when Cody Wilson went public with his 3D-printed handgun. An online video showed the crude plastic object fixed on top of a tripod. The trigger was pulled from a distance by someone pulling a long piece of string. Since that first successful firing, 3D printed guns and the debate around them has come a long way. The design for Cody Wilson’s plastic firearm, dubbed the ‘Liberator’ has been downloaded from the internet nearly 100,000 times. The US government has tried to block its publication...

Is WhatsApp Fuelling Vigilantism?
In India, false rumours about child kidnappers, spread on WhatsApp, have prompted fearful mobs to kill innocent people. In May 2018 a video went viral. The original, a Pakistani child safety video, had been edited to show two men on a motorbike driving up to a group of children playing cricket in the street. They swoop up a small boy in a red t-shirt and drive away. As the video spread across India people started receiving messages in their WhatsApp groups, some claiming to be from the local police, sayin...

Is Africa’s Longest War Really Over?
It’s a July morning in Ethiopia and Addisalem Hadigu, a journalist in his 50s, boards a flight to neighbouring Eritrea. But it’s no ordinary plane. This ‘bird of peace’ is the first commercial flight to operate between the two countries since 1998, and Addisalem is flying to see his wife and two daughters – the family he hasn’t seen in 20 years. Reunions like this are happening across Ethiopia and Eritrea, after the two countries finally agreed a peace deal and ended Africa’s longest war. But will it la...


What does Iran think of the West?
As relations with Iran and the West reach a new low point with the collapse earlier this year of the nuclear deal and the reintroduction of strict economic sanctions we ask: what does Iran think of the West? Pooneh Ghoddoosi explores a long and tortuous history of outside interference in the country. It dates back to the Western desire for Iran's rich oil reserves in the early 20th century, and continues through the CIA-backed coup in 1953, which strengthened the Shah's grip on the throne. The Western powe...

Can We Ever Understand Animals?
By the time she died at the age of 46, Koko the gorilla was a global superstar. Not only could she apparently understand two thousand words of spoken English and convey her own thoughts and feelings using sign language, but she was even able to give her own pet kitten a name. Some say that it’s impossible to know whether Koko really understood what she was communicating, or whether she was just trying to please people by signing certain things. Either way, her death raises questions about animals, and the...

Can We Eat Our Way Out Of Climate Change?
Food production accounts for as much global greenhouse gas emissions as all forms of transport combined. That’s why many scientists think we can’t tackle climate change without addressing what we eat. So – in this week’s repeat Inquiry – we’re looking at alternative climate-friendly diets and asking what it would take to move the world towards them. Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: Friends having a vegetarian meal. Credit: Shutterstock)...


Are We Heading for a Trade War?
The world’s two biggest economies are on the brink of a costly standoff. The US has announced tariffs of 25% on a swathe of Chinese goods, starting July 6th. China has vowed to respond in kind. ‘If someone wants a trade war,’ China’s Commerce Minister said, ‘we will fight to the end.’ President Trump is bullish, threatening further tariffs and tweeting: ‘trade wars are good, and easy to win.’ But the WTO has warned that a trade war would have a ‘severe’ impact on the global economy. We look at the forces dr...

Can You Train People To Be Less Prejudiced?
Donte Robinson and Rashon Nelson were waiting to meet a business associate in Starbucks. After two minutes, the store manager called the police and the African-American men were removed from the café in handcuffs. The Starbucks CEO has described the incident as “racial profiling”, claiming that the manager acted on unconscious racial bias. In response, he closed 8,000 branches of the coffee giant so his staff could attend anti-bias training. It’s not just Starbucks - diversity training, such as this, ...

How Do You Make People Have Babies?
More than half the world’s countries are not producing enough babies to offset the number of deaths. Russia is the latest to experience a dip in the fertility rate, despite the government rolling out measures to encourage people to have more children. They have tried mortgage subsidies, giving couples days off to have sex, and rewarding fruitful mothers with the grand prize of a refrigerator. But the fertility rate continues to drop. It is a situation that governments in Spain, Singapore, Germany, South K...


Is Raqqa Recovering After Islamic State?
Last year, the world watched as Islamic State was driven from Raqqa, the city they claimed as their capital. The UN has estimated that around 80% of the city’s buildings were destroyed or damaged in the battle. Eight months later, many Raqqans are returning home. Amid the rubble, life is slowly returning to Raqqa. This week, we investigate what life is like after Islamic State. (Picture: A view of destroyed buildings at the frontline in Raqqa, Syria October 16, 2017. Credit: Reuters / Erik De Castro)...

Can Computers Predict Crimes That Haven’t Happened Yet?
Chicago resident Robert McDaniel was surprised when a police commander showed up at his home to warn him that they were watching him. With only a misdemeanour conviction and arrests for a number of suspected minor offenses, he had somehow made it onto the Chicago Police Department’s so called ‘heat list’ - a list of names created by algorithm of those deemed to be most at risk of either being a victim or perpetrator of violent crime. In this Inquiry we look at whether computers can predict future of when...

Is North Korea Broke?
North Korea has been under sanctions for many years. But this isolated economy is showing signs of life that might surprise you. From hacking and counterfeit money to coffee shops in Pyongyang, we investigate what life is like in North Korea and how the state makes its money. Presenter: Celia Hatton Producer: Josephine Casserly (Photo: A woman shopping at the Kwangbok, or 'liberation', department store in Pyongyang. Credit: Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)...


What Makes a Revolution Successful?
Armenia's recent successful uprising is being celebrated as unprecedented for a former Soviet state. The so-called “velvet revolution” began on the last day in March with a protest walk. It ended two weeks and 100km later with the government overthrown. Yet revolutions rarely triumph. In this Inquiry we look at the factors that need to come together for such a revolution to succeed. Do they always need to be bloody and brutal or can non-violence resistance be as effective? How important are state instit...

Trump and Kim: Can They Close the Deal?
Not long ago, they were calling each other names and raising fears of a nuclear war. Now, it is feasible they could together win the Nobel Peace Prize - if they can reach a deal. The mooted meeting between America’s Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un could go wrong in many ways. Mr Trump has already talked of walking out. But in a spirit of optimism, this week’s Inquiry hears from those who have brokered some of the world’s most unlikely pacts for advice on how to strike the deal of a lifetime. With...

What’s the Real Difference Between the Sexes?
In late December 2017, one of the world’s leading neurobiologists died of pancreatic cancer. His name was Ben Barres. He was an extraordinary scientist, advancing our understanding of how the brain works, in particular how certain cells in the brain may contribute to degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. He had also lived the last 20 years of his life as a transgender man. He used his unique perspective of having ‘lived in the shoes of a woman and…the shoes of a man’ to become an ou...


What’s Killing Black American Babies?
Black infants in America are twice as likely to die in their first year as white infants. This stark disparity has long puzzled doctors and researchers. Why are so many African-American babies dying? (Photo: A medical assistant measures the head of a newborn baby during a check-up in the USA. Credit: John Moore / Getty Images)...

Are Nerve Agents Out of Control?
Syria, Salisbury, Malaysia Airport – all sites of nerve agent attacks carried out in the past couple of years. Yet hundreds of countries have supposedly destroyed their stockpiles of chemical weapons. It’s also illegal to produce and use them. We look to four of the world’s most experienced chemists and researchers to tell us more about the nerve agents used in these recent attacks, how they are regulated and the ongoing problems of getting rid of them. (Photo: Members of the emergency services in green b...

How Did China Ban Ivory?
China’s ivory market is now closed for business. The country has long been one of the world's biggest consumers of ivory. But as of this year, buying and selling ivory in China is illegal. Carving factories, workshops and jewellers have all shut their doors. How did this happen? And will it be enough to save the African elephant? (Photo: An African Elephant throws mud onto himself, Mpala Research Centre, Kenya. Credit: Simon Maina/Getty Images)...


How Do Dictators Survive So Long?
When Robert Mugabe was deposed last year, he had ruled Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. How do dictators and authoritarians stay in power? James Tilley, a professor of politics at Oxford University in the UK, finds out what's in the dictators' survival guide. How do they control ordinary people and stop revolts? How do they stop rivals from taking over? And why are elections often helpful to securing their rule? Producer: Bob Howard. (Photo: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe looks on during his inaugur...

Is Plastic Doomed?
The tide of public opinion is turning on plastic. The image of a whale with plastic stuck in its mouth on the BBC nature documentary Blue Planet 2 woke people up across the world to the reality of plastic pollution in our oceans. Experts think that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea. Communities across the globe are saying that something must be done. But does this change in public mood spell disaster for plastic? And if so, what would replace it? We go from Europe, to the US and I...

Have We Always Felt This Tired?
“Humans are the only species that willingly deprive themselves from sleep”. Ever since fire was discovered, we have traded off sleep time for other activities - from creating stone tools to partying. As our technology progressed, the list of things to do rather than sleep just got longer. But with sleep deprivation now a growing health problem, could we be reaching our limits? Or is tiredness part of our condition? In this week’s programme, an evolutionary biologist, a historian and a neuroscientist give us...


What’s Happening to IS Fighters Now?
From courtrooms and prisons to rehab centres and martial arts training. We look to Europe, Iraq, Central Asia and Saudi Arabia to investigate how they are dealing with Islamic State militants. The defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has raised a new, global challenge. While Iraq is funnelling huge numbers of Islamic State suspects through its courts, thousands of foreign fighters are returning to their home countries. What is happening to former IS fighters? (Photo: A man takes down a poster of the ...

Is Facebook in Trouble?
It is one of the largest, most profitable companies in the world, with billions of users, but more and more questions are being asked of Facebook. Accused of allowing the spread of fake news and hate speech, and of turning a blind eye to election meddling by Russia, Facebook is in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has committed himself to “fixing Facebook.” With the help of experts in the field, in the US, India and Germany, we ask if Facebook really is in tr...

What Happens When a Cyber-attack Strikes?
The US and UK governments have accused Russia of orchestrating the most damaging cyber-attack in history. It caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage in over 60 countries. This programme tells the story of the attack as it unfolded across the globe. With the help of the world’s leading cyber security experts we take a forensic look at how the attack began, the extraordinary way in which it spread, and examine the international repercussions. (A laptop displays a message after being infected by a ransom...


How Do You Close The Gender Pay Gap?
Women earn less than men in every country in the world. Women are now more educated than ever before. But, on average, they don't take home the same in their pay packets. And laws against discrimination in the workplace haven't been enough to close the gap. This inequality in wages has proven difficult to shift. Governments, employers and unions are struggling to find solutions to this stubborn and deep-rooted problem. How do you close the gender pay gap? Presenter: Krupa Padhy Producers: Josephine C...

Why is Cape Town Running Out of Water?
It is feared than in a few months’ time Cape Town could run out of water. The city is planning for so-called Day Zero when the supply is switched off and people will have to collect water rations. Cape Town is an extreme example of what is now a global phenomenon of water scarcity. We investigate how the city got so close to the brink, and whether there’s anything that other cities around the world can do to avoid a similar fate. (image: A man collects drinking water from taps that are fed by a spring in N...

Why Are the Taliban So Resilient?
The Taliban have staged devastating attacks in the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, in recent weeks. And a BBC study has discovered the group is active across the majority of the country – pushing beyond its traditional southern stronghold into eastern, western and northern parts. Seventeen years after the Taliban were toppled by a US-led invasion, it is clear the insurgent group has not been defeated. Why are the Taliban so resilient? Presenter: Helena Merriman Producers: Ruth Alexander and Josephine Casser...


How Did We Get Hooked on Plastic?
The story of how the search for a material to replace ivory changed our lives forever. In the 19th century a billiard ball company placed an advert in a newspaper offering $10,000 to anyone who could come up with a substitute for ivory. There was growing concern that companies were hunting elephants into extinction so they could use their ivory for billiard balls, buttons and umbrella handles. The story that follows takes us from explosive factories that often went up in smoke to the modern world we find ou...

What Does China Want in the South China Sea?
China has long been keen to assert its authority in the South China Sea. In recent years, it has undertaken a huge programme of island-building to stake its claim to the region. Fiery Cross, once a tiny reef, is now a fortified airbase. And this is just one of China’s seven artificial islands in the Sea. But China is not the only one. Bordered by seven states, many others also claim parts of the South China Sea as their own. Experts warn these hotly contested waters could be a flashpoint for conflict in 2...

What’s the Greatest Threat to Poland?
The EU’s launched the ‘nuclear option’ against Poland, the first time it’s triggered the disciplinary measure in its history. They say recent changes to the legal system mean there is a serious threat to the rule of law and as a punishment, Poland could lose its voting rights in the European Union. The ruling party say this is an attack on Poland and that the EU should not be telling them what to do. The government says that actually their judiciary is threatened by the legacy of communism which is why they...


What is IS doing in the Philippines?
In 2017 the black flag of the Islamic State group flew in the southern Philippines as a mixture of local and foreign fighters attacked the Islamic City of Marawi. While the government did eventually regain control, it took five months to break the siege and many terrorist leaders escaped during the fighting. It's led to fears that the extremist violence could spread. In this Inquiry we investigate the long history of conflict which provided a fertile place for IS's Islamist ideas to grow, and ask how im...

Is Zero Tolerance the Right Approach for FGM?
In 1994 a United Nations conference, backed by 173 countries, announced that ‘female genital mutilation’ was a “violation of basic rights and a major lifelong risk to women’s health”. Agreeing it should end, international agencies and charities quickly swung into action, and over the next two decades millions were spent on campaigns to eradicate the practise around the world. Today though, pricking or cutting of the genitalia still happens to an estimated 3 million girls a year in 30 countries, and some exp...

What’s The Point Of Bitcoin?
Making sense of the digital currency and the ideology of its founders, fans and future. In 2010 a developer spent 10,000 bitcoin to buy two pizzas. Seven and a half years later that was the equivalent of over $80m. Bitcoin has been exploding in value throughout 2017 as more and more people buy into the idea of a digital currency. Traditional financial institutions have even begun to get involved. But far from a mainstream investment, Bitcoin started life as an idea from the radical cypherpunk movement, w...


The North Korea Deep Dive
What next for North Korea? Kim Jong-un's nuclear ambitions and their global repercussions are explored in this special, extended edition of the programme. After a year of repeated weapons testing by the secretive regime that’s sparked a war of words with the United States, Ruth Alexander brings together six expert witnesses to dive deep into the detail of what is one of the biggest geopolitical challenges of our time. Their discussion examines North Korea’s weapons capability, the mind-set of its leader, ...

How Do We Rule The Universe?
Governing moon miners, asteroid hunters and space junk sounds pretty tricky, but we better get our act together. This year the majority of space launches included commercial enterprises. Space is no longer just the playground of governments but companies; companies that want to mine the moon for water that they could sell as rocket fuel, companies that want to mine the moon for helium -3 which could be sold and used as energy back on earth and companies that want to mine asteroids for platinum that they cou...

How Powerful is Facebook's Algorithm?
There is a place on the internet where almost two billion of us regularly go – many of us, every day. Facebook: the social network which Mark Zuckerberg started in his university dorm room and which has grown, in a little over a decade, into one of the most valuable companies in the world. But what does Facebook’s lines of computer code do with the data we give it – and what could it do in the future? Just how powerful is Facebook's algorithm? The answer will surprise you. Produced by Estelle Doyle and Sar...


Are We Missing a Bigger Opioid Crisis?
Forty-two Americans die every day from an overdose involving painkilling prescription opioids. President Donald Trump recently declared the US opioid epidemic a national public health emergency. Yet in the world’s poorest countries, cancer patients and people recovering from major surgery often get no effective pain relief at all. Why is access to prescription painkillers so unequal? And is the shortage of opioids in much of the world getting the attention it deserves? (Photo: View of poppies in a poppy fi...

What Would an Iran-Saudi Arabia War Look Like?
Missiles, fighter jets and mines waiting on the sea bed - war games in the gulf. Tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia is at an unprecedented level since a missile was intercepted over Saudi Arabia’s capital city. The Saudi Crown Prince blames Iran and says the attack may be considered an act of war. This is what would happen if they did go to war. (Photo: An Iranian missile is test-launched during war games in Qom, south of Tehran. Credit: Shaigan/Getty Images)...

Why Doesn’t Apple Pay More Tax?
The world’s most profitable company is accused of aggressively dodging tax. Leaked documents in the Paradise Papers show Apple moved hundreds of billions of dollars in untaxed foreign profits to Jersey, where foreign companies pay no corporation tax. Yet Apple says it pays “every dollar it owes in every country around the world”. Confused? Not for long. (Customers wait in front of the giant Apple logo for the store to open in Munich, Germany. Photo Credit: Christof Stache/GettyImages)...


What Does the Saudi Crown Prince Want?
He’s pushed through reforms but some fear there is a darker desire driving the ruler. In one night, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman arrested over a dozen Princes and government ministers on corruption charges. To turn on his own royal family, he must be serious. But is corruption the Crown Prince’s real target or is this a power grab? There are also fears that the aggressive stance he has taken with Lebanon, Yemen and Qatar is increasing tensions with regional rival Iran. If the tension reaches a tipping p...

Is the Knowledge Factory Broken?
Academic research stands accused of turning a blind eye to dodgy data, failing to reconcile contradictory findings and valuing money over knowledge. We examine the criticisms, which go the very heart of our pursuit of knowledge. (Photo: Scientist working in a research laboratory. Credit: Shutterstock)...

How Powerful is Iran’s Revolutionary Guard?
The growth and reach of a group labelled a ‘terror force’ by President Trump. On 13 October President Trump announced new sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp for supporting terrorism. But what is the Revolutionary Guard and what is its role in Iran and the Middle East? The group started as an army to protect the values of the Iranian revolution of 1979, but their role in fighting a long and brutal war with Iraq strengthened their military clout considerably. Today their forces work...


How Do You End A Civil War?
Why internal conflicts end and what it might mean for Syria. The war in Syria is in its seventh year and there are few signs that an end is in sight. Yet over the years, other seemingly intractable civil conflicts have, eventually, been resolved. So, how did they do it and what lessons are there that might help Syria? (A Kurdish Syrian woman walks with her child past the ruins of the town of Kobane in northern Syria. Credit: Yasin Akgul/Getty Images)...

Is the Pope Catholic?
The head of the Roman Catholic Church has been accused of aiding the spread of heresy. A petition criticising the ambiguity of Pope Francis' statements on the treatment of people who have divorced and remarried is the latest twist in a fierce debate which is dividing Roman Catholics. The argument centres on whether divorcees on their second marriages should be able to receive Holy Communion, a ceremony that is central to the Christian faith. However, the dispute goes much deeper than that. At its heart, it ...

Can We Teach Robots Ethics?
From driverless cars to "carebots", machines are entering the realm of right and wrong. Should an autonomous vehicle prioritise the lives of its passengers over pedestrians? Should a robot caring for an elderly woman respect her right to life ahead of her right to make her own decisions? And who gets to decide? The challenges facing artificial intelligence are not just technical, but moral - and raise hard questions about what it means to be human. (image: PaPeRo communication robot at the Robodex trade ...


Is Privacy Dead?
We all do it: ask a search engine things we wouldn’t dare ask a friend, post our lives on social media, hit the ‘agree’ button on privacy conditions we never read. This is life in our online age. To get our favourite apps and services for free, we provide companies with the intimate details of our lives. Businesses we’ve heard of, and many we haven’t, make money off this data in ways we may not fully realise. And almost every week it seems there’s another data breech – Equifax, Sonic, and Deloitte have be...

Could We Ban the Sale of Petrol and Diesel Cars Now?
The list of nations legislating to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars is growing. But these restrictions won’t come into effect for decades. Air pollution contributes to thousands of early deaths each year and the scandal known as Dieselgate, when vehicle manufacturers admitted tampering with emissions tests, made us more aware of the polluting power of the diesel engine. Automotive technology is advancing quickly, but will greener vehicles really replace the combustion engine? Hybrid and electric car...

Can China Solve the North Korea Problem?
North Korea continues to rattle the world with its rapidly advancing weapons programme. Diplomacy with this Hermit Kingdom is broken and UN sanctions have little effect curtailing the nuclear ambitions of the country’s enigmatic leader Kim Jong–Un. As its closest neighbour and biggest ally, can China solve the growing threat - with whatever options remain? (image: Chinese/N.Korean sign beside the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge connecting the Chinese border city of Dandong to North Korea over the Yalu riv...


How Do We Stop People Dying in Floods?
Do we have the power to avoid the natural forces of intense rainfall? With rising sea levels and the threat of climate change, the risk of death due to floods seems an insurmountable challenge. But there are some surprising facts in the figures on flood deaths. In developed countries like the US, more men die in floods than women and it is 30% of white men who are of particular concern. We hear from four expert witnesses from across the globe, who share different options for change. Their ideas are bo...

What Can We Do With Our Dead?
Cemeteries around the world are fast running out of space. As more and more people choose to live in cities, some can't even cope with the ashes left after cremation. Deep questions about our communities, cultures and mortality emerge as The Inquiry asks: what can we do with our dead? The programme script says that "only the very wealthiest can afford to rest in the ground in Hong Kong and Singapore". This is true for Hong Kong but Singapore's National Environment Agency has been in touch to say that yo...

How Has The Ku Klux Klan Lasted So Long?
North America’s most notorious racist group, the Ku Klux Klan fought the end of slavery in the 19th century, opposed civil rights in the 20th century and now forms part of a new extreme-right wing movement protesting openly, on America’s streets. Presented by James Fletcher and produced by Kate Lamble, The Inquiry asks four expert witnesses to answer this pressing question; how has the KKK managed to last so long? The answer can be found by looking at the origins of the KKK and the power of the white supre...


Are Video Games a Waste of Time?
Video games are a huge industry, bigger than Hollywood, and billions of people around the world play them for fun. But new economic research in the US suggests that young men are dropping out of work to play games more. This is both because some jobs are becoming harder to find and less rewarding, and because video games are becoming more and more attractive. The gamers say they are happy, but the research has sharpened long-standing concerns about video games. Will there be a 'lost generation' of young men...

How Do You Fix Someone Else's Election?
Smears, bots and bags of cash - we reveal some of the tricks used for fiddling elections around the world. German Chancellor Angela Merkel's security chiefs say Russian intelligence is actively trying to influence next month's German elections. Meanwhile, from the US to the Netherlands, countries are becoming increasingly wary of election interference. So how do you fix someone else’s election? Hear answers from people who've studied it and even been involved. Presenter: Neal Razzell Producers: Phoebe K...

Are South Africa's Police Failing?
A story of crime and often no punishment. South Africa's notoriously violent record has been getting worse. The number of murders and violent crimes is rising as public confidence in the police falls. Officers themselves have been linked to a series of high-profile cases, including spectacular heists at the country's main international airport. South Africa's police minister has called for "a firmer, disciplined force". So, are South Africa's police failing? (image: A riot police officer gets ready to fi...


Who Gets to Have Their Own Country?
You might think simple rules decide the creation of nation states. You'd be wrong. There are plenty of people out there who want their own state - like in Iraqi Kurdistan and Catalonia, which both have independence referendums coming up. Yet the national governments in Baghdad and Madrid say the votes - whatever their outcome - won't result in new countries. So how do you start a new country? Making sense of an atlas dotted with exceptions, special cases and lands in limbo, we ask: who gets to have thei...

What Would War with North Korea Look Like?
Alarm about North Korea has spiked. Earlier this month, the North claimed to have successfully test-launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that could hit Alaska. Some experts estimate that North Korea is now 18 to 36 months away from launching a missile able to reach Los Angeles. President Trump has warned that a "major, major conflict" with North Korea is possible. His closest advisers have said that "the era of strategic patience is over". So, in this week's Inquiry, we take a look at the t...

Is it Time to Ban the Plastic Bottle?
Every single second, 20,000 single-use drinking bottles are sold around the world. That is more than a million pieces of non-biodegradable rubbish produced every minute. And as demand grows in developing economies, so will the mountains of waste, with much of it ending up in the ocean. We learn how the invention of the plastic bottle spawned an industry that has quickly got us hooked. We hear the consequences of our addiction from the man who has dedicated his life to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. An...


Is Gene Editing Out of Control?
"This structure has novel features, which are of considerable biological interest." It was perhaps the greatest understatement of all time - the announcement more than six decades ago of the discovery of the shape of a single human DNA. The double-helix structure is now one of the world's most recognisable icons. Knowledge of it has transformed the fight against everything from disease to crime. That revolution was brought to us by an elite. It took the world's most eminent scientists, backed by the trea...

What's So Special About Qatar?
The tiny state behind a global diplomatic feud. Qatar's landmass is so small it could fit into the UK 20 times over. Its citizen population is just a few hundred thousand. Yet this desert country finds itself at the centre of a geopolitical dispute, with its powerful neighbour Saudi Arabia leading a blockade against it and President Donald Trump firing off critical Tweets. So how did this bantam-weight state end up slogging it out with the world's heavyweights? In other words, what's so special about ...

Have We Always Felt This Tired?
“Humans are the only species that willingly deprive themselves from sleep”. Ever since fire was discovered, we have traded off sleep time for other activities - from creating stone tools to partying. As our technology progressed, the list of things to do rather than sleep just got longer. But with sleep deprivation now a growing health problem, could we be reaching our limits? Or is tiredness part of our condition? In this week’s programme, an evolutionary biologist, a historian and a neuroscientist gi...


Why Does China Want to Revive the Silk Road?
China is currently developing the biggest infrastructure initiative of all time. Called the Belt and Road initiative, the trillion dollar plans involve working with other Asian countries to build hundreds of new roads, high speed trains, ports and pipelines across continent to mimic the ancient Silk Road trading routes. The project offers a clear economic opportunity, but the diplomatic ties that form as a result could have the potential to change the current world order. Presenter: Ruth Alexander Pro...

Is the Greatest Threat to Putin Really Alexei Navalny?
On 12 June 2017 thousands of protesters took to the streets in over 160 towns and cities across Russia. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny called on people to march against corruption from Kaliningrad in the west to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in the east, in bustling cities and significantly, in rural towns where support for President Putin is strong. This is unusual. Protests are usually restricted to the urban elites in Moscow. So who is Navalny and how has he managed to bring so many people out on the streets? ...

How Do You Report Terrorism?
When violent jihadis struck London last Saturday, the rolling news networks kicked quickly into action. The story became front-page news around the world and dominated the UK's news media for days, with ever more information on the attack, the victims and the perpetrators. It was shocking, horrific - and perhaps also exactly what the terrorists wanted. Terrorists rely on the world's media to spread their message of fear and their ideology. Maybe if there was less media coverage of such attacks, it would ...


Is Work Too Easy?
Many of us find our jobs stressful, underpaid and the hours too long. But few would complain about work being less physically strenuous than in the past. And yet, new research shows that the decline in physical activity at work is key to explaining the obesity epidemic. So - is work now too easy? And if it is, can this be reversed? Producers: Estelle Doyle and Phoebe Keane Presenter: Michael Blastland (Photo: Office workers at desks using computers in an office. Credit: Getty Images)...

Does Poverty Change The Way We Think?
Does the experience of poverty actually take a physical toll on your brain? The Inquiry investigates the scientific claims that being poor affects how our brains work. It's well known that children from poorer backgrounds do worse at school. And adults who are poor are often criticised for making bad life decisions - ones that don't help them in the long-term. Some say the problems are rooted in the unfair way our society functions. Others argue it's simple genetics. But a growing body of research sug...

How Did Immigration Stop Being a Political Taboo in the UK?
Brexit showed that the issue is now among the most important for British voters. And that’s likely to continue in June’s UK general election, as major parties have made their positions on immigration central to their campaigns. And yet for decades, immigration was a no-go area for mainstream debate. Following racial tensions in the 1960s, it came to be perceived as a proxy for racism. Today it is one of the most salient issues in British politics. What changed? Producer: Estelle Doyle Presenter: Ruth ...


How Did Venezuela Go From So Rich To So Poor?
Once the richest country in South America, Venezuela is now in deep economic crisis. Children in school are fainting from hunger; patients are dying from the lack of basic medicine. As prices spiral out of control, cash is carried not in wallets, but in backpacks. Street protests over the crisis are growing in size and frequency - and the government's response becoming ever more authoritarian. Yet in 1970, Venezuela was among the wealthiest countries in the world. It was held up as a beacon of democra...

How did North Korea get the Bomb?
Tensions between the US and North Korea are running high. Kim Jong-Un has been testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons. The Trump administration wants Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons programmes and has said “all of our options are on the table” in pursuit of that goal. North Korea has said that a "super mighty pre-emptive strike” is planned if the US uses military force against them. But – our question this week – how did this poor and isolated country develop nuclear weapons in the first place...

Is Inequality About to Get Unimaginably Worse?
Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Sapiens and Homo Deus, explores the long history of inequality – from the Stone Age onwards – and asks whether we are on the brink of creating a huge “economically useless” underclass, unable to keep up with enhanced humans, the owners of increasingly valuable data and, eventually, artificial intelligence. Presenter: Ruth Alexander Producer: Estelle Doyle Editor: Richard Knight (Photo: Yuval Noah Harari, Credit: Daniel Thomas Smith)...


How Powerful is Facebook's Algorithm?
There is a place on the internet where almost two billion of us regularly go – many of us, every day. Facebook: the social network which Mark Zuckerberg started in his university dorm room and which has grown, in a little over a decade, into one of the most valuable companies in the world. But what does Facebook’s lines of computer code do with the data we give it – and what could it do in the future? Just how powerful is Facebook's algorithm? The answer will surprise you. Producers: Estelle Doyle and Sa...

What Happens When You Legalise Cannabis?
In 2014 marijuana was legalised for recreational use in Colorado and Washington states in the US. Oregon, Alaska, California, Nevada and Massachusetts have all followed. These votes were the result of fierce campaigns. Activists argued that changing the law would eliminate the black market in marijuana; creating a legitimate, taxable industry and allowing the police to focus on more serious crime. Opponents feared more people would become cannabis addicts and predicted an uptick in health problems and robbe...

Why Is No-one Trying to Stop the War in Yemen?
It’s two years since the start of the Saudi-led military campaign in support of the Yemeni government which was ousted by Houthi rebels. The war has been a disaster for countless civilians. Thousands have been killed and the country is on the brink of famine. The UN is calling it a humanitarian crisis. And yet it’s far from clear which – if any – of the multiple nations and groups involved in the conflict is working to end it. In other words, our question this week, why is no one trying to stop the war in Y...


Do We Need A Plan B For Climate Change?
At a recent press conference on the new US budget questions were asked about funding for climate change initiatives. The answer was stark. “We’re not spending money on that anymore,” reporters were told, they’re a “waste of your money”. The new administration is sceptical about man-made climate change. Most of the world’s scientists and governments, however, are not. The Paris Agreement committed the world to prevent global temperatures from rising more than two degrees over pre-industrial levels. That targ...

What’s Wrong With France?
Every candidate in the upcoming presidential election in France is calling for change: change to the bureaucracy, the economy and even the culture. France, they say, is broken; society too divided, unemployment too high or the state too oppresive. Are they right? Is this call for change a tired political cliché – or a justifiable response to a deep set of problems? In other words – our question this week – what's wrong with France? Presenter: Estelle Doyle (Photo: A dejected France fan after defeat in the...

Are Famines Always Man-Made?
The UN has declared that South Sudan is in the grip of famine. Aid agencies have pointed the finger not at crop failure, weather or some other environmental problem. Humans, they say, have created this misery – misery which could easily have been avoided. The UN has also warned that conflicts in Yemen, Somalia and northeastern Nigeria mean there could soon be famine in those countries too, creating “the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations” in 1945. Humankind long ago figured...


How is Mosul Being Liberated?
Mosul is today the scene of the largest battle on Earth. Some 100,000 soldiers, police and militiamen are bearing down on the ancient Iraqi city. Backed by Western air power, their mission is to drive out the so-called Islamic State fighters who’ve occupied the city since 2014. Mosul holds enormous symbolic value to both sides. The IS leader declared himself “caliph” there; the Iraqis want to avenge their defeat there nearly three years ago. Between them are hundreds of thousands of civilians. The UN says t...

What Happened to Europe’s Migrant Crisis?
Back in 2015 our radios and TV bulletins were full of stories of people trying to get to Europe. We saw distressing pictures as boats sank and lives were lost. Huge numbers of men, women and children tried to make their way by road, rail and foot to Hungary, Germany and beyond. There was anguish and fear in EU capitals. Now the story has slipped from the front pages. We find out what happened next. (Photo: Syrian refugees sit aboard a dinghy heading to the island of Lesbos early on June 18, 2015. Credit: G...

Why Can't We Stop Looking at our Phones?
Our phones are powerful tools with lots of benefits – keeping in touch, accessing information and services and managing our lives. We are using them more and more, constantly picking them up. Even in situations where it is considered inappropriate, disadvantageous, or even dangerous, many people still find it hard to resist the urge to check their smartphones. Why do we find these mini computers in our pockets so compelling? Our expert witnesses explain how tech developers are tapping into established beh...


Is Donald Trump Good for Journalism?
President Trump has made no secret of his contempt for news organizations, stating that the media are "among the world's most dishonest people". He has described The New York Times as "failing", The Wall Street Journal as “a pile of garbage” and CNN as a “terrible organization” responsible for “fake news". The BBC? “There’s another beauty.” The President has made statements and assertions which are false. He uses Twitter to speak directly to the American people. His combative press secretary Sean Spicer sai...

Can You Believe What You Read on WikiLeaks?
Since 2006 the WikiLeaks website has been publishing secret documents and material obtained from whistleblowers and other sources. Many of the confidential files published by WikiLeaks have been revelatory. The site has frequently made news around the world. But in 2016 Wikileaks published hacked emails relating to Hillary Clinton and her presidential bid. Those leaks appeared to serve the interests of the Trump campaign and were – according to US intelligence – probably provided to Wikileaks by Russian sou...

What Would ‘No Deal’ Mean For Brexit Britain?
"No deal is better than a bad deal." So said Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, clarifying her country's position on Brexit negotiations with the EU. In the absence of a deal with the EU Britain would “revert to WTO rules” after Brexit. But what does that mean, exactly? The Inquiry has the answer. Presenter: Linda Yueh Contributors: Emily Lydgate, University of Sussex Alan Winters, UK Trade Policy Observatory Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, European Centre for International Political Economy Adam Marshall, Bri...


How do You Launch a Nuclear Missile?
'Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?' Hillary Clinton asked during the US election campaign, referring to Mr Trump and the nuclear arsenal. But how close is an American president's finger to 'the button'? How close is anyone’s? We explain how the nuclear weapons systems of the US, Russia, Britain and China work – and how much power any one individual has over them. (Photo: A Trident Ii, Or D-5 Missile, Is Launched From An Ohio-Class Submarine. Credit: Getty Images)...

How Did the US Get Stuck With Guantanamo?
In 2002 US military personnel at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were given 96 hours to prepare their sleepy base for the arrival of hundreds of prisoners. “The worst of the worst,” they were told. Beyond US jurisdiction, with no clear legal framework, prisoners accused of terror offences have been held there indefinitely without charge ever since. For many, Guantanamo has stained the image of the United States. When President Obama came to power in 2008 he vowed to close it. He failed. In this week’s Inquiry we are...

Is There Anybody Out There?
It’s a question humans have asked forever. Are we alone in space? But it wasn’t until the late 1960s that humans started an organised, systematic hunt for extra-terrestrial intelligent life. We have listened to radio waves, peered through the celestial dust and beamed The Beatles to distant planets. So how’s it going? Is there anybody out there? This is the story of the search for extra-terrestrial life. Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: The ALMA, an international partnership project between Europe, Nor...


Can We Eat Our Way Out Of Climate Change?
Food production accounts for as much global greenhouse gas emissions as all forms of transport combined. That’s why many scientists think we can’t tackle climate change without addressing what we eat. So – in this week’s Inquiry – we’re looking at alternative climate-friendly diets and asking what it would take to move the world towards them. Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: Friends having a vegetarian meal. Credit: Shutterstock)...

What Went Right in 2016?
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 on...

Should We Give Homeless People Homes?
It’s 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 doesn’t 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 ap...


What’s the Story of Aleppo?
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 im...

Does Turkey Still Want to Join the EU?
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 Tu...

Why Do Governments Do Stupid Things?
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 t...


Why Did The Polls Get it Wrong (Or Did They)?
Hillary Clinton lost the US election despite some polls putting her chances of winning at 99%. In the run up to the vote pollsters spent huge sums of money speaking to thousands of Americans. They were careful to collect the best possible data from representative samples, and they applied their finest statistical minds to analysing the numbers. Yet almost no-one predicted that Donald Trump would win. So – our question this week – why did the polls get it so wrong? Our expert witnesses explain why polling i...

Why Does Anyone Still 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)...

After the Electoral Shocks of Brexit and the US Election - What Next?
On 8 November, as they stood in line to cast their votes, Americans were told by pollsters and pundits that, while close, the presidential race would be won by Hillary Clinton. As the results came in, precinct by precinct, many in the political establishment watched the unfolding story in disbelief. It was a similar feeling to that felt by many in Britain’s so-called ‘chattering class’ when, on June 24, they woke to the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU. Both were seismic political shocks. Neither ...


Was this the Most Divisive US Election Ever?
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 p...

How Do We Fix Antibiotics?
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 undisc...

How Did We Mess up Antibiotics?
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...


Can a Corrupt Country Get Clean?
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...

Why are 10,000 Children Missing in Europe?
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 traffickin...

Is Islamic State Finished?
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...


Who Wins in a Cashless Economy?
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...

What’s the Point of Lotteries?
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? Prese...

Can Coral Reefs Survive?
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 cora...


Is Retirement Over?
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 be...

Would Donald Trump 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; an...

Why Don’t Cities Want The Olympics?
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...


Has Russia Won In Ukraine?
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 ...

How Did we Save the Ozone Layer?
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 d...

Can Colombia Reintegrate the Farc?
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 Fr...


Is Brexit Inevitable?
“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 U...

Can Trump Win?
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 t...

Can You Make Bankers Behave Better?
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 witn...


Can the EU Survive?
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 t...

Why Do So Many People Dislike Hillary?
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 presiden...

Are We Really About to End World Poverty?
“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 2...


Why Can't Egypt Stop FGM?
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 Fe...

Are we Fighting Cancer the Right Way?
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...

Would A New International Convention Help Refugees?
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 embattl...


What's Killing White American Women?
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 li...

What Happened to the European Dream?
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 ...

Should We Give Homeless People Homes?
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...


What Kind of Person Becomes a Violent Jihadi?
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 ne...

Do We Have Enough Genders?
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-gende...

What Happened To Al-Qaeda?
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 sta...


Why Do Mexicans Drink So Much Soda?
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 w...

Can we Quake-Proof a City?
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, ...

Why Are Wages So Low?
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 e...


How Did Governments Lose Control of Encryption?
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 controll...

Has President Assad Won?
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...

Why Don’t We Eradicate Mosquitoes?
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 uninte...


How Did Iceland Clean Up its Banks (And Why Can't We)?
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...

Are We Fighting Cancer the Right Way?
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 ...

How Has the US Gun Lobby Been so Successful?
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 gu...


What is China Doing to Clear the Air?
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...

Do We Have Enough Genders?
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...

How Much Inequality Is Too Much?
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 prosper...


Should We Solar Panel The Sahara?
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 ca...

How Will a Population Boom Change Africa?
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 expl...

Is Saudi To Blame For ‘IS’?
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 I...


Should Governments Drop Money Out of Helicopters?
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, inexorab...

How Do Cartels Get Drugs into the US?
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 la...

Can ‘Islamic State’ Be Defeated?
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 t...


Have We Underestimated Plants?
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)...

Is it too Late to Save Syria’s Antiquities?
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 antiquitie...

Why was Mohammed Akhlaq Killed?
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)...


How Do You Save the Rhino?
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 incl...

Can Nigeria End Oil Corruption?
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, Muhamm...

Is Russia Vulnerable?
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 ...


What Does the President Need to Know?
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 high...

Do Drone Strikes Work?
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 har...

Is Japan Abandoning Pacifism?
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...


Why is Argentina Still so Sexist?
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 th...

How Will a Population Boom Change Africa?
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 expl...

Can We Learn to Live with Nuclear Power?
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 underst...


Migrant Crisis: What Else Could Europe Try?
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 whethe...

What Will Happen When Robots Take Our Jobs?
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 wi...

Should Anyone Ever Talk to IS?
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 me...


What’s Behind the Anti-Vax Movement?
This July, it was reported that a woman from Washington State in the US had died of measles. It was the first measles death in the country in 12 years and comes after a huge spike in the number of cases of the disease. There is little doubt about what has caused the rise. The 'anti-vax' movement – activists who refuse vaccines believing them to be harmful to children – is vocal, vibrant and virulent. But with their claims proven time and again to be without any scientific basis, why are the 'anti-vaxxers' s...

Why do Tax Havens Still Exist?
In 2009, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared “the beginning of the end” for off-shore tax havens. Since then, the EU, the G20, President Obama and others have lined up to criticise them. And yet they arre still with us. Tim Whewell asks why tax havens continue to exist, and whether tax havens are really to blame for tax avoidance in the first place. (Photo: Island in the Seychelles. Credit: Shutterstock)...

What Does China’s Stock Market Crash Tell Us?
China's economy was up 150% until June. Then it fell by nearly a third. Now it has had the strongest two-day rise since the 2008 global crisis. China’s rollercoaster stock market has provoked panic in recent weeks; panic on the part of small investors, who looked on in horror as previous gains were wiped out, and panic – some would argue – on the part of the Chinese government, which did everything it could to stop the slide. Four expert witnesses analyse what these dramatic events tell us – not about the C...


Is Streaming Good for Music?
Streaming has transformed the way millions listen to music. Whether signed up to Spotify, Apple Music or others, music lovers can access tens of millions of tracks instantly and for the monthly cost of one CD. But is this spectacular transformation good for music? Though streaming surely helps artists find new audiences, do those artists get rewarded fairly? And has having a ‘global jukebox’ at our fingertips changed our relationship to music itself? (Photo: Lucy Rose)...

How Easy is it to Dope in Sport?
The global effort to prevent athletes using performance-enhancing drugs is vast and sophisticated. You might think, in this era of advanced testing, it would be almost impossible to cheat and get away with it. But is that really the case? Alberto Salazar, one of the world’s most successful coaches, has been accused of encouraging his athletes to dope. Salazar strongly denies the allegations. But the story has reignited concerns that, despite the efforts of the anti-doping authorities, cheating is still too ...

Has Austerity Worked?
The global financial crisis reignited an old debate - is it better to cut spending and raise taxes in an economic downturn, or spend your way out of it? After a period of relative consensus up to 2010, some countries inclined more to austerity (cuts and tax rises), some against. In this edition of The Inquiry we examine whether we now have the evidence to settle this important economic argument. (Photo: Anti-austerity demonstration. Credit: Zak Kaczmarek/Getty Images)...


Would Greece Be Better Off Out of the Euro?
Despite the tense and increasingly bitter negotiations between Greece and its European creditors - who the Greek government accuse of demanding intolerable austerity – most Greek people want their country to stay in the euro currency union. But there are some, including within the governing Syriza party, who think Greece might ultimately be better off going it alone, and returning to the drachma. There would be serious pain, no doubt. But, in the longer term, might Greece be better off out of the euro? (P...

What Does China Want From Space?
Fifteen years ago, manned space flight was still a dream for China. Now, they are looking to the moon. They have mastered space walking, they are building advanced scientific satellites in partnership with the European Space Agency, and they are constructing their own ‘heavenly palace’ – a space station to rival the ISS. But some, not least the United States, are concerned by possible military uses for China’s blossoming space technology. This week our four expert witnesses help us figure out what China rea...

Will Anyone Help the Rohingya?
Shocking images have brought the Rohingya to the world’s attention - boatloads of people drifting aimlessly on the Indian ocean, sustained by bottles of water thrown to them by visiting journalists. The Rohingya are Muslims from western Myanmar – or Burma – who live a life of poverty and exclusion. The government refuses even to recognise their ethnicity. Hoping for better lives in Malaysia, they turned to people smugglers and leaky boats. Will anyone help the Rohingya, one of the most marginalised communit...


Is Opposition to GM Crops Irrational?
Ask a scientist, and they will almost certainly tell you genetically modified food is safe to eat. Yet an awful lot of consumers disagree. Is their fear of GM food irrational? Earlier this year the Pew Foundation released a US poll which suggested 88% of scientists think GM food is generally safe to eat, while only 37% of the public agree. It is the issue on which American scientists and the general public are most divided, more so than climate change or vaccines. If the scientific consensus says it is safe...

Who Can Fix Fifa?
Fifa has been described as a “totalitarian” set-up “beyond ridicule” with a leadership “incapable of reform or cultural change”. A corruption report is said to have contained “numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations”. Many have argued that world football’s governing body is badly in need of reform. So, as Fifa prepares to elect its next president, our question this week: who can fix FIfa? Sponsors and broadcasters provide the vast majority of the body’s income. Could they force chang...

Why Do US Cops Keep Killing Unarmed Black Men?
Recent high profile cases of unarmed black men dying at the hands of the US police have sparked outrage, protests and civil unrest in several American cities. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray are – some claim – evidence of long-standing problems with police racism and excessive violence. But what do we really know about what’s happening? Our expert witnesses this week explain the issues of racism, bias and police use of force. And the head of President Obama’s taskforc...


Why is South Africa Still So Unequal?
The violent riots on the streets of South Africa in recent weeks have seen foreigners killed, their shops looted and 5,000 left homeless. They are accused of taking jobs from locals in a country where high unemployment is a big concern - and an example of the gaping chasm that remains between rich and poor. So 21 years after Nelson Mandela pledged to liberate all South Africans from the continuing bondage of poverty and deprivation, why is South Africa one of the most unequal societies on the planet? (Pho...

Is Cyber Warfare Really That Scary?
Last month Nato ran a military exercise involving over 400 people from 16 countries. It was the most advanced ‘live-fire’ cyber-defence exercise ever carried out. The point of it all? To help Nato countries prepare for an all-out cyber attack. The former US Secretary of Defence, Leon Panetta, has said “there's a strong likelihood that the next Pearl Harbor could very well be a cyber attack that cripples our power system or our grid, our security systems, our financial systems, our governmental systems. This...

How Has Rwanda Saved The Lives Of 590,000 Children?
In 2000 the world committed to reduce child mortality rates by 2015. At the time, there were on average 90 under-five deaths per 1,000 live births globally. Now there are 46. The UN says that means 17,000 fewer children are dying every day. Unicef has described the improvement as “one of the most significant achievements in human history”. But progress has been uneven. We look at one of the unexpected stars of the race to tackle child mortality – Rwanda – which, between 2000 and 2015, achieved the highest a...


What Is The Yemen Conflict Really About?
In a matter of months rebels have swept through Yemen, capturing the capital, forcing the president into exile and causing hundreds of casualties as a simmering conflict has exploded into war. But the causes are complex and confusing. The Houthi rebels are from Yemen’s north, and are now laying siege to the southern port of Aden. Are these geographical rivalries the key? The Houthi are Shia Muslims, supported by Iran. The rest of Yemen is mostly Sunni Muslim, and Saudi Arabia is leading a bombing campaign...

Is There A New Nuclear Arms Race?
Later this month 190 nations will meet in New York to discuss the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), 45 years after it came into force. The Treaty prompted several aspiring nuclear-weapon nations to give up trying to get the bomb, but it also committed nuclear-weapon states like Russia and the US to pursue disarmament. Progress has been made. Overall stocks of nuclear warheads have dropped significantly. But is that the whole story? Both the US and Russia have committed huge sums – over a long timesc...

Cuba: What Would Che Say?
Ahead of a historic meeting between Cuba’s President Castro and US President Obama, The Inquiry asks if the island nation’s warmer relations with America are a betrayal of its revolutionary past. More than half a century ago, Che Guevara became a global icon after he fought alongside Fidel and Raul Castro to overthrow an American-backed government and put into practice their socialist ideals. Now Raul Castro has made a deal with the Americans and the lifting of the long-standing economic embargo of Cuba is ...


Are We Tired Of Talking About Climate Change?
It seems something is missing from newspapers and TV bulletins - climate change. A story which dominated the news five years ago has dropped steadily down the agenda. One study has found coverage has dropped 36% globally in that time. Why? On The Inquiry this week we hear a tale of chronic political fatigue. We ask whether our hunter-gatherer brains simply aren't wired to think long-term. And we find out why climate change has all the hallmarks of a story likely to make newspaper editors groan. It could be ...

Will The Dalai Lama Reincarnate?
Who has authority in Tibet? Many Tibetans revere the Dalai Lama and support his goal of greater autonomy from Beijing. But officials there hold the opposite view. For them, he is a villainous traitor. Both sides agree that the role of Dalai Lama has been filled for centuries through reincarnation. The current one will turn 80 this year and Beijing is keen to control the process of finding his reincarnation. But he has said that the role will one day end. Better to have no Dalai Lama than “a stupid one,” he ...

Has The War On Drugs Been Lost?
Forty-four years after President Nixon declared “war on drugs”, four US states have now agreed to legalise the sale of marijuana and a majority of Americans supports legalisation. Across the world, drug laws are being relaxed, from Uruguay to Portugal to Jamaica to the Czech Republic. Does this global trend mean the war on drugs has been lost? The Inquiry hears from expert witnesses including an ex-president and a former prosecutor who now defends drug traffickers. (Photo: A person rolling a joint of canna...


Who Wants What In Libya?
The beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach has exposed the lawlessness of the country ruled by Colonel Gaddafi until 2011. The internationally-recognised government is trying, without much success, to run the country from the eastern city of Tobruk. In Tripoli, another body claims to be the legitimate government. But is the real power struggle between the militias associated with each group – and where does the so-called Islamic State fit in? With neighbours near and far getting involved to p...

Is Life Getting Worse For Women In Erdogan’s Turkey?
The murder and disfigurement of a 20-year-old woman in southern Turkey has prompted nationwide protests. Demonstrators have chanted the victim’s name, Ozgecan Aslan, and claimed that Turkey is becoming increasingly misogynistic. They point to growing reports of violence against women and restricted access to abortion. Hundreds of thousands of women have tweeted #sendeandat – 'tell your story' in Turkish - to share their experiences of abuse. The powerful president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, says that violence a...

Could Europe Stop Migrants Dying In The Mediterranean?
More than 3,000 people are estimated to have died in the Mediterranean Sea last year. The Pope has warned that the waters are in danger of becoming "a vast cemetery". So what could European countries do to stop these deaths? The Inquiry hears evidence about the people smugglers described as the most ruthless travel agents on the planet, the Italian Navy rescue mission that’s been dramatically down-sized, and the claims that saving migrants at sea creates a "pull factor". Presenter: Neal Razzell (Image: Th...


How Strong Is NATO?
War in Ukraine and the threat of conflict in the Baltics raise fundamental questions about the West’s military alliance. What is NATO for? And is it up to the job? More countries have been joining the club, but those who foot the bill seem to be becoming less keen to do so. Do would-be aggressors still believe that an attack on one NATO member would be treated as an attack on all? Our witnesses include a former senior commander and the man who, until a few months ago, led the alliance. (Photo: Romanian arm...

Will The New King Change Saudi Arabia?
79-year-old King Salman has taken the Saudi throne, promising security and stability. But what do his past and his first acts as king tell us about how the country might change under his rule and beyond? Our Inquiry hears from a newspaper editor and an ex-spy who have both met him and from Saudis who hope for change. Presenter: Helena Merriman Photo: New Saudi King Salman attends a ceremony following the death of the late Saudi King at the Diwan royal palace in Riyadh (Credit: Reuters)...

Is Nigeria’s Army Failing?
Most of the nearly 300 girls kidnapped from a school in northern Nigeria last year are still missing. Their plight temporarily brought global focus to a hideous insurgency that seems to produce new horrors every day. More than 17,000 people have died and a million have been displaced in the Nigerian army’s six-year fight with Boko Haram. The army has been rocked by mutinies – including in the division created to fight the militants - and soldiers in other parts of the country have been dismissed for refus...


What Does Kim Jong Un Want?
After the recent high-profile spat with the US over The Interview – a Hollywood film that mocks North Korea’s enigmatic leader – what do we know about his ambitions? Our expert witnesses include the first Western journalist to open an office in Pyongyang, a businessman who trains North Koreans and an admirer of Kim Jong Un who says he will succeed where his father and grandfather failed. (Photo: Kim Jong Un. Credit: Associated Press)...

Is Pakistan Serious About Tackling Militants?
The murder of more than 130 students at an Army school in Pakistan last month shocked the world. In the following days, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised a comprehensive campaign to defeat the Taliban. More than 50,000 Pakistanis have died in militant attacks since 9/11. Pakistani presidents and prime ministers have previously vowed to crack down on militants. But the United States and others have said Pakistan has long harboured "snakes in the back yard" – militants who sometimes benefit the state's int...

Should we Fear Artificial Intelligence?
Billions of dollars are pouring into the latest investor craze - artificial intelligence. But serious scientists like Stephen Hawking have warned that full AI could spell the end of the human race. How seriously should we take the warnings that ever-smarter computers could turn on us? Our expert witnesses explain the threat, the opportunities and how we might avoid being turned into paperclips. (Photo: An artificial intelligence concept illustration. Credit: Shutterstock)...


Can The Internet Be Policed?
On 8 December at a summit in London Britain’s prime minister David Cameron told delegates from 50 countries and 26 tech firms that online child exploitation “existed on an almost industrial scale" around the world. He announced an “unprecedented package of global action” to hunt paedophiles who use the internet. And just weeks before that a committee of British politicians revealed their belief that the intelligence services could have stopped a May 2013 terror attack in London if Facebook had alerted the...

Is American Democracy Broken?
In November President Obama stepped onto a plush red carpet at the end of a White House corridor. “My fellow Americans,” he said, “tonight I want to talk to you about immigration.” He promised to bring change through executive action. “And to those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better,” he said, “or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer - pass a bill.” That was a dig at his Republican opponents who control the Hous...

What Are The Consequences Of Cheap Oil?
In the last six months the price of oil has collapsed dramatically. It has been called an oil shock. Previous oil shocks have had profound and long-lasting effects. No single commodity is more important to the global economy – and therefore to global politics. What are the political consequences of cheap oil? Contributors include an ex-president of Shell Oil, a former US energy secretary and one of the world’s leading thinkers on the subject. (Image: Oil rig in the North Sea. Credit: Press Association)...


Can Europe Resist The Rise Of Radical Politics?
Swedish politics has for decades been the very model of stability. Not any longer. Earlier this month a far-right party which holds the balance of power in Sweden’s parliament sided with the opposition to defeat the government. A snap election has been called, just months after the government was formed. In Greece, where EU-imposed austerity has fuelled extreme politics, the radical left Syriza party could soon have a shot at gaining power. It is already the main opposition. Elsewhere in Europe – in Fran...

The US And Iran: How Close Could They Get?
How much do the Great Satan and the Axis of Evil have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. They share a mutual antipathy towards Islamic State militants and a mutual desire for a stable Afghanistan. There has been cautious optimism in Washington and Tehran about the talks over Iran’s nuclear programme. And yet there is a legacy of hate and mistrust on both sides that goes back decades. How far can today’s leaders overcome the past to work together on common goals? We have answers from experts who travel ba...

Why Aren't More Dishonest Bankers In Jail?
Perhaps the most striking feature of the global financial crisis has been that no top banking executive has been successfully prosecuted for their role in bringing it about in the first place. The period covered by the statute of limitations is running out so it is conceivable none ever will. Yet the word 'fraud' appears 157 times in the final report of the US Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission. So why are we not seeing prosecutions and prison terms, as in previous financial scandals? Guests include a form...


Who Runs Mexico?
Mexico is gripped with the story of 43 student protesters who vanished in September. They were allegedly killed on the orders of a mayor who wanted to prevent them from attending a rally where his wife was due to speak. The mayor and his wife have been arrested but no case has been proven against them in court. The story has fuelled nationwide demonstrations about the relationship between government and organised crime. The government says it is taking the problem seriously and points to falling murder rate...

Are Sanctions Hurting Putin?
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 Europ...

What Is Hong Kong’s Problem With China?
Hong Kong's government is preparing to clear the streets after weeks of protest. The demonstrators want direct talks with Beijing over who gets on the ballot for the 2017 Hong Kong election. But there is more than politics at play. China has had almost a generation to win hearts and minds in Hong Kong - a time when the mainland population has become increasingly nationalistic. What has gone wrong in Hong Kong? Our four experts tell a story of snobbery, arrogance and perhaps unrealistic expectations on both ...


Are Pandemics Inevitable?
Outbreaks are inevitable, pandemics are optional,” says Dr Larry Brilliant, a leading figure in the successful global campaign to eradicate smallpox. But does the flawed international response to the Ebola outbreak suggest it is now less likely that the world will come together to defeat diseases with pandemic potential? The Inquiry meets Dr Brilliant and other expert witnesses: Dr Malik Peiris, who identified SARS; Dr Julie Gerberding, president of the Vaccine division at Merck; and Ian Goldin, formerly ...

Can Islamic State Be Stopped?
The sudden rise of Islamic State in June shocked the world. It now controls a swathe of the 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 l...