Brazilians wept when their 200-year-old National Museum went up in flames last September. Twenty million items, many of them irreplaceable, were thought to have been reduced to ash when it was gutted by a massive fire. Staff said the loss to science and history was incalculable - and the tragedy, possibly caused by faulty wiring in the long-underfunded institution, led to much national heart-searching about the country's commitment to its heritage. The museum, housed in Brazil's former Imperial Palace in Rio de Janeiro, held unique collections of fossils, animal specimens, indigenous artefacts, as well as Egyptian and Greek treasures - and the oldest human skull found in the Americas.
Some scientists, who saw their entire life's work go up in flames, were in despair - but others vowed to work to rebuild and restock the museum. Now, months on, painstaking archaeological work in the debris has uncovered items that can be restored, while other specialists are setting out on expeditions to acquire new specimens. Tim Whewell reports from Rio on the agonies - and occasional small triumphs - of the slow, exhausting effort to bring a great national institution back to life.
For some in Poland the Cursed Soldiers are national heroes; for others they are murderers. A march in celebration of a group of Polish partisans fighting the Soviets has become the focus of tension in a small community in one of Europe’s oldest forests. Those taking part believe the partisans – known as the Cursed Soldiers – were national heroes, but others remember atrocities committed by them 70 years ago. Some partisans were responsible for the burning of villages and the murder of men, women and children in and around Poland’s Bialowieza forest. The people living the forest are Orthodox and Catholic, Belorussian and Polish; this march threatens to revive past divisions between them. Many believe that far-right groups have hijacked this piece of history to further their nationalist agenda. For Crossing Continents, Maria Margaronis visits the forest to find out why this is causing tensions now; why the locals feel the march is making them feel threatened; and how this reflects wider political rifts in Poland today.
Produced by Charlotte McDonald.
Hunting western paedophiles is a priority for a new police unit tasked with safeguarding children in Nepal. Mired in poverty and still recovering from a devastating earthquake in 2015, Nepal is increasingly being targeted by foreign paedophiles who recommend it as a destination when they share child abuse tips on the dark web. In recent years, a series of western men have been charged with raping or sexually assaulting Nepali boys. For Crossing Continents, Jill McGivering follows the under-resourced police unit, hears the stories of victims and perpetrators and examines what makes Nepal so vulnerable to abuse by western men.
This programme contains descriptions of child sexual abuse which some listeners may find distressing.
Produced by Caroline Finnigan.
Eastern Ukraine has been under assault from Russian backed rebel forces for the past five years, but few have heard of a smaller conflict, which could be brewing in the west of the country, between Ukraine and Hungary. Some have accused the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban of trying to create a breakaway state in impoverished Transcarpathia, once part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
Ukraine and Hungary both expelled diplomats from each other’s nations, following a row over passports and a Hungarian cultural centre has been repeatedly firebombed. Lucy Ash meets people in the Ukrainian border town of Berehove and investigates whether deepening tensions could destabilise the region and further dash Ukraine’s hopes of being a unified country inside NATO and the EU.
Producer: Josephine Casserly
(Image: Pupil at a Hungarian-language secondary school in Berehove in Western Ukraine walks down a corridor bearing a portrait of Lajos Kossuth, the 19th Century political reformer after whom the school is named. Credit: Balint Bardi)
Elderly pensioners in Japan are committing petty crimes so that they can be sent to prison. One in five of all prisoners in Japan are now over 65. The number has quadrupled in the last two decades, a result it seems of rising elderly poverty and loneliness, as seniors become increasingly cut-off from their over-worked offspring. In jail old people at least get a bed, a routine and a hot meal, and for many, as Ed discovers, the outside world can seem like a threatening place. For the prison authorities it means an increasingly ageing population behind bars and the challenges of dealing with a range of geriatric health issues.
Produced and reported by Ed Butler.
Old enemies Serbia and Kosovo discuss what for some is unthinkable - an ethnic land swap. This dramatic proposal is one of those being talked about as a means of normalising relations between these former foes. Since the bloody Kosovo war ended with NATO intervention in 1999, civility between Belgrade and Pristina has been in short supply. Redrawing borders along ethnic lines is anathema to many, but politicians in Serbia and Kosovo have their eyes on a bigger prize... For Serbia, that is membership of the European Union. But the EU will not accept Serbia until it makes an accommodation with its neighbour. Kosovo wants to join the EU too, but its immediate priority is recognition at the United Nations, and that is unlikely while Serbia's ally, Russia, continues to thwart Kosovo's ambitions there. Both of these Balkan nations want to exit this impasse. And a land-swap, giving each of them much-coveted territory, might just do it. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly and producer, Albana Kasapi, visit the two regions at the heart of the proposal - the ethnically Albanian-majority Presevo Valley in Serbia, and the mostly Serb region north of Mitrovica in Kosovo.
(PHOTO: Hevzi Imeri, an ethnic Albanian and Danilo Dabetic, a Serb, play together at the basketball club Play 017 in Bujanovac – one of very few mixed activities for young people in Serbia’s Presevo Valley. BBC photo.)
At 12, Douglas Braga arrived in Rio de Janeiro, a wide-eyed boy, ready to live out the Brazilian dream and become a professional footballer. At 18, he was signed by one of the country’s top teams - but was also starting to realise he couldn’t be true to himself and be a footballer. By 21, he’d quit the game. He knew he was gay and felt there was no place for him in a macho culture where homophobia is commonplace and out gay men are nowhere to be seen.
Now, at 36, Douglas lives in a country that just elected a self-styled “proud homophobe” as president, which some football fans have taken as a licence to step up their homophobic abuse and threats. But Douglas is back on the pitch and - with a growing number of other gay footballers - fighting back.
Reporter David Baker
Producer: Simon Maybin
Thirty years on from the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, what’s happened to the devastated town of Spitak? Rescuers from all over the world came to help search for survivors – among them a team of British firefighters. Now, with reporter Tim Whewell, two of those men are returning - to see how the town’s been rebuilt - and to remember a rescue effort that marked a turning point in East-West relations. The disaster came as Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was developing his policy of glasnost (openness) – and his request for foreign assistance was the first such appeal the Kremlin had made in decades. The firefighters relive the drama, grief and courage of those days – and renew old friendships. They discover that Spitak has still not fully recovered from the quake, with many living to this day in squalid temporary housing.
Reporter Tim Whewell.
Where do you come from? Tracing your ancestry in the USA is one of the most popular hobbies along with gardening and golf. TV is awash with advertising for the do-it-yourself genetic testing kits which have become much sought after gifts, especially at Christmas time. The kits have revolutionised family tree research and gone are the days of sifting through old documents. But, as Lucy Ash reports, the DNA results are now revealing far more than many had bargained for. How do you react when you find out your mother had a secret affair half a century ago…and the man who raised you isn’t your dad? Produced by Charlotte McDonald.
China is accused of locking up as many as a million Uighur Muslims without trial across its western region of Xinjiang. The government denies the claims, saying people willingly attend special "vocational schools" to combat "terrorism and religious extremism". But a BBC investigation has found important new evidence of the reality - a vast and rapidly growing network of detention centres, where the people held inside are humiliated and abused. Using detailed satellite analysis and reporting from a part of the country where journalists are routinely detained and harassed; China correspondent John Sudworth offers his in-depth report on China's Hidden Camps.
An investigation into the 'killing machine' of one of Africa's most repressive and secretive countries. Three years ago there was widespread unrest in the East African country of Burundi when the country’s president ran for a third term. Protestors said he was violating the constitution that limits presidential terms to just two. Since then street protests have ended but a BBC investigation has now uncovered evidence of government sponsored torture and killings designed to silence dissent. The government has always denied any human rights violations, and declined to comment on the allegations in this programme. Reporter Maud Jullien. Producers Charlotte Atwood and Michael Gallagher.
*This programme contains graphic scenes of torture and killing.
(Image: A computer generated image of an alleged detention house in Burundi’s capital, Bujumbura. A red liquid, which looked like blood, was seen pouring from its gutter. Credit: BBC)
In a Cambodian hospital, a group of terrified new mothers nurse tiny babies under the watch of police guards. They're surrogates, desperately poor women promised $10,000 to bear children for parents in China. But they were arrested under new anti-trafficking rules, and now they face an agonising choice: either they agree to keep children they didn't want and can't easily afford to bring up, children who aren't genetically theirs - or they honour their surrogacy contracts, and face up to 20 years in jail. Tim Whewell reports on the suffering as country after country in Asia cracks down on commercial surrogacy - and asks whether the detained mothers are criminals - or victims.
Nigerian patients held in hospital because they can’t pay their medical bills.
In March 2016, a young woman went into labour. She was rushed to a local, private hospital in south-east Nigeria where she gave birth by caesarean section. But when the hospital discovered this teenage mother didn’t have the money to pay for her treatment, she and her son were unable to leave. They remained there for 16 months – until the police arrived and released them.
This is not an isolated case. In Nigeria, very few health services are free of charge, and campaigners estimate that thousands have been detained in hospitals for failing to pay their bills. It’s become an increasingly high-profile issue – one couple have been awarded compensation after going through the courts.
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly explores a widespread abuse – meeting victims, and the hospital managers attempting to manage their budgets in a health system under enormous pressure, where only 5% of Nigerians are covered by health insurance.
Producer: Josephine Casserly
(Photo: Ngozi Osegbo was awarded compensation by a court after she and her husband were detained in a hospital because they couldn't pay their medical bills. BBC PHOTO)
Simon Cox is in Austria where the authorities have launched an unprecedented operation against a new far right youth organisation, Generation Identity. They prosecuted members of the group including its leader, Martin Sellner, for being an alleged criminal organisation. They are currently appealing the judge's not guilty verdict. The Austrian group is at the heart of a new pan European movement that is vehemently opposed to Muslims and immigration. GI says it is not racist or violent. In Germany more than 100 offences have been committed by its members in just over a year. And the group's co leader in Britain stepped down after he was revealed to have a Neo Nazi past.
Simon Cox reporting. Anna Meisel producing.
The dark secrets of Chile's Catholic Church. El Bosque is the wealthy Santiago parish where Fernando Karadima, a charismatic priest, attracted hundreds of young men to the priesthood. In 2010, he was exposed as a paedophile after survivors revealed he had sexually abused them. The Vatican sentenced Karadima to a life of penance and prayer. But this was no one-off, rogue priest. This year the scale of Chile's abuse scandal has been revealed - multiple allegations of sexual exploitation and cover-up are now being investigated across this Andean nation, including allegations made by a congregation of nuns. At first Pope Francis failed to respond. Subsequently he was forced to send his experts in sex crime to Santiago to hear evidence. Most recently, bishops have resigned, and nearly a hundred priests are being investigated by Chile's prosecutors. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly travels to Chile to meet survivors of sexual abuse, whistle-blowers and devout Catholics, and explores a story that continues to haunt the Francis papacy.
Presenter: Linda Pressly
Producer in Chile: Jane Chambers
(Photo: Javier Molina, survivor of clerical sexual abuse. When he reported the abuse in 2010, the Catholic Church took no action.).
In parts of Nevada, prostitution is legal - the only such state in the US. The 'live and let live mentality' is a hangover from the gold rush days and in certain counties, brothels have been officially licensed since 1971. Today no fewer than seven of them are owned by one man, Dennis Hof, a gun-toting restaurateur, entrepreneur and reality TV star. He calls himself the "Trump from Pahrump," - after a town where he recently won the Republican primaries for the Nevada State Legislature. Now though, there is a backlash from religious and social activists who have managed to get a referendum on the ballot during this November's mid-term elections. Voters in Lyon County will be asked if the legal brothels there should be allowed to continue to operate - and ultimately, the campaigners aim to end legal sex work across the whole state. They say it is an exploitative, abusive trade and prevents other businesses from investing in the area. But some sex workers are worried that a ban could push them onto the streets where they would face potential danger. Lucy Ash talks to Dennis Hof, the women who work for him, and those who are pushing for change.
Producer Mike Gallagher.
'He was using prisoners like oxen for ploughing for his own gain'. An ex-convict recalls the prison officer in charge of the prison farm he worked on in Uganda. The country has one of the most overcrowded prison systems in Africa. It also has one of the continent's most developed systems of prison labour. For Crossing Continents, Ed Butler reports from Uganda where most of the country's 54,000 inmates are now serving an economic purpose, working for the benefit of an elite collection of private farmers and other business interests - even though half of them have not been convicted of any crime. He speaks to current and former prisoners, to find out how the system works, and asks: is the country breaking its international pledges on prisoner treatment?
Presented and produced by Ed Butler.
(Image: Prisoners at Patongo Prison, Uganda. Credit: David Brunetti).
When someone in Jamaica emigrates to the UK, it is said they have 'gone to foreign'. Over the past 70 years several hundred thousand Jamaicans have done this, following in the footsteps of the so-called 'Windrush generation' who first arrived in Britain in the late 1940s. But the spirit of adventure and optimism those early pioneers bought with them has changed over the years and a recent political scandal now finds some of them unwanted and rejected by Britain. Following changes to immigration law and failing to comply with citizenship requirements, they have been designated illegal immigrants. On returning from holiday in the Caribbean, some of the children of the Windrush generation (now in their 50s and 60s) have been refused entry back to Britain, and others have been deported from Britain back to the Caribbean. For Crossing Continents, Colin Grant travels to Jamaica to meet two men who, despite having lived in the UK for decades, working and paying taxes, find themselves in limbo, trapped and unable to return to the place they call home. What happens when you are stranded in a place you were never really familiar with, an island which you have little memory of, and may not have returned to for half a century? Grant hears of their endeavour to return to the UK and how they have struggled to keep up hope in the face of a very painful and public rejection.
Colin Grant reporting and producing.
Seaweed is liberating women in a conservative corner of east Africa. Thousands of women have gained more control over their lives thanks to Zanzibar's seaweed farms. In a traditional island village there is a surprisingly high divorce rate and women have safeguarded their interests with earnings from this salty crop which has given them a much needed income and new independence. At first the husbands were outraged - they complained that seaweed farming made women too tired for their matrimonial duties. The women eventually prevailed but their hard won freedom is now threatened by climate change. Lucy Ash meets the seaweed farmers of Paje village and looks at the ways they are fighting to save their livelihood and raise their families.
Producer: Chloe Hadjimatheou.
In January, Aurelia Brouwers - a 29 year old Dutch woman, with a history of severe mental illness - lay down on her bed to die. She had been declared eligible for euthanasia a month earlier - Dutch law permits the ending of a life where there is, 'unbearable suffering' without hope of relief. Aurelia's death provoked an outpouring on social media, and widespread discussion within the Netherlands... What if a death wish is part of someone's illness? And does someone with serious mental health challenges have the capacity to make a decision about their own demise? These are questions now being debated in the Netherlands as a result of Aurelia's death. Crossing Continents features recordings of Aurelia made in the two weeks before she died, hears from some of the friends closest to her, and explores the complex terrain of euthanasia for people with psychiatric problems in Holland. Reported and produced by Linda Pressly.
(Image: Aurelia Brouwers. Credit: RTL Nieuws, Sander Paulus)
If you're feeling emotionally distressed and would like details of organisations that offer advice and support, go online to bbc.co.uk/actionline. Or you can call for free to hear recorded information - 0800 066 066.
The conviction of a prominent expert in Norway's troubled child protection system - for downloading images of child sex abuse - has put the organisation under scrutiny once again. In April this year a child psychiatrist was convicted of downloading thousands of the images on his computer. Up until his arrest he played a key role in decisions about whether children should be separated from their parents for their own good. But there has been no public discussion in Norway about the implications of his conviction, no outrage in the newspapers, no plans to review cases he was involved in - even though the country's child protection agency, Barnevernet, has been much criticised in recent years for removing children from their families without justification. In April 2016 Tim Whewell reported on the story for Crossing Continents after Barnevernet attracted an international storm of protest over its child protection policies. Tim now returns to Norway to report on this extraordinary twist in the story and to find out why child protection in one of the world's wealthiest countries appears to be in crisis.
Produced and Reported by Tim Whewell.
(Image: A row of family shoes. Credit: BBC)
Why does South Korea have the lowest fertility rate in the world?
The average South Korean woman is expected to have 1.05 children in her life - exactly half the rate needed to maintain a population. That means a shrinking workforce paying less taxes and more elderly people who will need expensive care. South Korea's government has pumped tens of billions of pounds into dealing with the problem over the past decade, but the fertility rate is still going down. In this whodunnit, Simon Maybin finds out who's not doing it - and why.
Producer: John Murphy
Presenter: Simon Maybin.
Israel gives all Jews the right to citizenship - but has it become less welcoming to African Jews?
Since its founding in 1948, after the horrors of the Holocaust, Israel has seen itself as a safe haven for Jews from anywhere in the world to come to escape persecution. But now that policy is under threat. As Jewish communities in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya are finding, a debate has arisen about who is "Jewish enough" to qualify. David Baker investigates claims that decisions are being made not on the basis of ancestry or religious observance but on the colour of people's skin.
Producer: Simon Maybin
Presenter: David Baker.
China's football-loving President Xi Jinping says he wants his country to qualify for, to host and to win the football World Cup by 2050. The men's national team has recently been defeated 6-0 by Wales, so there's some way to go yet. But they're spending billions trying to boost football in the country. Chinese entrepreneurs have also spent vast sums investing in local and foreign clubs, partly to help create a passion for playing football in the Chinese and to bring the latest training techniques back home.
Another official target for the Chinese government is to eradicate poverty within three years.
For Crossing Continents, Celia Hatton visits a special primary school in Gansu, in China's far west, which is setting out to turn those World Cup dreams into reality. Made up of children whose parents have migrated to the cities for work, the school drills the young pupils in football skills each day, to give them direction and purpose, but also in the hope that some of them will use football as route out of poverty and to garner Chinese success on the pitch.
Producer: John Murphy.
One in ten tractors in the world is made in Belarus. You can find them ploughing furrows and shifting snow in the US, Canada, Pakistan, Thailand...and on the farms of Somerset...At the heart of this big wheeled empire is the Minsk Tractor Works. Impossible to visit until recently, the MTW is opening its doors as part of a new country wide charm offensive. Belarus, long famous for secretiveness and isolation, has relaxed its visa regime since January 2018, and is rebranding itself as a dynamic hub for business and tourism.
Stalin founded the tractor works in 1946 as part of a colossal effort to feed a famished Soviet Union after World War 2. It developed as a cradle-to-grave complex, with its own apartment blocks, holiday camps, hospitals, Palace of Culture, and even water bottling plant. Generations of loyal Belarusians have lived and died knowing no other job.
The IMF and World Bank advisers wrote off such complexes as wasteful when they came to help implement shock therapy privatization in the 1990s.
But MTW is still there. Its 18,000 employees still live in a MTW world - with regular, if modest, pay packets. It's as though the communist-era model has been kept in the freezer to emerge a generation later. For Crossing Continents, Lucy Ash meets the workers and their families who still live and work much in the way their grandparents did. She wonders if the MTW is a preposterous dinosaur or a socially responsible business model, fit for the 21st century.
Presenter: Lucy Ash
Producer: Monica Whitlock.
Corruption Incorporated - the Odebrecht Story
Odebrecht was one of Brazil's premier companies - the largest construction firm in Latin America. But some of its success in securing multi-million dollar contracts across the region was built on a policy of colossal bribery. This edifice of graft began to crumble when the Brazilian authorities started to investigate the state-owned oil company, Petrobras. As a result, CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was convicted of paying millions of dollars in bribes to Petrobras executives in cash-for-contracts. The testimony of Odebrecht executives in plea-bargain agreements with prosecutors continues to have fall-out in an election year, especially with former President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva now in jail on charges related to Brazil's wider corruption scandal.
Linda Pressly explores the organisation at the heart of the Odebrecht scandal - a whole corporate department set up to administer bribes. And she meets the company's new CEO, Luciano Guidolin, who tells her the company will be compliant. It will not tolerate corruption. Meanwhile, the Federal Police of Brazil continue to attempt to crack the codes that prevent them from fully accessing Odebrecht's encrypted computer system.
Presenter: Linda Pressly
Producer in Brazil: Jessica Cruz.
Thousands of young Russian Muslim men were lured to join so-called Islamic State - taking their wives and children with them. But since the "caliphate" fell last year, those families have vanished - and grandmothers back in Russia are desperate for news. The Kremlin wants to bring the children home. It says they've committed no crimes. But finding them and their mothers is hugely difficult. Iraqi authorities say they're holding many IS families - but they won't name them. Gradually though, dramatic scraps of information are emerging - a scribbled note from a prison, whispered phone messages, photos and videos on social media. For months, Tim Whewell has been talking to the grandmothers as they've gathered such clues - and now he travels to Iraq in search of more information, tracing the route the fighters and their families took when they were defeated - and trying to solve the mystery of what happened to them. What was the fate of the men after they surrendered at a remote village school? And what of the reports that many of the women and children were subsequently abducted by a militia? As the story unfolds, Tim confronts a powerful Shia warlord. Will the jihadis' children be released? What kind of justice will their mothers face? And what will the grandmothers - convinced of their daughters' innocence - do to try to get them back?
Presenter Tim Whewell
Producers Nick Sturdee & Mike Gallagher.
A one-woman whirlwind of passion and energy, Sukayna Muhammad Younes is a unique phenomenon in Iraq. A council official in the half-destroyed city of Mosul, former stronghold of so-called Islamic State, she's on a mission to find and identify the thousands of children who went missing during the conflict - and reunite them with their families. It's a massive task - and deeply controversial because Sukayna makes no distinction between children who are victims of IS - and those who belonged to IS families. "They're all just children - all innocent," she says. Tim Whewell follows Sukayna through the rubble of the city, visiting her orphanage, trying to find missing parents, meeting families who want to reclaim children. Can she solve the mystery of Jannat - an abandoned fair-haired girl who may be the daughter of a foreign IS family? Can she help Amal, sister of a dead IS fighter, to adopt her baby niece? How can families afford the expensive DNA tests the authorities require before families can be reunited? As she tries to solve these problems Sukayna also has to look after her own family of six children - and cope with personal tragedy. Two of her brothers were killed by jihadis; her family home, used as an IS base, is now in ruins. Highly charismatic - Sukayna now wants to go into politics. "I am a mini-Iraq," she says - her family includes members of many communities - and she believes the country desperately needs more dynamic, tolerant people like her, to bring real change and overcome divisions. But it's hard to be a high-profile, energetic woman in patriarchal Iraq - and she's faced death threats both from remaining IS supporters - and those who think she's too ready to help "terrorist" families.
Presenter Tim Whewell
Producers Nick Sturdee & Mike Gallagher.
In a rundown neighbourhood in Athens there is a hotel with 4,000 people on its waiting list for rooms. But the roof leaks and the lifts are permanently out of action. None of the guests pay a penny, but everyone's supposed to help with the cooking and cleaning.
City Plaza is a seven-storey super squat housing 400 refugees from 16 different countries and the volunteers who support them.
The hotel went bankrupt during the financial crisis. It remained locked and empty until 2015, when Europe closed its borders leaving tens of thousands of refugees trapped in Greece. Then a group of activists broke in, reconnected the electricity and water and invited hundreds of migrants from the streets to take up residence with them.
The leftist Greek government has so far turned a blind eye and now mainstream NGOs like MSF and even the UNHCR have started co-operating in this illegal project. For Crossing Continents, Maria Margaronis finds out how the hotel operates and get to know the people inside.
Producer: Chloe Hadjimatheou.
Why is troubled Catalonia now opening up civil war mass graves?
Spain has the second largest amount of mass graves in the world after Cambodia. Over 100,000 people disappeared during the 1930s civil war and the ensuing Franco dictatorship. Decades later, the vast majority are still unaccounted for.
Forgetting Spain's painful past and the disappeared is what allowed democracy and peace to flourish, the argument has long gone.
But many have not forgotten - including in the region of Catalonia, where bitter memories of Franco's rule are just beneath the surface. Before Madrid imposed direct rule last October, the pro-independence Catalan government began an unprecedented plan to excavate civil war mass graves and collect DNA from families looking for their lost relatives.
Estelle Doyle travels to the politically troubled region and finds out how, despite direct rule, those seeking answers are more determined than ever to recover the past and to confront Spain's painful history. Others worry that their actions will only but reopen old wounds and further divide the country.
Presenter: Estelle Doyle
Producer: John Murphy.
**This podcast has been changed: Correction: El Soleras is in the West of Catalonia, while Catalonia itself is in the North East of Spain**
For nearly two decades, Swedish health professionals have been treating asylum-seeking children who fall into a deeply listless state. They withdraw from the world, refuse to speak, walk and eat - most end up being tube-fed. They are known as, "the apathetic children" in Sweden. More recently this illness has been termed Resignation Syndrome. Experts agree it is children who have experienced deep trauma who are vulnerable. Doctors link the condition to an uncertain migration status. But why, asks Linda Pressly, does it only seem to happen to children in Sweden, and how can they recover?
Lucy Ash meets the staff and customers of a bakery which is the one bright spot in war-torn east Ukraine. The war there between Russian-backed rebels and the Ukrainian army has dropped out of the headlines and there seems to be little political will to make peace. More than 10,000 people have been killed and as it enters its fourth year, this has become one of the longest conflicts in modern European history. But in the frontline town of Marinka there's one bright spot amidst the gloom - the bakery. It's the first new business in the town since the fighting began and it is bringing some hope and comfort to its traumatised citizens. We meet staff and customers from the bakery to explore a community living on the edge. "The aroma of fresh bread," says the man behind the enterprise, " gives people hope. It smells like normal life."
Producer Albina Kovalyova.
For decades, Brazil has presented itself as a colour-blind nation in which most citizens are, at least to some extent, racially mixed. But a controversial education law is encouraging black Brazilians to assert their own distinct identity. Federal public universities now have to comply with government quotas for black students, as well as others deemed to be at risk of discrimination. Yet, since the rules allow applicants to self-define their colour, there have been numerous alleged frauds, and some universities are now creating inspection boards to assess students based on whether they appear phenotypically black. On the political right, there's a backlash among those who say the quotas are divisive and even racist. While some people of mixed race complain that they are 'not black enough'. But many black Brazilians themselves say they finally have a reason to acknowledge their ethnicity in a country where privilege all too often belongs to those of European descent. For Crossing Continents, David Baker reports on an issue that is at the heart of what it means to be black in Brazil.
Michael Gallagher producing.
A journey up the 'suicidal' Pilcomayo river that separates Paraguay from Argentina... The Pilcomayo is the life-force of one of Latin America's most arid regions. But it is also one of the most heavily silted rivers of the world. As it courses down from the Bolivian Highlands in the months of December and January, half is water, half sand. This means it often causes flooding. Or, it changes course, failing to deliver water to those who depend on it. So in order to benefit communities, this is a river system that needs careful management, and a lot of human input to ensure the water flows. Compounding the fickleness of the Pilcomayo are 3 years of drought in the region. Gabriela Torres travels north from Asuncion up the course of the Pilcomayo during the dry season, visiting communities where the wildlife is dying and the economy under threat. How will the people - and animals - cope this year?
There are 33 ways to dispel a mistress according to one of China's top love detectives. An unusual new industry has taken hold in some of the country's top cities. It's called "mistress-dispelling", and it involves hired operatives doing what it takes to separate cheating husbands from their mistresses. With the surge in super-affluent families in China, there has also been an apparent upsurge in the number of men choosing to keep a concubine. And for wives who see divorce as a humiliating option, almost no expense is sometimes spared in seeing off the rival. For Crossing Continents, Ed Butler meets some of these private detectives and "marriage counsellors", heads off on a mistress "stake-out", and asks whether this is all a symptom of a deeper crisis in gender relations in China.
Reported and produced by Ed Butler.
The brutal, unsolved murder of Malta's most outspoken blogger has blackened the image of the Mediterranean holiday island. Since Daphne Caruana Galizia was blown up by a car bomb in October, her son has denounced his country as a mafia state. European leaders say they're deeply concerned about the rule of law there. But on Malta, Daphne was a divisive figure - admired by some as a fearless investigative journalist, detested by others as a snobbish "queen of bile." She herself said there were "two Maltas" - and the reaction to her murder has proved that. So was Daphne's death a political assassination - as one Malta says - or a criminal killing without wider implications, as the other Malta insists? Tim Whewell goes looking for answers on an island where everyone knows everyone, but belongs firmly to one camp or the other. Producer: Estelle Doyle.
As they retreat from Northern Iraq so-called Islamic State has left thousands of women and children behind. Some are the abandoned families of IS fighters, others are being held as prisoners or slaves. There are also boys who were forced to fight for IS. A desperate effort is now underway to reunite these women and children with the families they have been separated from - and to rehabilitate those whose minds have been stolen by the group. Tim Whewell reports from Iraq on the children left behind by the fighters of Islamic state.
In the West Bank hundreds of families share a passion for breeding horses. Amid the narrow streets and cramped apartment buildings small stables can be found with owners grooming beautiful Arabian colts and fillies. These new breeders are now making their mark at Israeli horse shows where competition to produce the best in breed is intense. As Palestinian and Israeli owners mingle on the show ground, political differences are put to one side as they share a passion for the Arabian horse.
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly follows one Palestinian owner and his colt as they navigate their way through Israeli checkpoints to the next big event in the Israeli Kibbutz of Alonim. Winning best in show is the plan but will they even get there?
Estelle Doyle producing.
The chilling story of a massacre of Rohingya muslims in a small village in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. On 30 August government soldiers swept through the village setting fire to homes, raping and killing dozens, possibly hundreds of its muslim inhabitants. An ongoing military crackdown in the state has seen more than 500,000 Rohingya muslims flee to neighbouring Bangladesh since late August. The government of Aung San Suu Kyi has faced international condemnation over the crisis. She says the military is responding to attacks by Rohingya militants. But the Rohingya have long been persecuted in Myanmar: denied citizenship, decent healthcare and education. For Crossing Continents, Gabriel Gatehouse investigates the massacre in Tula Toli. Speaking to survivors in camps in Bangladesh, he pieces together a picture of horrific violence, perpetrated in what has been described as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing." And he hears evidence that suggests the violence may have been planned in advance. Producer John Murphy.
Panama's idyllic islands are threatened by a rising sea, but one community has a plan... The Guna Yala archipelago is made up of dozens of tiny, tropical, low-lying islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. They are populated by the Guna people - Latin America's most fiercely independent, and many would say, most savvy, indigenous group. But the Guna are in trouble. Rising sea levels as a result of climate change, together with a growing population, threaten island life. The Guna aren't alone of course - millions of people around the globe could be displaced from coastal villages as the oceans envelop land in the coming decades. But unlike most vulnerable groups, the Guna of Gardi Sugdub island have a plan. They are intent on building a new community on the mainland, and re-locating. Could their efforts provide a model for other communities confronting climate displacement in the region, and even beyond?
Photo Credit: Simon Maybin.
Uganda has now taken in more than a million refugees who have fled civil war in neighbouring South Sudan. And more are coming every day. It's said that Uganda has the most generous refugee policy in the world, with new arrivals given land and allowed to work. But the majority of South Sudanese refugees are women and children who have lost almost everything and, as Ruth Alexander discovers, the reality of starting a new life from scratch is far from straightforward.
Produced by John Murphy.
What's it like to live in the country with the fastest-shrinking population in the world? In the mountain village of Kalotinsi in western Bulgaria, there is no shop, no school, no bus service. Until a few decades ago, 600 people lived here but now most of the houses stand empty. Thirteen residents remain, struggling to make a life in a place most people have given up on. There are many other near-deserted villages like this in Bulgaria. With women having few children, and many choosing to work abroad, Bulgaria is facing a population crisis. Ruth Alexander travels to the country to find out what life is like for those left behind, and to ask what is being done to reverse the population decline.
Producer: John Murphy.
A young Somali refugee struggles to live the American dream in the USA's whitest state, during the rise of Donald Trump. Is the dream still possible?
In December 2014, in 'Abdi and the Golden Ticket,' the BBC's Leo Hornak followed Somali refugee Abdi Nor Iftin as he battled to make it to America through the US green card lottery.
Since then, Abdi been trying to make a new life for himself in the US state of Maine, striving to become a 'real American'. He hopes to get educated and start a career, but the pressures of supporting a family in Mogadishu make this seem ever more difficult. And then there is the plan to have his brother Hassan join him.
The state of Maine remains almost entirely white, and amid growing public fear of Muslims and immigration, Abdi's American dream runs into obstacles that he never expected. Using personal conversations and audio diaries recorded over three years, 'Abdi in America' documents the highs and lows of one man's struggle to become American.
Producer - Michael Gallagher.
Tim Whewell meets the sailors of Sevastopol. The Crimean coast of the Black Sea has such an allure that Russia risked the world's censure by seizing it from Ukraine in 2014. Home of the Black Sea fleet; seaway to the Middle East and spiritual heart of Russian orthodox Christianity, Crimea and it's naval port, Sevastopol, is a defining part of Russian identity. The Russian navy is now modernising and expanding its historic fleet so as to strengthen Moscow's campaign in Syria in support of President Assad, and against the so-called Islamic State. But what have been the costs of gaining this valuable prize?
Producer: Monica Whitlock.
It's a state that most of the world says doesn't exist. But remote Abkhazia, on the far north-east shore of the Black Sea, has had the trappings of independence for a generation, since it broke away from Georgia in a short but brutal war. Foreign reporters rarely visit Abkhazia - but Tim Whewell gets there by horse-drawn wagon, as it's hard to cross the frontier by car. He finds a stunningly beautiful country still recovering physically and psychologically from the war, that's determined to preserve its independence and ancient culture - including a pagan religion built around animal sacrifices. But the price of statehood is deep isolation - and a future for many young people without opportunities. How long can this "frozen conflict" - and others around the Black Sea - continue?
Producer, Monica Whitlock.
Inside Romania's live, web-camming world - the engine of the online sex industry... Crossing Continents explores the fastest growing sector of so-called, 'adult' entertainment. Locally, it's known as 'video-chat'. And in Romania there are thousands of women logging on, and in 'private' one-to-one sessions undressing (and more) for the international clients who pay to watch them. It is not sex work in the traditional sense - the relationships are virtual, there is no meeting or touching. Linda Pressly meets the women employed in studios and from home, and others with experience of this burgeoning industry.
On December the 14th last year the BBC's Mike Thomson awoke to a desperate voicemail message. It came from a frightened mother of three in besieged East Aleppo. Head teacher, Om Modar, who had been in regular contact with Mike, was pleading for help. Syrian government forces were closing in on the rebel-held area and bombs were falling around the shelter she shared with dozens of petrified children. Her voice, crackling with fear, said: "Please, please help us get out of Aleppo by safe corridor.....we are terrified.....please help us." That was the last Mike heard from Om. Months of silence followed. Finally, he became convinced she was dead. Then out of the blue came a two-line text. It revealed the fate of Om Modar and led Mike to near the Syrian border.
Pakistan is at a crossroads when it comes to gender identity. Kami calls herself Pakistan's first transgender supermodel. She's championing a new transgender identity in a country where there's a strict cultural code for people like her. It's the long established culture of the 'the third gender', also known as Khwaja Sira or Hijra. The community are celebrated as 'Gods chosen people' by many Pakistanis. But the reality is that many Hijras experience discrimination in daily life and complain that basic access to jobs, welfare and familial support is denied. For Kami and others like her this is no longer acceptable. Yet many Hijras shun the new transgender identity and believe it is alien to the established culture of the region. In their view, the very notion of a 'transgender woman' is wrong and could threaten the systems and structures that have provided support for Khwaja Siras for centuries. For Crossing Continents Mobeen Azhar meets Kami and Mani, one of the few openly transgender men in the country, and talks to Khwaja Sira sex workers, dancers and even aspiring politicians. Inside Trans Pakistan explores the tension between the emerging transgender identity in Pakistan and the established 'third gender' culture.
President Donald Trump has pledged to chase what he called the 'bad hombres' out of America. One of the organisations the President is targeting is the notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang, better known as MS-13 whose members deal in drugs, human smuggling and underage prostitution. They aggressively recruit young Latino immigrants in U.S. cities and suburban communities and have recently been responsible for a number of shockingly brutal murders, including the killing of two teenage girls with machetes and baseball bats. Lucy Ash travels to Long Island in New York and to Maryland to investigate. She asks what impact such crimes have on the heated debate about illegal border crossings and she asks if tougher immigration policies will really make America safe again.
Every year elephants kill dozens of people in Sri Lanka. Hundreds of these huge mammals are slaughtered too - often by farmers attempting to protect their land. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly travels to the east of the island - one of the regions devastated by over two decades of civil war. Thousands of people fled their homes during the fighting, and in their absence, the elephants moved in. With peace came resettlement, but many villages are now forced to negotiate a precarious existence with the wild herds, and death-by-elephant is not uncommon. Meanwhile, the government is attempting to take action against the illegal ownership of elephants, and prosecutions are in train. In Sri Lanka, elephants are a status symbol for the rich and powerful, and they are also highly revered in Buddhist culture - no pageant is complete without a slow-moving procession of elephants. But there are claims the confiscation of illegally-kept animals has created a shortage for religious rituals, and criticisms that the government is over-responding to the animal rights lobby. In a fractured nation, elephants are becoming increasingly politicised. Linda Pressly reporting.
Since the beginning of time, man has lived in awe and fear of death, and every culture has faced its mystery through intricate and often ancient rituals. Few, however, are as extreme as those of the Torajan people on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Here, the dead are a constant presence, with corpses often kept in family homes for many years. When funerals are eventually held, they don't mean goodbye. Once every couple of years, the dead are dug back out for a big family reunion. Is this a morbid obsession? Or could it be a positive way of dealing with the grief of losing a loved one? For Crossing Continents, Sahar Zand enters these remarkable communities where the dividing line between this world and the next is like a thin veil - a place with lessons for all of us. Exploring these traditions, Sahar seeks to understand the Torajan way of death and finds it changing her own thinking towards the loss of her own father.
Producers Rebecca Henschke and Bob Howard.
Men in the Faroe Islands are having to look far beyond their shores for marriage. The remote, windswept archipelago between Norway and Iceland, with close ties to Denmark, has seen an influx of women from South-East Asia who have come to marry Faroese men. In recent years the islands have been experiencing a declining population. Young women in particular have been leaving the islands, often for education, and not returning. One complaint from them is that their close-knit community has too conservative and masculine a culture where sheep farming, hunting and fishing are still dominant. For some women Faroese society is simply too small, too constraining. There are now approximately 2,000 fewer women of marriageable age in the total population of 50,000. In response, some men have been looking elsewhere for partners, from countries like Thailand and the Philippines. For Crossing Continents, Tim Ecott meets these foreign women adjusting to life in this isolated group of islands where the elements are harsh and the language impenetrable.
John Murphy producing.
Lung cancer is America's biggest cancer killer. But there is hope: the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has sanctioned trials of CimaVax - a treatment created in Cuba that has extended the lives of hundreds of patients on the island. This is the first time a Cuban drug has been tested in the US.
American cancer patients got wind of CimaVax five years ago. Patients like Judy Ingels - an American with a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis - arrive regularly in Havana, hoping for a miracle. It's traffic that's increased since the US / Cuba thaw.
The creation of Cuba's biotech industry was Fidel Castro's idea back in the 1980s. Today it employs 22,000 people, and sells drugs all over the world - excluding the US. When Presidents Obama and Castro made their momentous move to end hostilities, doctors and patients on both sides of the Florida Straits hoped everyone might benefit from an exchange of life-saving treatments. Now there's deep anxiety. Will President Trump re-freeze the thaw, and jeopardise a revolutionary collaboration?
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly explores Cuba's bio-tech industry. How has this small Caribbean nation been able to develop world-class drugs with its limited resources?
For generations those who, for biological reasons, don't fit the usual male/female categories have faced violence and stigma in Kenya. Intersex people - as they are commonly known in Kenya - were traditionally seen as a bad omen bringing a curse upon their family and neighbours. Most were kept in hiding and many were killed at birth. But now a new generation of home-grown activists and medical experts are helping intersex people to come out into the open. They're rejecting the old idea that intersex people must choose a gender in infancy and stick to it and are calling on the government to instead grant them legal recognition. BBC Africa's Health Correspondent Anne Soy meets some of the rural families struggling to find acceptance for their intersex children and witnesses the efforts health workers and activists are making to promote understanding of the condition. She also meets a successful gospel singer who recently came out as intersex and hears from those who see the campaign for inter-sex recognition as part of a wider attack on the traditional Kenyan family.
Helen Grady producing.
Last summer the emergency services rescued two children from an out-of-control fire in an old industrial building in the commercial area of Hong Kong. It was discovered that a number of people were living in the building. Charlotte McDonald explores the reasons which would drive a family in one of the wealthiest cities in the world to live illegally in a place not fit for human habitation. It's estimated that around 10,000 people live in industrial buildings - although the true number is not known due to the very fact it is not legal. Hong Kong consistently ranks as one of the most expensive places to rent or buy in the world. Already around 200,000 have been forced to rent in what are known as subdivided flats. But now attention has turned to those in even more dire conditions in industrial blocks. From poor government planning, the loss of industry to mainland China and exploitative landlords, we uncover why people are choosing to live in secrecy in neglected buildings.
Charlotte McDonald reporting
Alex Burton producing
Photo credit: SCMP.
Eighty years ago, the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado published Captains of the Sands, a powerfully moving novel about the lives of a gang of orphaned children living on the streets of Salvador. The book had a huge impact, showing wealthy Brazilians the truth about the inequality in their country and the humanity of the children they were used to regarding as "pests". It is now a literary classic and read by almost every Brazilian child at school. Eighty years on, though, thousands of adolescents and children still live in the streets in Salvador. Their lives are still marked by poverty and crime, intensified since Amado's day by the growth of the drugs trade and the addiction and violence it brings. And they still find alternative bonds of family in the kind of gangs that Amado would have recognised. For Crossing Continents, David Baker meets these modern-day Captains of the Sands and hears their stories and those of the people trying to help them.
James Fletcher producing.
Young Russians have gained a reputation on social media for taking the most extreme selfies, often involving death-defying stunts on top of skyscrapers, all for the sake of internet fame.
Lucy Ash travels from Moscow to Siberia to meet some of this trend's most high-profile figures. They explain how they are building themselves into living brands, and the ways they can make money out of their risky roof-top photographs. They reveal what initially motivated them to chance their lives in this way - and an indifference to the rising number of selfie-related deaths in Russia.
The government is less nonchalant though. and around 18 months ago it launched a 'safe selfie' campaign, to warn young people of the risks of taking photos in moving traffic, on top of radio towers, with loaded weapons or with wild animals.
But why has this phenomenon taken root in Russia? Crossing Continents reveals how a mixture of provincial malaise, a misdirected sense of masculinity, and lax law enforcement has allowed extreme selfie culture to flourish.
Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith
Researcher: Tatyana Movshevich.
On the night of the 1st July 2016, five young Bangladeshi Islamist militants stormed a Dhaka restaurant popular with foreign residents and visitors. The siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery was an unprecedented attack in Bangladesh. 29 people lost their lives that night - the majority of them non-Bangladeshis, shot or butchered with machetes. But not everyone was killed. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly together with local journalist, Morshed Ali Khan, tell the story of what happened inside the restaurant over 11 hours - the chef forced to cook sea bass by the killers, the kitchen worker locked for hours in a single toilet cubicle with 7 other people. There are tales of escape and resistance. Above all, there is courage amidst the carnage, and in the face of bloody adversity.
(Photo L to R: Delwar Hossain, Sumon Rezar, Shishir Sarker. Credit: Linda Pressly/BBC copyright)
Thousands of women - and men - took to the streets in Poland recently in protest against attempts to ban all abortions-and the issue seems to have crystallised a growing unease with the country's move to the right and the power of the Catholic Church. 'We are not putting our umbrellas away' went one of the slogans as women stood in the pouring rain to voice their concerns. The size of the protest surprised even the participants; organised by the feminist movement, it attracted women and men from many different backgrounds. Where did this surge of activism come from? Some argue that the revolution that began with Solidarnosc in the 1980s ignored the needs and voices of Polish women. Communism may have been defeated, they say, but it's been replaced by a different kind of repression. Maria Margaronis investigates. Mark Savage producing.
The Mexican state of Michoacan was the birth place of the Mexican drug war. The town of Cheran is much like other mainly indigenous communities, but it is unique - Cheran has no mayor, no police, and political parties are banned. There are no elections here. Cheran governs itself, after it fought and won a legal battle for political autonomy. The people of Cheran used to suffer as much as their neighbours - extortion, kidnap and murder. But by 2011 they'd had enough. That's when the community - led by women - rose up. They threw out the paramilitary loggers and organised criminal groups who had devastated their forests, then chased away the mayor and the municipal police who were colluding with them. Five years later, the town still runs itself, and the forces of law and order have been replaced by an armed, community militia. Serious crime has plummeted, and the town is re-planting its devastated forest. So how has Cheran survived - and thrived -in such a harsh environment?
Reporter: Linda Pressly
Producers: Tim Mansel & Ulises Escamilla.
Malaysia's government is mired in scandal. Billions of dollars have been looted from a state investment fund. The Prime Minister is accused of receiving $681 million into his personal bank account, although he has denied any wrongdoing.
Earlier this year, punk-inspired artist Fahmi Reza captured public dissatisfaction with an artwork caricaturing the PM as a clown. The image went viral, earning Reza comparisons to street-art provocateur Banksy. It also got him arrested and charged, one of an increasing number of Malaysians facing prison as the government ramps up its suppression of free speech and dissent.
James Fletcher travels to Malaysia on the eve of a major protest rally in Kuala Lumpur. The protest movement is known as 'Bersih', meaning 'clean', and over the past few years they've mobilised hundreds of thousands of people on the streets, dressed in yellow t-shirts, to demand transparency, fair elections, and the PM's resignation. This year they're aiming for their biggest turnout yet. Fahmi Reza is designing placards for the protesters, and plans to attend carrying a giant version of his clown carricature.
But the government is doing everything it can to stop the protest. And there's a new threat - pro-government protesters called the "redshirts", who have disrupted rallies with violence and threatened independent media and free speech advocates.
James spends time with all sides as the protest unfolds. Can art and activism bring Malaysians on to the streets and spur change? Or will the government's crackdown, and the more direct methods of the "redshirts", dampen the protests and allow the PM to ride out criticism and stay in power?
Image: The artist Fahmi Reza with his caricature of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak at the Bersih 5 protest rally held on November 19, 2016.
Photo Credit: BBC
The bizarre and extraordinary story of Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the eccentric Russian tycoon and president of FIDE, the international chess governing body. His twenty years in office have been dogged by allegations of corruption and vote-rigging and he’s recently been banned from entering the United States by the US Treasury for his alleged involvement in assisting the Assad regime in Syria. It’s prevented him from presiding over this month’s World Chess Championships in New York. For Assignment Tim Whewell reports from Moscow and New York on the deeply politicised game of chess and asks if it’s finally checkmate for the king of chess.
Dina Newman producing.
Photo: Kirsan Ilyumzhinov with the letter from the US Treasury informing him why he had been placed under US sanctions.
Credit: K.Ilyumzhinov’s archive
India has some of the world's most dangerous roads. The government says almost 150,000 people died on them last year. Nowhere saw more crashes than the booming city of Mumbai. The carnage is relentless, affecting people at every level of society. Neal Razzell meets the Mumbaikers who are saying, enough: a vegetable seller who fills potholes in his spare time after his son died in one; a neurosurgeon whose experience treating victims has led him to try to build trauma centres along one of the worst roads; and an unlikely combination of engineers, activists and police officers with an ambitious plan to bring the number of deaths on a notorious expressway down to zero. It's hoped there will be lessons in Mumbai for all of India. The country is in the midst of an historic road-building push. By 2020, Prime Minister Modi wants to pave a distance greater than the circumference of the earth.
Produced by Michael Gallagher.
Can you learn to code if you've spent your life studying religious texts? Can you be part of the fast-paced, secular world of technology and startups if you're from a conservative religious community? Israel has been called the "Startup Nation", with a flourishing technology sector playing a big role in the country's economy. But one group who haven't traditionally been involved are ultra-Orthodox Jews, known as Haredim. They often live apart from mainstream Israeli society and adhere to strict religious laws covering everything from diet to dress and technology. Many men don't work or serve in the army, spending their lives studying the Torah, subsidised by the government. It's a way of life that leaves many Haredim in poverty, and other Israelis resenting picking up the tab. But in recent years, the ultra-orthodox have been increasingly joining the high-tech world, working in big international tech companies and founding their own startups. David Baker travels to Israel to meet the new breed of high tech Haredim, and find out how they reconcile taking part in the "Startup Nation" with traditional Torah life.
Produced by James Fletcher.
The United States is in the throes of a heroin and opiate epidemic. For Crossing Continents, India Rakusen travels to Lorain County, in the state of Ohio, where addiction has become part of everyday life. West of the city of Cleveland, Avon Lake is a wealthy suburb - its large, expensive properties back onto the shores of Lake Eerie, and wild deer frolic on neat lawns. But behind this façade, there is a crisis. Many families have felt the damaging impact of addiction. And across Lorain County, opiates - pharmaceutical and street heroin - have killed twice as many people in the first six months of 2016 alone, as died in the whole of 2015.
Producer Linda Pressly.
After the last elections in Russia, mass protests against vote-rigging led to clashes in the centre of Moscow. The events on Bolotnaya Square were the biggest challenge President Putin has ever faced to his rule. Four years on, several demonstrators are still serving long prison sentences, the laws on protesting have been tightened and the arrests continue. As Russia gears up for parliamentary elections in September, Sarah Rainsford talks to some of those caught up in the Bolotnaya protests, and asks what their stories tell us about Putin's Russia today.
Producer: Mark Savage.
In the Colombian capital of Bogota, Lucy Ash meets two people who fear they will never be able to return to their homes. They both come from Choco, which is one of the poorest provinces and most violent parts of the country. Maria, an Afro-Colombian mother of four, fled her town after she was abducted and brutally attacked by paramilitaries. Plinio was trying to help members of his indigenous community go back to their farms when he received death threats from a splinter group of left wing guerrilla (the ELN) and his friend was assassinated.
Their stories illustrate a nationwide trauma - the government may be on the brink of a historic peace deal with the FARC rebels, but Colombia has even more internally displaced people than Syria. More than 200,000 have been killed and seven million driven off their land during half a century of war. Lucy travels down the River Baudo to meet people uprooted from their jungle villages in violent clashes earlier this year and finds that Latin America's longest insurgency is far from over.
Reported and produced by Lucy Ash.
Playing war-games in the woods has become an ever-more popular pastime in Poland as thousands of young people join paramilitary groups to defend their country against possible invasion. Others - so-called "preppers" - are building bunkers and storing food supplies so their families can survive any disaster. Now the government plans to recruit such enthusiasts into a state-run volunteer defence force - to counter a possible Russian threat. But are the authorities stoking fear - and creating an amateur force that's no use in 21st Century warfare? Tim Whewell reports from the forests of north-eastern Poland, close to the Russian border.
Producer: Estelle Doyle.
Oil-rich Venezuela is struggling to feed its own people as a result of a spiralling economic and political crisis which has brought the country to its knees. Vladimir Hernandez returns to his home country where thousands queue for many hours in order to buy even the most basic of food stuffs. Malnutrition and starvation, unthinkable only a few years ago, are becoming a reality for some communities and particularly the poor.
Away from the sound of bombs and bullets, in the basement of a crumbling house in the besieged Syrian town of Darayya, is a secret library. It's home to thousands of books rescued from bombed-out buildings by local volunteers, who daily brave snipers and shells to fill its shelves. In a town gripped by hunger and death after three years without food aid, Mike Thomson reveals how this literary sanctuary is proving a lifeline to a community shattered by war.
Produced by Michael Gallagher and additional research and translation by Mariam El Khalaf.
*Omar, the FSA soldier pictured above who was the last voice heard in this programme has been killed in fighting.*.
Ed Butler explores the secretive and shocking world of Malawi's "hyenas". These are the men hired to sexually initiate or cleanse adolescent and pre-adolescent girls - some said to be 12 years old, or even younger. It's a traditional custom that is endorsed and funded by the communities themselves, even the children's families. We meet some of the victims, the regional chief campaigning to stop the practice, and the hyenas themselves, and ask if enough is being done to stamp out a custom that's not just damaging on a human scale, but is also undermining the country's economic development.
Reported and produced by Ed Butler.
Chloe Hadjimatheou tells the astonishing story of a group of young men from Raqqa in Syria who chose to resist the so-called Islamic State, which occupied their city in 2014 and made it the capital of their "Caliphate". These extraordinary activists have risked everything to oppose IS; several have been killed, or had family members murdered. IS has put a bounty on the resistance leaders' heads. But the group continues its work, under the banner 'Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently'. Chloe meets the group's founders, some of whom are now organising activists in Raqqa from the relative safety of other countries.
Dave Edmonds travels to the mid-western city of St Louis (location for the musical 'Meet Me In St Louis', starring Judy Garland) for the US chess championships. The city has become a world centre for the game of chess. Its status has partly been achieved by funding from a controversial multi-millionaire, whose childhood included time in an orphanage. Rex Sinquefield is well known for his fascination with the game and his enthusiasm is shared by many others. There is a thriving chess centre, elite tournaments which attract some of the top players, a Chess Hall of Fame and chess lessons in local schools.
St Louis is one of America's most violent cities and has most recently been in the news for race riots which erupted when an unarmed black man was shot by police. Can the game of chess serve to lessen racial tension and unite its citizens across the board?
Producer: Mark Savage.
Now that China has ended its One Child policy, one group of state employees may soon be out of a job - the country's hated population police. Hundreds of thousands of officers used to hunt down families suspected of violating the country's draconian rules on child bearing, handing out crippling fines, confiscating property and sometimes forcing women to have abortions. But with an eye on improving child welfare in the countryside, there is a plan to redeploy many of these officers as child development specialists. Lucy Ash visits a pilot project in Shaanxi Province training former enforcers to offer advice and support to rural grandparents who are left rearing children while the parents migrate to jobs in the big cities. If successful, the scheme could be rolled out nationwide to redeploy an army of family planning workers and transform the life prospects of millions of rural children.
Nkem Ifejika cant speak the language of his forefathers. Nkem is British of Nigerian descent and comes from one of Nigeria's biggest ethnic groups the Igbo. He's one of the millions of Nigerians, who live in the diaspora - almost two hundred thousand of them living here in Britain. Nkem wants to know why he was never taught Igbo as a child and why the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, has warned that Igbo faces extinction in the next fifty years.
In this week's Crossing Continents, Nkem travels to the Igbo heartland in the southeast of Nigeria to explore the demise of a once proud language. He discovers that recent history has had profound effects on Igbo culture and identity. He discovers too that some Igbos are seeking to reassert their language and culture. Part of this is a resurgence of Igbo identity under a new 'Biafran' movement. Is this likely to find traction or will it ignite painful divisions from the past and lead to renewed tensions across Nigeria. From Nkem's own London-based family - where his wife is teaching both him and their son to speak Igbo - to the ancestral villages of Anambra State, 'Forgetting Igbo' reveals shifting perspectives on Nigeria's colonial past, emerging new ambitions for its future - and deep fault lines at the heart of its society.
Produced by Michael Gallagher.
Norway's widely regarded as one of the world's most progressive societies, yet it's at the centre of an international storm over its child protection policies. Campaigners accuse its social workers of removing children - some from immigrant backgrounds - from their parents without justification, and permanently erasing family bonds. Tim Whewell meets parents who say they've lost their children because of misunderstood remarks or "insufficient eye contact" - and Norwegian professionals who call the system monstrous and dysfunctional. Is a service designed to put children first now out of control?
In 1994 apartheid ended in South Africa and Nelson Mandela was elected president. He promised in his inauguration speech to "build a society in which all South Africans will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts ... a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world." These promises were enshrined in South Africa's post-apartheid constitution, the first in the world to outlaw all forms of discrimination.
In 1994 Motshidisi Pascalina Melamu was born, making her one of the first of the so-called 'born free generation'. Pasca, as she was known, dreamed of becoming a politician, and studied hard at school. She loved singing, dancing and football. And girls - Pasca was a lesbian.
In December last year, Pasca's body was found in a field. She had been beaten and mutilated. She was one of three LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex) people murdered in a six-week period last year. Hate crimes against the LGBTI community have long been a problem in South Africa, and the government has tried to tackle them. But activists say these recent crimes are just one sign that things aren't getting better. James Fletcher travels to the townships south of Johannesburg to speak with Pasca's family and friends, and to ask whether the government is failing LGBTI South Africans.
An unholy spat is stirring the Sangha, Thailand's top Buddhist authority - who will become the next Supreme Patriarch, Thailand's most senior monk? Meanwhile, allegations of 'cheque-book Buddhism', cronyism and corruption abound - including allegations about tax-evasion on an imported vintage Mercedes car. In Thailand, where the majority of the population profess Buddhism, seeking ordination isn't unusual. But salacious stories about monks who commit serious crimes - everything from sex offences to wildlife trafficking - continue to shock. Watching quietly from the side-lines is the Venerable Dhammananda - female, and a Buddhist monk since 2003. Although the Sangha bars women from ordination, there are now around 100 bhikkhunis, as female monastics are known, in Thailand. And their growing acceptance by some Buddhist believers might partly be explained by a widespread disillusionment with the behaviour of some male monks. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly explores the rifts and sexual politics challenging Thai Buddhism and its devotees.
Lucy Ash asks why thousands of angry Romanian shepherds recently stormed the parliament in Bucharest. Sparked by an amendment to Romania's hunting law, the unprecedented protest was over plans to limit numbers of sheepdogs and restrict grazing rights. The increasing size of flocks is leading to growing conflict with both hunters and conservationists over land use. Romania has an influential hunting lobby - around two thirds of MPs are hunters - and they accuse shepherds dogs of scaring off or sometimes even killing their quarry. They also claim overgrazing is damaging the natural habitat of the deer, the boar and other wild animals they hunt. Environmental campaigners are concerned that winter grazing by ever larger flocks is having a catastrophic effect on biodiversity. At heart this is an argument about what the countryside is for. Is its main purpose an economic one? Is it primarily for leisure? Or should it be about the people who live there? Shepherds insist the law is an attack on centuries of sheep-rearing and their culture and traditions.
After the terror attacks in Paris, the world's attention turned to an inner-city district of the Belgian capital, Brussels, where several of the attackers came from. Molenbeek has been notorious for many years as a breeding-ground for Islamist extremism - and the Belgian government vowed to "clean it up". But do the authorities really have any plan to prevent the radicalisation of young Belgians? Tim Whewell has been travelling back and forth to Brussels since the Paris attacks to talk to local people as they hold up a mirror to themselves and search for explanations - and attempt to have a dialogue with a sometimes dysfunctional state.
Lode Desmet producing.
Brazil is in crisis. Confronted with a massive downturn in the economy, its currency has crashed, while its political class sinks in a quagmire of corruption allegations linked to the state oil company, Petrobras. In the northern state of Maranhao - dominated for decades by the powerful Sarney family - a new governor from the Communist Party of Brazil is attempting to bring a fresh broom to one of the country's most undeveloped states. Already he claims to have cut expenses by millions of Reals just by removing seafood and champagne from state banquet menus. But the malaise runs deep in Maranhao. In the small community of Bom Jardim, a 25-year-old mayor is under house arrest accused of skimming the education budget and running council business remotely using WhatsApp. And with the cancelling of a project to build a huge Petrobras refinery, Maranhao is feeling the economic pressure. Linda Pressly reports from one of Brazil's least known regions.
A fuzzy team photo from the 1980s sends Tim Whewell on a journey to track down football players from a small town in northern Syria who were once the champions of Aleppo province. In the last four years of war their hometown, Mare'a, has become a war zone - bombed by the Assad regime, besieged by Islamic State, subject even to a mustard gas attack. And the civil war has torn through what was once a band of friends - some now pro-rebel, some pro-regime. They're scattered across Syria and beyond, some fighting near Mare'a, some in refugee camps abroad. What have they gone through since they won that cup? And do they think they can ever be reunited?
Shabnam Grewal producing.
India's Parsis are one of the subcontinent's most successful communities. But their future looks precarious because their numbers have fallen dramatically. Some Parsis believe the answer could be to accept converts, and re-write the rules on who's deemed a Parsi. Others are resistant to change. Now the Indian government has stepped in to fund fertility treatment for couples who dream of parenthood. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly travels to Mumbai to meet them.
The Cambodian government has recently announced a clampdown on unlicensed doctors. This comes after a mass infection of HIV in a rural village, blamed on an unlicensed doctor re-using syringes. The "doctor", recently convicted of manslaughter, has just begun a 25 year prison sentence.
For millions of people, self-taught, unlicensed doctors are often their cheapest - and only - option if they fall ill. Cambodia has one of the world's lowest numbers of doctors per head of population, on a par with Afghanistan. For Crossing Continents, John Murphy travels outside the capital Phnom Penh to see whether the government clampdown is having an effect. He finds evidence that self-taught doctors are still operating in villages, without hindrance - and with plenty of local support. Producer Helen Grady.
The deaths of five school children in Malaysia have provoked an anguished debate about education and what it means to be Malay. The children ran away from their boarding school in Kelantan State and died of starvation in the jungle. They were afraid of harsh punishment from their teachers. Two girls survived eating grass and wild fruits but were found emaciated and close to death 47 days later. The children came from the Orang Asli community, one of the poorest and most marginalised in the country. For Crossing Continents, Lucy Ash travels to the remote region where the children came from and talks to their bereaved parents. Many families are now refusing to send their children to school and campaigners accuse the government of not doing enough to protect rights of the Orang Asli community. Jane Beresford producing.
Maria Margaronis explores the debris of Albania's painful past-the prison labour camps, concrete bunkers and secret police headquarters--as archives are unlocked and new monuments put up in an effort to redefine who Albanians are. The country's citizens are trying to come to terms with history and move on from Enver Hoxha's dictatorial regime, the pyramid schemes and the political and economic collapse that followed. Instead of moving on, though, many are moving out of the country altogether. Do their leaders' efforts represent real change, or are they just an attempt to plaster over the cracks and reinforce Albania's plan to enter the EU?
They say you can't take it with you but if you live in Greece how much money you have at the end of your life makes a big difference. Permanent plots in the country's packed cemeteries can cost as much as a small flat so most graves are rented for a three year period and once that time is up the dead are exhumed and their bones collapsed into a small box to be kept at the cemetery. Those relatives who can't afford the cost of the exhumation or the storage charge for the box of bones will have their loved one's remains thrown in a so called 'digestion' pit with countless others' where they are dissolved with chemicals. In the current economic climate and with continued capital controls, Greeks are struggling to pay for the burial costs and unclaimed bodies are piling up at mortuaries. But there are few cost effective alternatives because Greece happens to be one of the few EU countries without a crematorium - each time plans have been made to build one it has been blocked by the Greek Orthodox Church. Instead Greeks are forced to send their relatives' bodies to Bulgaria for cremation. For Crossing Continents, Chloe Hadjimatheou reports on the business of dying in Greece.
Producer: David Edmonds.
Peru is the world's largest producer of cocaine. A staggering one-third of it travels on foot, on the backs of young men like Daniel. He is 18, full of bravado, and claims he does this work so he will be able to go to university and take care of his family. Daniel is one of thousands known as 'mochileros' - backpackers, in Spanish - who hike their illicit cargo from the tropical valley where most of Peru's coca is produced, up to Andean towns, out towards the border with Brazil, and to clandestine airstrips.
For Crossing Continents Linda Pressly meets the 'mochileros' who are mostly young men from isolated, peasant villages. They have grown up in coca-growing communities that suffered some of the worst atrocities of Peru's dirty war with Shining Path rebels in the 1990s. All of them do it for the money - payments of hundreds of dollars in a region where the incidence of poverty is more than twice the national average.
It is a perilous occupation. Armed gangs, a re-emerging Shining Path, the military and police all conspire to stop or control the trade. Daniel says that on every trip he makes, three or four young men will die. Highland prisons are bursting with mochileros who were caught, but in many ways they are the lucky ones - others die on the trails, their bodies devoured by wild animals.
The Drug Mules of the Andes tells the story of the 'mochileros', their families and the Peruvian authorities charged with interdiction.
Norway and Russia: An Arctic Friendship Under Threat
In Norway, the sacking of a newspaper editor, allegedly after pressure from Russia, has caused a political storm over media freedom, and raised questions over what price the country should pay for good relations with its powerful eastern neighbour. Thomas Nilsen is a veteran environmental activist who edited a paper in the far north of Norway, in a region which has enjoyed a unique cross-border relationship with Russia. Now that's threatened by rising tension between Russia and NATO. And relations have been further strained by the flow of refugees, now coming through Russia into the far north of Norway. Tim Whewell reports on what it means for the Norwegian outpost of Kirkenes, where Norwegians and Russians work closely together in the oil and fishing business and where cooperation and friendship go back decades.
In April, the case of a 10 year old girl who became pregnant after her step-father raped her became front-page news in Paraguay, and across Latin America. Abortion is legal in this small South American nation only if the mother's life is deemed to be in danger. In this case, the authorities ruled there was no threat to the girl, and the pregnancy continued. But this isn't a one-off example of children getting pregnant: more than 700 girls aged 14 and under gave birth in 2014. That's more or less two a day.
The 10 year old's pregnancy spawned a series of demonstrations and huge debate: about abortion, sex education, and the failure of the criminal justice system to prosecute the perpetrators of the abuse of children.
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly meets some of the schoolgirl mothers, and explores the reasons why Paraguayan girls are especially vulnerable to abuse. Why are families, the state and the law failing to protect them?
The last time anyone saw Hodei Egiluz, a 23-year-old computer engineer from Spain, was on a night out in the Belgian port of Antwerp in October 2013. Hodei is one of roughly 10,000 people who disappear in Europe every year. But his case has sparked a remarkable response. Practically his entire home town in Spain got behind the Belgian police search in one way or another. The search for Hodei triggered a campaign which eventually drew in figures such as footballer Ronaldo and the prime minister of Spain. But two years on Hodei is still missing. For Crossing Continents, Neal Razzell retraces Hodei's last hours in Antwerp and tries to unravel the mystery surrounding his disappearance. Producer: Charlotte McDonald.
Ten years ago Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, leaving over 1800 people dead and causing billions of dollars of damage. It was dramatic and destructive - but Katrina has been described as 'like a cold suffered by a cancer patient'. The cancer is the erosion of the coastal wetlands of Southern Louisiana, a slow motion environmental disaster that has continued almost unabated since Katrina. Caused by the taming of the Mississippi and oil and gas exploration, a football field of coastal land washes away every hour, and with it the homes, places and livelihoods that have sustained the storied Cajun culture. James Fletcher travels to Bayou Lafourche and the town of Leeville to get to know one community facing the reality of losing their past and their future.
Why are so many young people leaving Algeria? Unlike Syria or Libya, Algeria is supposedly a beacon of stability in a troubled region and it enjoys vast wealth from its oil and gas resources. Yet it remains a major source of illegal migrants to Europe and thousands continue to risk their lives crossing the sea to get there. They are known as 'Harraga', derived from the verb to burn in Arabic because they burn their identity documents. President Bouteflika's right hand man has called the harraga phenomenon "a national tragedy". Lucy Ash meets some of those heading for Europe's Eldorado and those bereaved friends and families of harragas who have disappeared in the Mediterranean. John Murphy producing.
Will Grant takes a ride in Cuba to discover how people get around and whether the thaw in relations with the United States will make any difference to their lives. The country is known the world over for its classic cars, a consequence of the American trade embargo imposed after the revolution in 1959, when, as one motoring journalist quipped, 'the tail fin was still a recent innovation in automotive design'. There are a few collectibles but spare parts are almost impossible to come by and most vehicles are held together with sticky tape and glue. It is almost as if Cuba has been stuck in a time warp for half a century with around 60 thousand vintage cars now attempting to navigate the country's notoriously bad roads. Car ownership is still the dream for most people but the reality is a chaotic bus service, a bone shaking ride in a horse and cart or hitching a lift. How do people cope and will things change?
Produced by Mark Savage.
Celia Hatton goes undercover to The Fortress, the Chinese village at the centre of the world's illicit ketamine problem. She hears how China is a top maker and taker of the drug. Celia visits karaoke bars where ketamine is snorted regularly; she hears from those trying to wean themselves off their addiction; and hears from police who took part in a major raid on a village accused of producing vast quantities of illegal ketamine. A local farmer complains that his land and his crops have been destroyed by the drug gangs and Celia discovers how Chinese ketamine has led to the problem known as "Bristol bladder" back in the UK. John Murphy producing.
South Africa is in crisis as the national electricity generator, Eskom, struggles to provide an adequate power supply and rolling blackouts hit the country on a regular basis. As Neal Razzell reports, there's now concern that jobs and growth are at risk from the power cuts, and the ruling ANC - which blames the problem on inheriting an apartheid-era network designed only for the white population - stands accused of complacency and incompetence.
Michael Gallagher producing.
In one of the largest operations of its kind, thousands of migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, were pulled off cramped, unseaworthy boats in the Mediterranean in June. Gabriel Gatehouse has had rare access to the operation. He follows two young men as they try to find a new home in Europe, from the moment they board a privately-funded search and rescue ship, to their attempts to evade the Italian police.
The global trade in wildlife is worth an estimated US$20 billion a year. Peru is one of the most biodiverse nations on the planet. But its government estimates 400 species of fauna and flora are in danger of extinction - illicit trafficking is one of the biggest threats. The illegal wildlife trade supplies live birds and animals - macaws, parrots, monkeys, turtles - for both the local market and overseas collectors. It also commercialises body parts - the rare Andean bear, and the feathers of condors. So how is Peru attempting to protect its precious resources? For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly goes on operations with the wildlife police.
Produced by John Murphy.
Natalia Antelava asks if the creeping influence of the Orthodox Church in Georgia's schools is turning them into a breeding ground for radical Christianity. Georgia's liberal politicians say only alignment with Europe and US will allow Georgia to overcome its post-Soviet past and survive as an independent nation. But in the way of Georgia's pro-Western course stands its Orthodox neighbour Russia and, increasingly, the country's own Orthodox Church. Natalia Antelava visits her old school in Tbilisi to see how the country's most conservative, anti-Western institution is influencing the next generation. Wesley Stephenson producing.
In rural India, wrestling often attracts larger crowds than cricket. And for poor, farming communities in Maharashtra, a wrestler in the family can also mean a ticket out of poverty. For Crossing Continents, Rupa Jha meets the young fighters and their families, and explores how this ancient sport is breaking down caste barriers. Linda Pressly producing.
Does Portugal have a problem with police brutality and racism? In February a group of young black men from the Lisbon suburb of Cova da Moura allege they were beaten and racially abused at a police station. Police claim the men tried to invade the station. Residents of Cova da Moura are mostly from immigrant backgrounds, and they say this is just the latest of a number of serious incidents in the past few years, and claim that the neighbourhood has become a 'police state'. James Fletcher travels to Cova da Moura to investigate whether police are too heavy handed towards black and immigrant communities, and whether those communities are bearing the brunt of Portugal's austerity driven spending cuts.
(Warning: Contains strong language).
Teatr doc was founded 12 years ago by playwrights who couldn't find a venue willing to stage their documentary-style plays that often challenge the status quo. In December the theatre was raided and forced to shut its doors but it quickly reopened in new premises and is still cocking a snook at the authorities. "Doc" as it is known to those who frequent it, has been recognised internationally as one of Russia's most prolific, innovative, and socially engaged theatre companies. For Crossing Continents Lucy Ash attends the opening night in the theatre's new home, and asks its actors, directors and its audience what the theatre says about life in Russia today.
Are excessive traffic fines and debtors' jails fuelling community tensions in suburban Missouri? Claire Bolderson reports on a network of ninety separate cities in St Louis County, most of which have their own courts and police forces. Critics say that their size makes them financially unviable and allege that some of them boost their incomes by fining their own citizens and locking them up when they can't pay.
This edition of Crossing Continents goes out and about in St Louis County to meet the people who say they are victims of a system which sees arrest warrants issued for relatively minor misdemeanours. Many of the victims are poor and black. The programme also takes us into the courts, and out onto the freeways with some of the County's police, who say they are upholding the law and promoting road safety.
The US government is not so sure. One of the towns in question is Ferguson where riots erupted after a white police officer shot a young black man dead last summer. In a recent report on the riots, the Department of Justice concluded that the Ferguson police had been stopping people for no good reason. It said they were putting revenue before public safety.
Claire Bolderson investigates how widespread the practice is and considers the impact on relations between citizens and the authorities that govern them.
Produced by Michael Gallagher.
In northern Tanzania there is a tradition of FGM - female genital mutilation. The 'cutting season' lasts for six weeks. Afterwards, the adolescent victims are often expected to marry. But girls in Serengeti District are saying 'no' to FGM. And dozens of them have fled to a new safe house in the town of Mugumu to escape this bloody, life-threatening rite of passage. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly travels to Mugumu to meet the girls - and the woman who has given them refuge, Rhobi Samwelly. She listens in as Rhobi engages in delicate and often emotional negotiations with parents intent on mutilating their daughters. Will the girls ever feel safe enough to return home?
It has been hidden away in a dusty corner of an abandoned theatre, unplayed and almost forgotten - a magnificent instrument allowed to moulder away in a territory whose Islamist rulers banned public performances of music. But now Gaza's only grand piano is getting a new lease of life. A small Brussels-based charity is restoring it to its former glory and at the same time is working to bring music back into schools. With Hamas control steadily weakening the charity has begun a unique project to train teachers in Gaza to re-introduce music into the curriculum - not through music classes but through subjects such as mathematics and geography. It is helping disturbed children in this war torn territory to concentrate - and it is exciting teachers. Tim Whewell gets exclusive access to the story of Gaza and its grand piano.
The cleaners whose protest has captured the imagination of those opposed to the harsh austerity programme in Greece. Mostly middle-aged or nearing retirement, they have refused to go quietly. The women have kept up a day and night vigil outside the Finance Ministry in Athens, taken the government to court and resisted attempts by the riot police to remove them by force. They've challenged representatives from the International Monetary Fund and raised their red rubber gloves in a clenched fist at the European Parliament. Some say they represent the plight of many women and the poorly paid, others that they are being manipulated by the left. Maria Margaronis hears the women's stories and asks what makes them so determined.
Producer: Mark Savage.
In Japan, manga and anime are huge cultural industries. These comics and cartoons are read and watched by young and old, men and women, geeks and office workers. Their fans stretch around the world and their cultural appeal has been used by the government to market 'Cool Japan'.
Manga and anime can be about almost anything, and some can be confronting - especially those featuring young children in sexually explicit scenarios. The UK, Canada and Australia have all banned these sorts of virtual images, placing them in the same legal category as real images of child abuse.
Last year, Japan became the last OECD country to outlaw the possession of real child abuse images, but they decided not to ban manga and anime. To many outsiders and some Japanese, this seems baffling - another example of 'weird Japan', and a sign the country still has a long way to go to taking child protection seriously.
James Fletcher travels to Tokyo to find out why the Japanese decided not to ban. Is this manga just fodder for paedophiles, and is Japan dragging its feet on protecting children? Or is Japan resisting moral panic and standing up for freedom of thought and expression?
In Comuna 13, one of Medellin's poorest and most violent districts, there is a giant rubbish dump - la escombrera. Local people say it's where the truth lies buried. They're talking about the disappeared - dozens of victims of Colombia's bloody, civil conflict concealed beneath the mountains of junk.
La escombrera stands in contrast to the 'Medellin Miracle' - the city's transformation over two decades from the darkest days of Pablo Escobar and his drug trafficking cartel, to its triumph in being voted the world's most innovative.
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly reports on the move to begin digging for human remains.
Each year, the US government does a strange and slightly surprising thing: it gives away 50,000 green cards (permanent resident visas) to people chosen at random via a lottery.
But becoming an American is not easy, even if you do win a golden ticket.
For Crossing Continents, Leo Hornak follows the story of Abdi Nor, a young Somali lottery winner living in one of the toughest slums in Kenya, as he prepares for his final US embassy interview and the chance of a new life in the States.
But as Abdi's interview date approaches, the obstacles to him achieving his American dream appear to grow ever greater.
Russian support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine doesn't all come directly from the Kremlin. The rebellion there may be stoked, and armed, by Vladimir Putin - but it's also become a personal cause for young Russian volunteers recruited by a variety of nationalist and far-right groups. Many say they're motivated by their Orthodox faith - and their dream to restore Novorossiya, or New Russia, the territory which encompassed eastern Ukraine under the Tsarist Empire. Passionate members of re-enactment societies, they've spent their weekends reliving Russia's historic battles. But now they're fighting - and sometimes dying - for real, in what they see as a test of their own, and Russia's, "manhood". Tim Whewell has gained rare access to the weird, shadowy world of Russia's radical nationalists. He travels with volunteers from the grand old imperial capital, St Petersburg, to the chaotic, muddy battlefields of eastern Ukraine - and reveals a movement whose leaders have become increasingly influential in Putin's Russia - but is now in danger of becoming an embarrassment to the Kremlin.
Producer: Dina Newman.
Fans of the Washington Redskins, one of the most popular American football teams in the country, are fiercely proud of their dark crimson Indian head logo. They say it is a sign of respect and that the name 'Redskins' goes back 80 years. But to many Native Americans, the indigenous people who lived in the United States before the arrival of European settlers, the word Redskins is hateful. For them it's a painful reminder of how their people have been oppressed and neglected even to this very day.
Mike Wendling travels from North Dakota, to Minneapolis to Washington DC to explore the controversy which, thanks to social media and a growing number of Native American campaigners, has now become a burning national issue.
On the Turtle Mountain reservation, Mike meets Jordan Brien, a young hip-hop artist with a troubled past who is determined to get the name of the team changed. He says his people shouldn't be reduced to mascots, and he urges young Native Americans to take a stand against racism. His cause has got the support of some in the US Congress and even President Obama has said that if the name is offensive to a sizeable group of people, the owners should "think about changing it". But for diehard fans like Chap Petersen, who has been going to Redskins games for four decades, such a change is unthinkable. And the club's owner Daniel Snyder has vowed never to discard the name whatever the press, pollsters and politicians say.
'I'll marry your sister if you marry mine. And if you divorce my sister, I'll divorce yours.' That is Yemen's 'Shegar', or swap marriage, an agreement between two men to marry each other's sisters, thereby removing the need for expensive dowry payments. But the agreement also states that if one marriage fails, the other couple must separate, too, even if they are happy.
BBC Arabic's Mai Noman returns to her native Yemen and hears the stories of two women who have loved and lost because of Shegar.
Nadia lives in the village of Sawan on the outskirts of the capital Sana'a with her family. She was married off at the age of twenty two and has three children. But because of her family's decision to marry her in the Shegar tradition she was forced to divorce when the other couple's marriage failed. Now she and her mother have to live with the stigma attached to divorce, and she only has limited access to her children, who remain with her ex-husband's family.
Nora and her brother Waleed had little say in marrying their cousins through Shegar. But when one marriage failed, hard choices had to be made by everyone. Mai asks why an old tradition that forces you to love only to force you to part, is still practised in Yemen.
Producer: Arlene Gregorius.
Gabriel Gatehouse reports from the Liberian capital Monrovia on the devastating impact of Ebola upon its people. In one case, a patient called Annie, 38, was discovered in her crowded shared house in harrowing conditions. She was taken away to hospital but disappeared into the system. Gabriel and his team go in search of Annie and along the way meet the medics and families on the front line of the Ebola crisis.
Mobeen Azhar reports from Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, where police are at war with the Taliban. Given rare access to the work of the police by a Senior Superintendent in Karachi's Criminal Investigation Department, Mobeen joins officers on a night time raid in search of the men who train suicide bombers. He meets a suspect in custody who brags about planting bombs and describes how he urges teenage boys to sacrifice their lives in violent jihad. Mobeen also talks to a businessman who was kidnapped for ransom and meets the families of police officers who have been killed by the militants.
Assassinations linked to political parties have blighted the city for over a decade but today, more than 70 groups representing the militant Taliban are also fighting for control. This guerrilla war, once confined to the tribal belt of Waziristan has moved into Karachi with devastating results.
In one remote district in Ivory Coast, men are going back to school. Their studies are part of a UN-backed project dubbed 'the school for husbands' and designed to save the lives of women and children.
The idea is to teach decision makers - the men - about the importance of family planning, check-ups, and pre-natal care for their wives. The aim is to help women and also improve general welfare in farming villages where food is scarce and incomes are dependent on the weather and good fortune.
Lucy Ash hears stories from the schools for husbands and finds out why Ivory Coast's health system is struggling to recover from the post-election crisis three years ago, even as the country's economy roars ahead.
Producer: Mike Wendling.
It has one of the largest fishing fleets in the world and much of the catch from Thailand's fishing boats ends up on Japanese, European and American plates. Yet the industry stands accused of profiting from slave labour.
The BBC's Becky Palmstrom investigates this tale of modern day slavery. She travels to Thailand and Myanmar to find out why and how illegal migrants are being forced onto Thai fishing boats, many of them working for months unpaid. She hears allegations of cruelty and even murder.
In Thailand Becky meets Ken, from rural Myanmar, who hoped to make a better life for himself and his ageing parents. He ended up being trafficked twice onto Thai fishing boats. The BBC team was able to bring his parents, back in Myanmar, the first news they had had of their son for four years.
The Thai authorities admit that most of their fishing fleet is unregistered and much of it relies on illegal migrant labour. The Thai government insists it is making every effort to clamp down on trafficking and forced labour in its fishing industry. Yet the US State Department has recently downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 in its "Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP)" - a measure of how little it believes Thailand is doing to curb the problem.
Producer: John Murphy.
In the Spanish mining town of Turon a male choir meets once a week for rehearsals. They often sing to the patron saint of miners Santa Bárbara Bendita. Since 1934 miners have been singing this beautiful song in memory of four miners killed in a mining accident in the Maria Luisa mine. Coal mining, once a major industry in Spain, has been in decline for years and in the next few years the EU's subsidies for non-profitable pits will stop altogether. For most miners the closure of pits signals the death of their communities. Natalio Cosoy travels to northern Spain to talk to the miners and their families. Will Santa Bárbara Bendita watch over them as they face an uncertain future? James Fletcher producing.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in cocaine trafficking through Guatemala en route north, to the United States. Part of the fallout locally, has been a rise in addiction. As a result, more than 200 drug rehabilitation centres have been set up in the capital alone. Many of these are run by Pentecostal churches, with little oversight or regulation. Often addicts are swept up from the streets by 'hunting parties', and forced to attend such a centre. Linda Pressly travels to Guatemala City to investigate compulsory drug rehabilitation.
Gaelic Football is Ireland's most popular sport - there are clubs in every parish of the country. The game is very much part of the Irish identity. But it is losing its lifeblood. And all because of emigration. John Murphy goes to the far west of Ireland, to learn about this uniquely Irish game and hear how clubs are struggling to keep going as more and more young people leave the country, to find jobs abroad.
Helen Grady producing.
Almighty God vs the Red Dragon: It sounds like a fantasy action film but it is in fact a real and disturbing struggle in China. The most vivid case involves a group of people who beat a stranger to death in a fast food restaurant. They said they had no choice because the victim was a 'demon'. The killers are fanatical followers of the Church of the Almighty God, a Christian doomsday cult which claims millions of members across China and pledges to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party - which it calls the 'Great Red Dragon'. Gracie uses her fluent Chinese to gain access to families of those caught up in the cult, including a man who infiltrated it to save his wife.
Europe and the US have imposed the toughest sanctions on Russia since the Cold War amid anger over the Kremlin's support for east Ukrainian separatists who stand accused of shooting down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet. But the crisis began further south with Russia's annexation of Crimea in March.
Crimea's idyllic scenery drew Soviet visitors for years - some called it the Communist Cote d'Azur. The collapse of communism did little to dent Russia's appetite for their bit of paradise on the Black Sea along with the thousands of Ukrainian holidaymakers who flocked there each year. But now the Ukrainians are staying away and the Russian government is trying to fill the gap by urging employers in Russia to send staff on subsidised breaks in Crimea. A holiday in the newly annexed peninsula has become every Russian's patriotic duty. For Crossing Continents, Lucy Ash visits Crimean tourist resorts and explores the motives behind Vladimir Putin's fateful decision to reclaim Russia's paradise.
For decades, Turkey's Kurds have been struggling against a state that used to deny their very existence as a separate people. In the low level war between the Turkish military and the militant Kurdish group, the PKK, both side have been accused of atrocities. In the 29 years of fighting up to last year's ceasefire, at least 40,000 people died and hundreds of villages were destroyed. But now, just when Kurds in neighbouring Iraq are considering establishing an independent state, and many believe the chaos in Syria will change borders across the region, Kurds in Turkey are increasingly reconciled to remaining within existing frontiers. As Turkey pursues peace talks with the PKK, the militant movement's supporters talk of changing society, not borders. And already, they've initiated some radical experiments.
Pro-PKK towns and villages across eastern Turkey are now each governed by two co-mayors, male and female, and the new system has propelled many dynamic young women into power in regions that were once socially conservative. One is a survivor of domestic violence determined to use her position to encourage other women to speak up about what until now has been a taboo subject. She's not just the first woman mayor of her town, but also the first woman ever to get a divorce there. Tim Whewell travels to the region to meet her and other social reformers, and discover why so many of Turkey's Kurds say they have turned their back on nationalism, and want to express their identity in ways they say are more modern.
Producers: Charlotte Pritchard and Guney Yildiz.
When a twisting funnel drops from the sky with tearing winds of up to 500 km/h, what do you do? In Oklahoma, people thought they knew the answer. The state is in the heart of tornado alley in the USA, where the public is regularly drilled on storm awareness. But when the largest storm ever recorded formed on the outskirts of Oklahoma City last year, people ignored the best advice and nearly died in their thousands. Now, officials are nervously watching where the next storm will form...and trying to figure what people will do when it does. Neal Razzell goes out and about with the storm chasers in Oklahoma City.
In 1974, police launched one of the biggest murder investigations Iceland has ever seen. The case was eventually solved when six people confessed to their parts in the murders of two men whose bodies have never been found. Forty years on, a government review has found that the confessions were unreliable and a campaign is underway to quash the convictions. But some of those who were wrongly convicted are struggling to accept their innocence. Simon Cox investigates what's seen by many as a stain on Iceland's justice system and finds out how it's possible to confess to the murder of someone you have never met. Helen Grady producing.
The transgenic revolution in agricultural production turned Argentina into one of the world's largest producers and exporters of genetically modified soybean and corn. But there is unease across the nation's vast GM belt, especially about health. In the northerly province of Chaco, the Minster of Public Health wants an independent commission to investigate cases of cancer and the incidence of children born with disabilities.
Produced and presented by Linda Pressly.
Each year, thousands of illegal migrants try to enter the United States via a treacherous journey across the Arizona desert. Some succeed, while others are captured by US border patrols and are immediately deported - but not everyone is so fortunate. A growing number simply drop dead from exhaustion.
The Missing Migrant Project works on identifying the deceased, piecing together clues found in the personal effects collected alongside the decomposed bodies found in the desert.
In this programme, the BBC's Mexico correspondent Will Grant travels to Tucson, Arizona to meet project co-founder Robin Reineke to learn of the challenges facing her office in the small southwestern city of Tucson - which has the third-highest number of unidentified bodies in the United States, after New York and Los Angeles.
Migrant rights groups say the vast expansion of the US Border Patrol has exacerbated the problem because the heightened policing of the border along traditional urban crossing points has forced clandestine border crossers out into the wilds of the desert.
Such tough border protection is popular among many American voters, especially in conservative border states like Arizona and Texas - but some locals have shown sympathy, heading out into the desert to leave water, food and blankets in the hope of saving the lives of desperate migrants.
In Mexico, Crossing Continents also meets the relatives of those who have died in the desert, revealing their motivations to move north - motivations which they share with many men, women and children from across Latin America, who are still willing to risk their lives embarking on this increasingly dangerous and potentially deadly trip.
Reporter: Will Grant
Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith.
How do you restore peace to a country now being torn apart by a vicious campaign of ethnic and religious cleansing? Two men in the Central African Republic believe they have the answer - friendship. Tim Whewell joins the Catholic Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga and the country's Chief Imam, Oumar Kobine Layama as they travel across the country trying to reconcile Christian and Muslim communities.
When the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych jumped into a helicopter and flew into hiding in mid-February, the Kiev protest movement that had opposed him flung open the gates of his abandoned estate.
Ordinary Ukrainians poured in to visit the 140-hectare grounds and to catch a first glimpse of the luxurious lifestyle Yanukovych had enjoyed at his country's expense. Many gawped at the extraordinary opulence from the gold fittings to the marble floors and the private zoo. But a group of journalists were more excited by a different kind of treasure floating in the nearby lake. Thousands of documents had been dumped in the water by staff when their boss fled. The papers contained proof - not just of Yanukovych's wildly extravagant tastes - but also of systematic bribery, corruption, nepotism and state sponsored violence.
Investigative reporters immediately realised these waterlogged documents could provide crucial evidence for future criminal proceedings. Anxious to preserve them, they worked around the clock painstakingly drying and sorting each sheet of paper. Since then other incriminating papers have been found around the Kiev's city centre. Lucy Ash talks to the journalists on the paper trail and asks why divers, archivists, lawyers, accountants and so many ordinary volunteers are eager to help them.
There's a silent enemy at work in the civil war in Syria and it's threatening the lives of young children. The war has placed the country's health system under intense pressure and in certain areas vaccination programmes against a range of preventable diseases have not taken place. In October 2013 the Syrian Ministry of Health verified the first polio case in 15 years. Now there are 25 laboratory confirmed cases in the country with another 13 confirmations pending. With the huge movement of populations across regional borders there are fears that polio, along with other infectious diseases, is spreading. In March UNICEF announced a massive polio vaccination campaign for the whole region. For Crossing Continents Tim Whewell travels to the Turkish border and to Lebanon to talk to the doctors and health care workers struggling to cope with a growing crisis.
Natalia Antelava goes in search of Gulnara Karimova - pop star, philanthropist, socialite, intellectual - oh, and incidentally (according to leaked US Embassy cables) the most hated woman in Uzbekistan. The image that graces the screens and billboards of Tashkent is one of a glamorous, dynamic, celebrity who flits from Cannes to New York to Moscow, fronting glossy music videos under her musical alias GooGoosha, with stars like Julio Iglesias and Gerard Depardieu. She runs charities and helps children all in an attempt to win the hearts of the Uzbek people for what some say is a bid to succeed her father as president. But her ambitions have taken a hit and the princess of Uzbekistan's star is falling. Described as a 'robber baron' in cables from the US Embassy, her business dealings are getting her into trouble. Natalia travels to Sweden to find that Karimova us connected to a bribery case which is linked with a money laundering investigation in Switzerland and France. Karimova's rivals for power are now taking advantage. Her TV stations have been shut down and her charity has been subject to a tax investigation. With the story hitting the headlines, Karimova has taken to Twitter to defend herself, including a virtual encounter with Natalia herself. What is the future for GooGoosha and what does this power struggle say about the nature of power in one of the world's most repressive states?
Producer: Wesley Stephenson.
Of the estimated 70 million deaths attributed to World War two, 30 million died on the Russian front. Of those, as many as 4 million Soviet soldiers are still "missing in action". These men - more than the entire population of Ireland or New Zealand - are still unaccounted for.
Despite all the official rhetoric on Victory Day, many in power today would rather not contemplate the fate of these men. They lie forgotten and unrecognised by Russia's top brass and the state.
But as Lucy Ash discovers, a growing number of volunteers, armed with spades and metal detectors, are now searching for the soldiers. Seventy years after World War II, they feel compelled to look for their remains.
Olga Ivishina, a journalist with the BBC Russian Service from the city of Kazan, belongs to this Diggers Movement. While many young Russians professionals spend their holidays on beaches in Thailand, Olga gives up her free time to camp in the forest. Many days she has to wade waist-deep through mud, sometimes in pouring rain, to find the bodies of these fallen soldiers.
Ilya Prokofiev, one of the most experienced diggers, is scathing about what he calls the 'cult' of the Unknown Soldier. "Officials pay tribute at the eternal flame monument every 9th May', and I tell them: 'You're the ones who made this soldier nameless, what are you proud of? Have you no conscience? This soldier had a family, he had children, he had a surname, a name and patronymic, he had a life, he had a love of his own. What are you proud of?".
Could Greenland become the world's next resource hotspot? The government there hopes so - they've been travelling the world touting the country's vast reserves of oil and gas, and huge deposits of iron ore, gold and rare-earth elements. As melting icecaps make all these resources more accessible, mining promises riches for Greenland and the ultimate prize of full independence from Denmark. But there's a catch - many of the rare earth minerals are surrounded by uranium, pitching Greenland into the world of nuclear politics and environmental hazard. Nowhere is this clearer than in the small town of Narsaq in the country's south. Two proposed rare-earth mines could reverse the town's economic decline, but one just miles away will mine uranium too. James Fletcher travels to Narsaq to ask whether mining will be a blessing or a curse.
Brazil's anti-slavery hit-squads are unique. Since 1995, these committed bands of labour inspectors, accompanied by heavily armed police, have rescued 46,000 people deemed to be working as slaves. But Brazil's legal definition of slavery is contentious. It includes degrading conditions of work, which campaigners say amount to coercion. Some employers reject that. And now the stakes have been raised by proposals to confiscate land from bosses found to be flouting the anti-slavery standards. In a journey that takes her from cattle country on the edge of the Amazon, to the parched, rocky badlands of the north-east, Linda Pressly meets the campaigners, employers and politicians on both sides of the argument, and hears powerful testimony from the workers trapped in the middle.
Producer: Stephen Hounslow.
Farhana Haider investigates the prosecution of alleged war criminals and asks if the trials are being used to target the opposition.
There were numerous reports of atrocities during the brutal war of 1971 between Pakistan on one side and the new state which was to become Bangladesh, which had support from India. The Pakistani Army and Islamic sympathisers in Bangladesh were accused of rape and of mass killings which some have described as genocide. In 2010 the governing Awami League set up war crimes trials which have started to hand down convictions this year, attracting strong public support. However, many international observers have criticised the conduct of the trials as less than free and fair. And supporters of the largest Bangladesh's largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami have reacted furiously to the conviction of several of their leaders, saying the process is politically motivated.
Farhana Haider asks whether the legal process will really enable Bangladesh to come to terms with its bloody beginnings.
Producer: John Murphy.
On 1 January 2014 Indonesia will launch the largest public health insurance scheme in the world. It will unite a bewildering array of current schemes to cover the entire population, with the poor getting their health care free. Former BBC Jakarta Correspondent Claire Bolderson asks whether the world's fourth most populous country has the resources and organisational skills to make such an ambitious scheme work?
Producer: Mike Gallagher.
One year on from the horrific attack in Delhi, Joanna Jolly hears from three women who've chosen to report a rape in a country that is at last waking up to the problem. The authorities have introduced tougher laws since the young student was raped on a bus last December but is the experience of women who choose to prosecute their attackers getting any better? Three women talk about their struggle: reporting rape to a not always sympathetic police, being examined in the government's often overcrowded hospitals and finally standing up in court.
Joanna Jolly talks to the senior policewoman running the Delhi's Women and Children's Unit, a leading gynaecologist who has treated rape victims in the city and to those who've worked in the Indian legal system.
Will the public outcry over the attack over a year ago make it easier for women to report rape and will their experience of India's overburdened courts be any better?
Producer: Mark Savage.
Vladimir Hernandez follows the Mexican priests who believe they can fight the evil of drug trafficking through the ancient Catholic practice of exorcism.
It is estimated that 60,000 people have died in Mexico in the "drug wars" linked to the narco-traffickers, who are among the most vicious criminals in the world. To some Catholic priests and believers, this is clear evidence that the Devil has taken hold among much of the population. They also point to the popularity of cults like that of "Santa Muerte", the saint of death, who is a figure of popular veneration among some of the narco-gangs. The priests are responding by practicing exorcisms, both in private and public, as they seek to expunge this evil. Vladimir watches dramatic individual and mass exorcisms, hears from those who have been through the rite and talks to critics and supporters of the practice.
Producers: Keith Morris and Mark Savage.
Wine making in Moldova is a source of national pride - they have been growing vines for centuries. During Soviet times the country was encouraged to become one of the USSR's major wine suppliers and it has remained so ever since. But recently Russia banned the importation of Moldovan wine for the second time in a decade.
Tessa Dunlop visits the prestigious Cricova winery - whose cellars have 120km of underground roads and holds bottles for the likes of Angela Merkel and President Putin - to see how the ban is affecting the poorest country in Europe.
Moldova fears that a continuing embargo will devastate its fragile economy. The Moldovan president has condemned it as an aggressive move by Russia to bully Moldova into reconsidering its comittment to forging closer relations with the European Union. Many Moldovans believe Russia wants to make their country reconsider ratifying an agreement with the EU at the end of November.
The result is that growers have vats maturing wine that may have no market. Enterprising younger wine producers, many of whom bought out former state enterprises, fear their investment may have been a mistake. Workers are concerned they may lose their jobs with little chance of alternative employment in the poorest country in Europe.
For Moldova this is symbolic of a bigger problem - it wants to join the EU party and become part of Europe but its economy remains heavily dependent on Russia for gas and cash. Meanwhile the 14th Russian army is based just miles from their capital in the disputed territory of Transnistria.
Moldova faces difficult choices
Producer: Jane Beresford.
Up to 20% of the world's gold is produced by informal mining, with millions of people in the developing world relying on it for a living. The quickest and easiest way for them to extract gold is by mixing finely ground rock with mercury, a highly toxic metal, and burning it off. Linda Pressly visits Indonesia, and finds gold workers and communities who are already showing signs of mercury poisoning. There are paddy fields with the highest concentration of mercury ever tested in rice. Experts tell her this is a slow-burn disaster, which could lead to irreversible harm to the health of people across the globe.
Producers: Emil Petrie, Nina Robinson.
According to a recent study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 24 million Chinese men will be unable to find wives by 2020 because of the country's gender imbalance. Before the mass migration from the villages to the cities, young men could rely on their parents to find them a wife. Now many of those single women live in the cities, working in factories. They only see their parents during the spring festival so the chances of finding a wife are limited. It's a particular challenge for men with low income, who don't own their own apartment or who don't have a good job. In some parts of rural China there are several communities with so many single men they've been labelled 'bachelor villages'
The trend has led to a growth in internet dating while at the high end, rich men join 'single entrepreneur' clubs that run competitions to find them that someone special.
Lucy Ash reports from China on the ways in which both parents and the single men are attempting to make the perfect catch.
Producer: Julie Ball.
Despite its massive natural oil wealth, Venezuela is a country sliding into recession, and has one of the highest inflation rates in the world. With prices of some products rising as much as 50% or more annually, the crisis presents a simple human predicament - how to lay your hands on the ever-dwindling supply of price-capped essentials that government shops pledge to provide. The trouble is that many of these basic goods like milk and toilet rolls, are disappearing from the supermarkets within a few minutes of getting there.
Ed Butler explores how gossip and the black market have become a part of the answer for many ordinary citizens. He follows one consumer's quest for goods across the capital, and examines the rumours of smuggling and massive corruption, especially in the west near the border with Colombia.
And he hears how the Socialist legacy of the former President Hugo Chavez still casts a big shadow over the nation. Businesspeople complain that his policies have made it almost impossible to produce anything profitably, and have left a legacy of massive red tape. The housing sector has been hit particularly hard with years of under-investment. Ed meets one retired couple unable to reclaim a rented apartment in their own property, who now are forced to live in their own garage.
Mobeen Azhar investigates gay life in urban Pakistan and despite the country's religious conservatism and homosexuality being a crime there, he finds a vibrant gay scene, all aided by social media. He meets gay people at underground parties, shrines and hotels and finds out what it's really like to be gay in Pakistan.
As one man tells him, "The best thing about being gay in Pakistan is you can easily hook up with guys over here. You just need to know the right moves and with a click you can get any guy you want."
At a gay party he meets an NGO worker who then takes him to one of Karachi's prime cruising locations - a shrine to a 9th Century Muslim saint. Mobeen meets a "masseur", who works on the street advertising his services. The masseur's real job is selling sexual services to men - with the full knowledge of his wife.
And with great difficulty, Mobeen speaks to a lesbian couple, who conceal their relationship from their own parents. One of them argues that it is too soon for gay Pakistanis to fight openly for political rights and that they must find happiness in the personal sphere. Mobeen discovers that while urban Pakistanis may easily be able to find sex, being in a relationship is far more difficult.
Reporter: Mobeen Azhar
Producer: Helena Merriman.
Change is in the air in Turkey following anti-government protests centred on a park in Istanbul - but where will it end? Emre Azizlerli of the BBC Turkish Service explores the strange new alliances forged in Turkey's anti-government protests, and asks if this diverse movement can hold together. He meets the anti-capitalist Islamists who have made common cause with environmentalists and secularists as well as gay and lesbian groups. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan refers to the protesters as "piteous rodents". The government has reacted by clamping down and sending in the riot police. Can the very different groups which oppose Erdogan really make common cause?
Producer: Mark Savage.
The Kazakh steppe was once home to the infamous Soviet forced labour camps which formed part of the Gulag. Today, the Gulag system is said to live on in Kazakhstan's jails where a growing prison population faces daily torture, humiliation and lawlessness. Despite its poor human rights record, many developed nations, including Britain, are rapidly strengthening relations with Kazakhstan. BBC Central Asia Correspondent Rayhan Demeytrie investigates why the Gulag violence persists and asks why the international community stays silent.
Producer: Nina Robinson.
Since the fall of Ceaucescu's dictatorship, the Romanian Orthodox Church has flourished. It has built thousands of new churches across the country and is now constructing a huge new cathedral in the capital Bucharest. The Cathedral is right next to Ceaucescu's gargantuan "Palace of the People" and, when completed, is intended to be taller - a physical manifestation of the Church's power and influence. Much of the money for the construction of these new churches and the cathedral has come from state funds - national, regional and local - as well as donations from congregations.
While the Romanian Orthodox Church (ROC) argues that the churches are needed and wanted by most Romanians, there are those who feel that the ROC has too great an influence and is costing too much. Tessa Dunlop hears from believers, politicians, monks and an Archbishop, about how religious the country is, and whether or not the Church is too powerful and too rich.
Producer: John Murphy.
Dr Kermit Gosnell had a reputation as the 'abortion doctor of last resort' along the East Coast of the United States - until his arrest in 2010. He regularly performed abortions well past the legal limit of 24 weeks with the help of untrained staff. At least two women died because of the treatment they received at his Philadelphia clinic. He has now been sentenced to three life sentences for the murder of three babies born alive.
But authorities only acted against Gosnell when they suspected him of selling prescription medicines. Warnings about the dangers to women and children were ignored. The gruesome story has renewed the abortion debate across the United States. Neal Razzell travels to Philadelphia to find out what went wrong and how his case is being used to change public policy - in ways, some say, will make women less safe.
This programme contains some extremely disturbing content.
Produced by Smita Patel.
In Barcelona, a doctor offers reconstructive surgery to women who had female genital mutilation when they were children. Recorded over 6 months, Linda Pressly hears the stories of Rosa and Wenkune - Spanish women of African origin. FGM has caused them both a good deal of trauma. Will the operation change how they feel about themselves? What difference will it make to their intimate relationships? And what motivates Dr Barri Soldevila - a busy surgeon in a private hospital - to prioritise these procedures and offer them free of charge?
The police are there to help if you have been a victim of Female Genital Mutilation or have any information about this crime taking place. They advise that you call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11 or the NSPCC's FGM helpline on 0800 028 3550 to report this crime or for help, advice and support. Be reassured calls will be dealt with sensitively and you can remain anonymous.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Information from the FCO about female genital mutilation, and what to do if you know someone who is at risk of FGM.
If you or someone you know has been affected by FGM, the following organisations can offer information and support.
Daughters of Eve works to advance and protect the physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health rights of young people from female genital mutilation practising communities. If you have had any form of FGM they can give you advice, including about the different medical reversal options, advice about childbirth and how to live as healthily as possible with FGM. They can also give advice about what you can do to minimise the risk of FGM happening to you or someone you know. If you would like to contact Daughters of Eve you can email using the contact form on their website or get in touch by text
Text: 07983 030 488 www.dofeve.org
The Foundation for Women's Health, Research and Development (FORWARD) is a campaign and support charity providing help with FGM. If you have personal experience of, or know of anyone who has undergone FGM, FORWARD can provide support, advice and information about accessing specialist health care and counselling for girls and women affected by FGM. If you would like any help or advice or simply want to talk to someone about your experience you can get in touch - the charity is staffed by sensitive and approachable African women who, as well as English, speak Arabic and several other African languages.
Phone: 020 8960 4000 http://www.forwarduk.org.uk/
Details of specialist clinics run by experienced professionals that provide health care and assistance to girls and women affected by FGM
Writer Andrew Brown tries to find out if the rural heart of Sweden still lives on in the modern age. In an entertaining and unpredictable journey he goes in search of wolves, egg-tossing merrymakers and the ideal of the Swedish summer.
Brazil is getting ready to host the 2014 World Cup. But the preparations have become marred in controversy. And leading the charge against over-budget stadiums, vested interests and corruption is an unlikely figure: Romario. Brazil's World Cup-winning footballer has transformed himself into a serious, hard-working politician. Tim Franks meets him for Crossing Continents. Is this a genuine transformation for one of Brazil's most notorious celebrity bad-boys?
Producer: Linda Pressly.
Two and a half years ago, oil started flowing from Ghana's first commercial offshore oilfield. Shortly after the taps were turned on, Rob Walker visited the hub for the new industry: the once sleepy port of Takoradi. He found a mixture of ambition and uncertainty in a rapidly expanding boomtown. Rob now returns to Takoradi to meet people he met last time and find out whether their dreams have been realised.
Producer: Katharine Hodgson.
Mobeen Azhar travels to the Pakistani city of Quetta to investigate how it has become the scene of violent and indiscriminate attacks by Sunni militants against the local ethnic Hazara community. It's a city which has become effectively a no-go area for foreign journalists due to the persistent and intensifying violence. Mobeen tells the story of a single day in January of this year when over 100 people lost their lives in twin bombings in Quetta. Claiming responsibility was the Sunni militant group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Mobeen retraces the story of the bombings, and examines the growing security concerns in a district dominated by the Shia Hazara community.
He speaks to Fayyaz Mohammed, a candidate in the forthcoming elections who has links to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and talks with Paul Bhatti, who until recently was the Pakistani Minister of National Harmony. Bhatti blames the government's inability to enforce "effective policy" on Pakistan's long history of military dictatorship. Azhar meets blast survivors and the families of victims, and finds out how the security situation is causing many young Hazaras to leave Quetta to seek a better life elsewhere - despite the dangers of putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers.
Producer: Julie Ball.
Belarus has been described as the last dictatorship in Europe. Few dare speak out against President Alexander Lukashenko and his ruling elite. But the opposition has found a way of making its voice heard through an academic community which has taken refuge abroad.
Lucy Ash visits the European Humanities University which teaches Belarusian students on its campus in neighbouring Lithuania. She talks to teachers and students, many of whom commute back and forth across the border. Is the EHU devoted to intellectual freedom and training future leaders of Belarus or is it a "trampoline for emigration" to the west?
Producer: Tim Mansel.
Insecurity dominates the lives of millions of Mexicans, who are caught between the murderous drug cartels and absent or corrupt law enforcement. So, communities have begun to take the law into their own hands, and Crossing Continents reporter Linda Pressly travels to the southern state of Guerrero to meet a fledgling vigilante force which has grown into an organisation numbering thousands of members.
Since coming into force earlier this year, dozens of arrests made by untrained, armed civilians hailing from local pueblos and the local community has largely been supportive of their work.
But these community police organisations, as they are known, have no legal authority, and should not be carrying guns in the street - and amid claims that some are using violence to enforce the law, Crossing Continents asks who is keeping the vigilantes in check?
Reporter: Linda Pressly
Twelve years ago Lucy Ash investigated Ukraine's fight against HIV infection, which was mainly caused by injecting drug users. After the Orange Revolution in late 2004, the government promised to do everything it could to fight the disease and the situation seemed to improve. But now Ukraine has the second highest infection rate in Europe, surpassed only by Russia. Around the world, other countries are managing to reduce rates of HIV infection and AIDS-related deaths. Lucy Ash travels to Kyiv and Odessa to see why fighting HIV is so difficult in Ukraine.
Producer: Julie Ball.
The fate of hundreds of people who went missing during Nepal's brutal civil war is threatening to undermine the country's fragile democracy. Around 100,000 people were displaced during the bloody insurgency and an estimated 17 thousand were killed. A peace agreement was signed six years ago in which both sides promised that war crimes would not go unpunished. But relatives are still waiting for justice. Joanna Jolly finds out why the scars from the conflict are still raw despite attempts by both sides to bury the past.
Producer: Mark Savage.
The Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia's freezing Gobi Desert is one of the the world's biggest - extracting a vast seam of copper, gold and silver the size of Manhattan. It's turned this country of camel and yak herders into the world's fastest growing economy. Fancy boutiques, top-end car dealerships and coffee shops are springing up across the capital. But, as Justin Rowlatt discovers, riding the boom is not easy. He meets a rapper who says the government is simply selling the country's assets to its old rival, China. And there are fears from foreign investors about attempts by the government to increase its income from the Oyu Tolgoi mine. Can Mongolia become prosperous while sharing its new-found wealth - or will it kill the goose before it has laid any gold (or copper) eggs?
Producer: Kent DePinto.
In a major investigation, Natalia Antelava reports on the abduction of tens of thousands of young girls in India for forced marriages. Thousands more are sold as prostitutes and domestic servants. She follows the route of the traffickers, who take girls from destitute households in places like West Bengal to wealthier areas in Northern states, where a shortage of women is blamed by many on sex-selective abortions. It's a problem the United Nations describes as of 'genocidal proportions'. Natalia joins campaigners and police fighting the trade and hears the stories of the trafficked girls and from a trafficker himself.
Producer: Natalie Morton.
Mariko Oi investigates forced confessions of suspects in the Japanese criminal justice system. She asks if the use of prolonged questioning and other dubious tactics by police and prosecutors might be one reason for Japan's astonishingly high conviction rate.
Producer: Nina Robinson.
Lucy Ash asks what the explosion in popular protest over a Chinese-backed copper mine says about changes in Burma and asks if this is a test case for the government's commitment to democratic reforms.
Farmers' daughters Aye Net and Thwe Thwe Win have led thousands of villagers in protest against what they say is the unlawful seizure of thousands of acres of land to make way for a $1 billion expansion of a copper mine run by the military and a large Chinese arms manufacturer. They have been thrown in jail and they have been harassed by their own police and military, and yet they have refused to back down.
Their bravery has been celebrated by the poet Ant Maung from the nearest big city Monywa, who wrote: "The struggle made them into iron ladies. . .This is life or death for them - they will defend it at the cost of everything."
Burmese officials and the Chinese company say the Monywa copper mine will create jobs and bring prosperity to one of the poorest and least developed nations in Asia. But the villagers complain about pollution, damage to crops and the loss of fertile land.
A violent crackdown on the protestors was a stark reminder that the country's transition to democracy remains fraught with difficulties. Some suspect the government acted to avoid scaring away foreign investors. Others say the brutal response shows Burma's military leaders are still in charge behind the scenes and that they are not prepared to tolerate any dissent which encroaches on their economic interests.
Meanwhile there is a rising tide of Sinophobia in a country which feels overshadowed by its powerful northern neighbour. How the mine dispute is resolved may provide vital clues about the future of Burma.
Producer: Katharine Hodgson.
For decades, Poland has been a country of emigrants travelling to build new lives abroad, not least in the UK. But could things be about to change? Paul Henley travels to the country at the eastern edge of the EU, where the financial crisis has, so far, been avoided. He meets the migrants already making a life in Europe's least multicultural society, and explores the conditions that suggest Poland could be on the cusp of becoming a destination; home to a new wave of migrants.
Producer: Lila Allen.
The city of Misrata arguably suffered the most during the Libyan conflict as missiles rained on it for months on end. By the end of the revolution though, fighters from Misrata had exacted their revenge on neighbouring towns and had been responsible for the capture of Colonel Gaddafi, as well as Gaddafi strongholds. More recently Misratan fighters have been in action against the city of Bani Walid. Many residents of Bani Walid, accused of being Gaddafi supporters, have been expelled from their homes. Misrata has, effectively, set itself up as a city state, outside the control of Libya's new government.
Writer and journalist Justin Marozzi, who has been visiting Libya over the last twenty years, including during the revolution, returns to examine if this fragmented country can rebuild itself and come together. Is reconciliation possible while different armed groups continue to fight each other?
Producer: John Murphy.
Many schoolchildren in South Africa's northern Limpopo province have gone for months without school textbooks. There was money to buy them. There was also a contract to deliver the books. Yet they didn't arrive. Students and parents are furious with politicians of the governing ANC - and say the problem is due to mismanagement and corruption. They say the issue typifies the faults of the political system, and that their children have been the victims. Rob Walker investigates the mystery of the missing textbooks.
In one of the most violent countries on earth, peace has broken out. In March, a truce was brokered between El Salvador's two most violent street gangs; they agreed to stop killing each other.
The Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 are criminal outfits that trace their origins to Los Angeles. In the 1990s, older members were deported from the US and forged local 'branches' on the streets of El Salvador. Since the truce - brokered in prisons with the gangs' leaders - the murder rate of this small Central American nation (with the highest homicide rate in the world after Honduras) has been cut by more than half.
In Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly visits the imprisoned leaders of both gangs to find out how the deal was done. And she finds many Salvadorans are relieved. Now they can go out at night, and their children can play again on the streets. But the truce has not been without its critics. Should the state sponsor a non-aggression treaty between criminal organisations? And is there more to the agreement than Salvadorans are being told?
Many are asking if this is a sustainable peace. Some question whether the murder rate is really falling, alleging that actually the gangs are continuing to kill and hiding the corpses. Claudia thinks this is what happened to her son - a teenager associated with the Barrio 18 who disappeared last month after a local shooting. She says she knows he's dead. All she wants is the return of his body.
But for all the uncertainty, the gains are dramatic. Not only has the murder rate plummeted, but the number of public hospital emergency admissions in San Salvador for people injured by guns or knives has fallen by nearly two-thirds. Can the truce last? El Salvador is holding its breath.
Andrew Harding meets the Mayor with the job of running Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. Can the man nicknamed "Tarzan" tackle mass corruption and the physical and psychological impact of years of brutal warfare?
Andrew joins Mohamed Ahmed Noor who, by request of the president, has returned with his wife and family from a life in London to try and clean up Mogadishu.
The mayor discusses his ambitious vision for a city, much of which currently lies in ruins. He proudly shows off the new Mogadishu Mall and talks about the constant risk of attack by the militant Islamist group al-Shabaab - and narrowly escapes death by a car bomb along the way.
Producers: Kate Forbes and Daniel Tetlow.
When Israel was established, its tiny community of ultra-Orthodox Jews were, uniquely, exempted from the normal requirement of service in the Israeli Defence Force. They were seen as keepers of the spiritual soul of the nation, and their vital duty of studying religion and Jewish law was more important than wielding guns. 70 years on, and the community's numbers have grown massively - and there are increasing demands for the ultra-Orthodox to play their part in the defence of the nation. A Supreme Court decision which has cleared the way for the drafting of all Jewish citizens reaching the age of eighteen has divided the coalition government and led to furious rows.
Linda Pressly investigates how conscription is exposing deep faultlines among Israeli Jews. Secular and mainstream religious Jews increasingly see the ultra-Orthodox as a drain on the Israeli state, and resent this community ruthlessly exploiting their political power. Meanwhile the ultra-Orthodox see themselves as fulfilling a sacred duty which lies above the day-to-day considerations of politics or defence. Can the rifts be healed - or will Israeli society become irrevocably split?
Producer: Mark Savage.
Tessa Dunlop travels to Romania to investigate why a proposed open-cast gold mine has caused the longest-lasting political storm in the country since the end of Communism.
The mine, in the rural community of Rosia Montana in the Transylvanian mountains in western Romania, would be Europe's largest. Its supporters, including most locals, say it would bring much-needed jobs to the area, which has suffered very high unemployment since the last mine closed there a few years ago, after two millennia of gold mining.
But opponents, ranging from local shopkeepers to NGOs in Bucharest and abroad, argue that the project would destroy what they see as the area's only chance for more sustainable development: turning the 2000-year old Roman mines located in those same mountains into tourist attractions, perhaps as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The mining company admits that many of the Roman galleries would be destroyed by the open-cast mine, but they are largely inaccessible anyway. As a quid pro quo, the company is already restoring those galleries that will be protected, to make them accessible and a tourism destination.
Is the destruction of the majority of the Roman mines a price worth paying for the restoration of a few? Or is the conflict about something else entirely?
Some campaigners admit that their real fight is not with the company, but with the government, because they suspect official corruption. Meanwhile politicians say it is easier to cut public salaries than to give the go-ahead to a big project like this, precisely because of the ensuing suspicion of sleaze.
The project is seen as a test case for prosperity, transparency and good governance for Romania.
Producer: Arlene Gregorius.
No fewer than 15 football club bosses have been murdered in Bulgaria's top football league in the last decade alone. In this edition of Crossing Continents Margot Dunne investigates reports that many have been deeply involved in mafia businesses.
There are continuing reports that the game is riddled with corrupt practices including match-fixing and the illegal procurement of European Union passports for overseas players.
Crossing Continents examines these claims, attending a match which has allegedly been fixed in advance and speaks to a player who says he was offered money to throw a match.
The programme also meets Todor Batkov, chairman of one of the country's best known football clubs, Levski Sofia, who accepts that corruption in the national game is as deep rooted as ever.
Producer: Ed Butler.
South Korean women, tradition says, are hard-working, respectful to family, and know their place in Korea's Confucian hierarchies. But the country's rapid economic development has meant some startling changes below the surface of that conservative social structure. Perhaps the most controversial is the advent of Host Bars - all night drinking rooms where female customers can select and pay for male companions, sometimes at a cost of thousands of dollars a night. Originally set up to cater to off-duty 'hostesses' and female escorts, they're now proving popular with many other women too. The growth of the industry is throwing up new questions for South Korea's sociologists and politicians as they struggle to reconcile the country's traditional values with the effects of its rapid development. The BBC's Seoul correspondent Lucy Williamson reports.
Karachi is facing a drugs epidemic. Pakistan's sprawling port city has an estimated half a million chronic heroin addicts. The drug is cheap and easily available as it comes across the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, before being shipped to Europe and the US. Mobeen Azhar finds out how a charity is trying to help addicts and their families.
An NGO called the Edhi Foundation operates what is thought to be the world's largest drug rehabilitation centre. It's here that Mobeen meets brothers Yusaf and Husein who have checked themselves in. Patients who volunteer for treatment like this can leave whenever they feel ready. But the majority of patients, like 24-year-old Saqandar, are brought in by their desperate relatives, and according to Edhi rules, only the family can decide when they will be released.
The centre offers heroin users food and painkillers to ease the physical symptoms of withdrawal - but conventional treatment like methadone is not available. So does enforced cold turkey really work?
Mobeen follows the stories of three heroin addicts and finds out how the stress of their addiction takes its toll on them and their families.
Presenter: Mobeen Azhar
Producer: Ben Crighton.
Rwanda is a nation of bicycles; large cumbersome machines, piled high with sacks of coffee or potatoes, so heavy they can only be pushed up the steep winding roads in this "land of a thousand hills."
Rwanda -- a country known only for the genocide of 1994, when an estimated 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were murdered in cold blood in a mere 100 days -- is also a nation in need of heroes.
It may now have found them: lycra-clad athletes in helmets and wrap-around sunglasses on five thousand dollar racing bikes. They are Team Rwanda, the national cycling team, its tightly packed and brightly coloured peloton now a familiar sight on their training rides on the roads around Ruhengeri in the country's north-west, not far from the border with Uganda.
For this week's Crossing Continents Tim Mansel has spent a week with Team Rwanda as they prepare for their latest international competition, the Tour of Eritrea. The team assembles on a Monday night from all over Rwanda. They come by bike, some after riding for three or four hours, one after a ride of six. Their week is a series of gruelling rides, nutritious food, and daily yoga, all under the critical eye of their outspoken American coach, Jock Boyer.
It's impossible to spend time in Rwanda without being confronted by the genocide. A large purple banner adorns the main street in Ruhengeri, its message unmissable - Jenocide, it proclaims - and this year's slogan: "Learning from History to build a bright future." And only a few hundred yards from where the riders live is the town's genocide memorial, a walled garden dominated by a disturbing monument - the figure of a man pleading for his life and a machete that appears to be dripping in blood.
Team Rwanda is not immune from the genocide, indeed it makes explicit connections. Its website features biographies of several of its riders: Rafiki Uwimana, a small child in 1994, sent by his parents to live in the countryside to escape the horrors of the capital Kigali, forced to hide in the forest from the Hutu militias, and almost dying of malaria before being saved by the Tutsi RPF militia invading from Uganda; or Obed Rugovera, who lost three siblings and two uncles in the carnage.
"The genocide has affected every one of the riders profoundly and you can feel it even without talking about it," says the coach, Jock Boyer. "Cycling...gives them the hope that they can buy a house, provide for their family, do something they're good at and that they're recognised for and that the country is not just going to be known for a genocide.".
The state-of-the-art Aeropuerto Don Quijote in Ciudad Real opened for business at the end of 2008. The vision was to create an air hub in the heart of Spain, and its backers believed it would bring business, jobs and tourists to this underdeveloped region. But just over three years later the airport closed - bankruptcy proceedings are on-going. Now it lies abandoned and empty, the silence broken only by birdsong and the occasional whoosh of a high speed train.
In Crossing Continents, Pascale Harter tells the story of a project with its roots in Spain's building boom-years. Was the airport doomed by the economic crisis, as its supporters claim? Or was it always fanciful to imagine that a region with little industry and tourism could sustain an airport with a capacity for five million passengers a year? And what does the building of the airport tell us about the relationship between local business, politicians and the now defunct local banks - the Cajas?
In just three years China's main microblogging site, Sina Weibo, has surpassed Twitter's entire global membership. More than 300 million Chinese are now tweeting, with millions more joining the national conversation every month. Shanghai-based journalist Duncan Hewitt finds out how microblogging is changing China.
Thanks to social media China is witnessing the emergence of a civil society of activists and justice-seekers. These 'netizens' are using Sina Weibo and other services to publicise miscarriages of justice, instances of corruption and environmental issues and force local and central government to act. The victim of a horrific attack shows Duncan how her desperate plea for redress on Sina Weibo led to a nationwide outcry. In Beijing he meets the dogs saved from a grisly death in the dog-eating South thanks to flashmob rescuers organised on Sina Weibo. And a group of mothers who met on Sina Weibo tell him about their campaign to promote breastfeeding across China. None of this was possible before the internet - but where will it all lead?
While some subjects are banned, Sina Weibo has also given Chinese people a new freedom to voice opinions on the news, their lives and their country.
Duncan meets the young people of Chengdu in Western China who are now part of a small but growing graffiti, hip-hop and dance scene. Just 15 years ago there was no way they could communicate with fellow fans, never mind the outside world. He'll visit Youku, China's YouTube, to watch their online X-Factor-style competition as it is filmed. And he'll meet the famous cartoonist using animation to ask questions about the materialism of the young and the detention of his fellow artist and friend, Ai Weiwei.
Writer and broadcaster Maria Margaronis follows the route taken by migrants fleeing war or poverty who are risking their lives to reach the Europe Union. It is estimated that around 75 thousand people are attempting to make the perilous journey each year in the hands of unscrupulous traffickers. They are fleeing from war-torn countries like Afghanistan and Somalia or simply in search of a better life where their economic prospects aren't so bleak. Some of them never make it, suffocating in the back of a crowded lorry or drowning in the fast flowing river that marks the border between Turkey and Greece.
The programme meets up with migrants in Istanbul, on the narrow Bosphorus Strait, which has served as the crossroads of the world for thousands of years. There are children making the journey on their own and one man who has lost his fingers and toes to frostbite on a perilous journey over the mountains from Iran. Two of his companions died. The Turkish authorities confess to being overwhelmed by the numbers which are estimated to be up to 250 people a day. Illegal migrants are detained but seldom, it seems, sent back to the countries they came from. There has been an attempt to clamp down on the people traffickers but there are huge profits to be made.
The most dangerous part of the trip is along Turkey's border with Greece. The Greeks are supposed to be building an eight mile fence but that still leaves a river which is 125 miles long. Traffickers put their charges into cheap inflatable boats and push them across, regardless of whether they are able to handle a boat or to swim. Many of them can't.
For those that do make it, there is no Promised Land but an economic crisis and yet more troubles ahead.
In this week's Crossing Continents, Mukul Devichand tells the stories of Shanghai's rapidly ageing population.
China's natural ageing process has been accelerated by the One Child Policy. Mukul tells the stories of an ageing city and asks whether China's rapid economic growth could be undermined.
Shanghai's image is youthful and contemporary, of a globalised metropolis buying into a new lifestyle at chains like Ikea. But the Ikea Shanghai store is home to a different category -- and age -- of customer. The store canteen has become a meeting point for elderly singles, looking for love and friendship. It's a story repeated across Shanghai: in places you may expect to millions of young people, you'll see the elderly.
Like the rest of urban China, Shanghai is growing old. A quarter of the city's resident population is now retired, putting it in the same demographic league as countries like the UK or Germany. But ageing in China is different. Its fertility rates have dropped at a speed unprecedented in modern history because its "One Child" policy. 30 years after the policy started, the speed of ageing is faster in China than anywhere else. The burden of ageing is not only coming faster, it's also much also harsher here, because China is still a developing country -- with hundreds of millions of poor people to support, as well as hundreds of millions of additional elderly. That has led to a deep seated anxiety in China: will the country grow too old to get rich?
Nestled amid skyscrapers, Mukul tells the stories of the old Shanghai of inner city districts, a place of tumbledown old blocks where the elderly are concentrated. He meets the couples and families struggling with new complaints, such as dementia and alzheimers, under the burden of low incomes and limited welfare. This story of poverty amid plenty symbolises the deeper worry: of the expense of an ageing China in a country where elderly care has traditionally been managed by the family.
In the same city districts, public and private nursing homes are now opening their doors. These cater to a growing demand from families who can't manage the traditional custom of "many generations under one roof" and represent a big cultural change in China. But who will pay for this kind of care nationally? Mukul tells the stories of the rural migrants, caught between the gaps of China's welfare system -- the millions for whom such care is simply not an option.
What can be done? One solution is to encourage more babies in each family. But that is antithetical to China's historically draconian "One Child" family planning, which is now deeply entrenched in the culture. Mukul visits a family planning centre, which now encourages some couples to have more than one -- and finds the couples aren't always listening. He speaks to Shanghai's leading family planning officials to ask if they are changing the "One Child" policy, and how fast.
At its root, the real problem is not just too many elderly. Rather it's a shortage of young workers, threatening China's economic model itself. A lack of willing youth is a huge issue for a country whose entire business model is based on millions of cheap workers. In the industrial zones south of Shanghai, Mukul tells the stories of a crisis in labour. Will China's factory of the world collapse under the burden of ageing?
Lucy Ash visits Russia's new energy frontier in the Arctic Yamal region and explores the impact oil and gas extraction is having on the indigenous people there.
Gradually but inexorably, reindeer give way to railroads and gas rigs. She goes to stay with a family of herders near the base of the Yamal Peninsula, whose name in the local Nenets language means "the end of the earth." Yamal is home to the largest single area of reindeer husbandry in the world and unlike many indigenous people of the north in Canada, the USA and other parts of Russia, the Nenets herders have proved remarkably resilient. They survived both collectivisation in Soviet times and the chaos of the transition to a market economy in the 1990s. But now there is a new threat as Vladimir Putin has vowed to "turn Yamal into the new oil and gas province of Russia."
Lucy's host in the tundra, Nikolai Khudi, is philosophical about the changing world around him and wary of criticising the state monopoly Gazprom. The flow of oil and gas revenue to the region has brought social benefits such as decent schools and hospitals. Many nomads have willingly given up their traditional lives, and even those who've remained on the tundra now enjoy snow mobiles, satellite dishes and mobile phones. But Nikolai's brother Yevgeny worries their way of life is endangered and that fish may soon disappear from lakes and rivers because of the drilling.
But Moscow is determined to exploit the treasures under the permafrost. The president elect is heavily dependent on hydrocarbons and is counting on them to fulfil recent campaign promises. At the current levels of price and consumption, the natural gas reserves in Russia's Arctic region, would generate enough fuel to feed Europe for around 75 years, with a total value of almost $17 trillion. The fate of this frozen territory thousands of miles from the Kremlin speaks volumes about the Russian state both past and present.
Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world. The People's Funeral Service deals daily with the fall-out from these extreme levels of violence. Set up by the Mayor of Tegucigalpa, the capital city, it distributes coffins, maintains two funeral homes, and even offers a mobile service where employees take everything necessary for a wake - including bread and coffee - to someone's house or local church. All of these services are totally free for poor people in the city.
In Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly profiles this unique organisation, and meets some of the families using its services. Among them, is the family of Ramon Orlando Varela, a 26 year old gunned down in the street after dropping his children off at school. It isn't clear why Ramon was targeted. But a toxic mix of gangs, guns, drug cartels - and fear - pervades Honduras. And it's unlikely his killers will ever be caught. Police corruption is endemic, impunity almost a given.
But in spite of the everyday challenges, the workers at the People's Funeral Service offer what help they can. At least they can lend some dignity to proceedings for families who have almost nothing.
In Bangladesh, twenty percent of girls are married before their fifteenth birthday. Jemy is likely to be one of them. She is thirteen years old and due to marry a cousin in three days time.
Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Oli is touring the slums of Dhaka, telling parents not to marry off their daughters.
And in the wards of the Dhaka Medical College lies Poppy, awaiting an operation to repair a body broken by childbirth at the age of twelve.
This week's Crossing Continents looks at the issue of Child Marriage, through the eyes of these three children.
It is a practice still rife in Bangladesh despite being illegal. Some call it modern day slavery. Child brides drop out of school and are rarely able to undertake any paid work. Often they become victims of domestic violence. And many, like Poppy, suffer severe health problems as a result of giving birth at a young age.
They lose their childhood completely.
But campaigners are fighting back, trying to persuade rural villagers not to marry off their daughters so young. Reporter Angus Crawford joins them as they try to track down Jemy and halt her wedding. But can they reach her in time?
Producer: Tony Smith.
There's a Turkish saying that every man is born a soldier; and in Turkey every man is conscripted for military service of up to 15 months. There is no alternative to this; Turkey does not recognise the concept of conscientious objection. But one group of people are exempt - homosexuals. Their presence in the army is deemed damaging to morale and operational effectiveness. But the process by which homosexual men are asked to prove their sexual orientation is arbitrary and humiliating. Some are asked to provide pornographic photographs of themselves with their partners; others, photographs of themselves dressed as women. This is also a problem for the military psychiatrists who have to compromise their professionalism by "diagnosing" someone as homosexual, despite the fact that homosexuality is no longer regarded internationally as a medical disorder, although it once was. In "The Pink Certificate" Emre Azizlerli lifts the lid on the only country within the NATO military alliance to discriminate against homosexuals in this way. Among his interviewees are gay men who have been humiliated in various ways during the application process for exemption, as well as another man, who wanted to join the military despite his homosexuality and enjoyed a varied sex life during his period of service. Emre also meets a psychiatrist who discusses the ethical dilemma he faced while in the army and being asked to "diagnose" gay men, and a well-known conscientious objector who went to prison for his principles.
Producer: Tim Mansel.
Natalia Antelava reports on Uzbekistan where women have become the new target of one of the most repressive regimes on earth. She uncovers evidence that women are being sterilised,often without their knowledge, in an effort by the government to control the population.
The programme speaks to victims and doctors and highlights the fear and paranoia that have made this such a difficult story to tell. Women have fled the country in order to escape the practice. Only a few brave Uzbeks have been willing to speak, often telling horrific stories the government don't want told.
Producer: Wesley Stephenson.
Tim Franks looks at the case of two US inmates who have been held in solitary confinement in Louisiana for what will be 40 years this month. It's believed to be the longest period of time in US penal history. For most of their confinement Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace were held in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a prison often known as "Angola", after the origin of the people who worked there when it was a slave plantation. The two were originally imprisoned for armed robbery. The men who later became known as the Angola 2 were linked to the Black Panther party, and fought for better prison conditions for the black inmates, and an end to the widespread rape and harsh work conditions. While in prison there, they were charged with the murder of a prison guard, and convicted on the evidence of a prison inmate who had been promised his freedom if he testified against them. For most of the time since then they have been held in solitary confinement. The official reason has remained the same for 40 years: fear that the men would re-start their Black Panther-type activism and organise younger inmates as militants. The use of solitary confinement has been on the increase in the US - we ask are there good reasons for its use, and whether it is compatible with US law.
Canada's First Nations communities are in crisis. Addiction to prescription pain-killers is rife, and it's devastating the fragile communities of northern Ontario.
OxyContin - an opioid drug capable of inducing a high like heroin - is widely abused in Canada. But on isolated reserves, people talk of an epidemic. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly travels to Fort Hope - Eabametoong First Nation - to investigate the impact of drug use.
Fort Hope is accessible only by air, apart from a six week window in winter when you can drive across the frozen lakes on ice roads. It has a population of just 1200 people, but it's estimated up to 80% of the working-age population are abusing OxyContin.
The beauty of Fort Hope in deepest winter with its snow-covered streets conceals the fall-out from endemic drug use. This community has experienced a crime wave out of proportion to its size. Murder, theft and arson propelled the Chief to declare a 'state of emergency'. Even with police help it's hard to stop the pills getting onto the reserve. And the mark-up for the pushers - one 80mg tablet of OxyContin sells for up to $600 - means the addicts of Fort Hope are a lucrative market.
There's a glimmer of optimism. Doris Slipperjack, a 23 year old mother of three, is fighting back. She's determined to beat her addiction. She's become an inspiration to many First Nations people. But the road ahead is tough. The aboriginal people of Canada have a troubled history of addiction. Alcohol, gasoline and glue sniffing, drugs - this is a community that has experienced it all. But people will tell you that OxyContin is the worst, because it is so highly addictive. Who knows if people like Dave Waswa - a talented artist, will ever be able to kick the habit.
Twenty years ago, the Kurdish region in Northern Iraq achieved effective autonomy after the first Gulf War, establishing a liberal constitution and a democratic assembly. The region is booming economically, thanks to its huge oil reserves.
But things are not that simple on the ground. In February, there were protests in the city of Sulaimaniya against corruption and the dominance of the two parties which govern the region. The demonstration was violently suppressed, resulting in the deaths of several activists. Some Kurds believe that the generation of peshmerga guerillas who fought for autonomy in the 1980s and 1990s are now blocking more openness and democracy. Yet even critics concede that the Kurds have achieved far greater stability and security than the rest of Iraq.
Gabriel Gatehouse asks if the Kurdish region should be a model for the rest of the Middle East to follow or avoid?
Producer: Natalie Morton.
The Amazon rainforest is perhaps the world's greatest single environmental asset. For years the accepted wisdom has been that the remorseless tide of destruction there is unstoppable. Justin Rowlatt travels to Brazil to question this conventional account and finds that over the last five years rates of deforestation have plummeted by more than half. There is now serious and credible discussion about stopping deforestation completely and even replanting rainforest in deforested areas.
He joins raids deep in the jungle with a team of armed Brazilian environment agents - and watches as a gang of loggers are caught in the act. He meets the farmers and ranchers who are now conserving rather than cutting the forest, including one of the world's biggest farmers, the man they call the King of Soya, Blairo Maggi. He meets an Indian tribe who have been enlisted as "smoke jumpers" - frontier firefighters protecting the forest from wild fires.
He travels to the most remote state in Brazil to see a project which has created a viable market for the traditional industry of wild rubber tapping by building a condom factory in the middle of the jungle.
Of course there is still enormous pressure on the forest. 2011 saw a spike in deforestation and a big debate about the management of the forest which has shown the continued power of the rural lobby. While Brazil's success in taming deforestation remains fragile Justin asks if there is cause for hope that the greatest ecosystem on the planet can be preserved.
Producer: Keith Morris.
Sir Ernest Shackleton has a heroic place in the annals of Antarctic exploration, famously for his expedition on the aptly-named Endurance in 1914. He intended to cross over the Antarctic landmass. Instead, his ship became stuck in ice which eventually crushed it. Shackleton and his crew made a desperate voyage in three small boats to Elephant Island, where they split up. The men on the island were left under the command of Shackleton's Number 2, Frank Wild. Shackleton and a small team sailed 800 miles to South Georgia, from where they mounted a rescue mission for Wild's group.
Nearly a century on, reporter Karen Bowerman joins a group of Wild's relatives retracing his extraordinary journey to the southern seas. They are bearing Wild's ashes, which they bury next to Shackleton, on South Georgia.
Producer: John Murphy.
Jill McGivering, the BBC World Service South Asia editor, investigates the discovery of thousands of bodies in mass graves in Indian Kashmir. Human rights groups suspect they are just some of the victims of "disappearances" at the hands of the Indian military in this contested region. The authorities respond that the bodies are in fact those of militants who have infiltrated from Pakistan. Will an official investigation reveal the truth?
Producer: Michael Gallagher.
The world economy has pinned its hopes on China's economy, which depends on over 150 million migrant workers and their labour. The system of internal migration, based on the idea that workers do not settle in the places they work, has sustained an economic miracle and rapid development. But the country has seen a summer of unrest, with rioting among migrants in the Pearl River Delta and angry reactions to the injustices of the system. Mukul Devichand visits Guangzhou, the southern metropolis where 7 million migrants form half the population. There is anger and frustration with the hukou, China's "internal passport." Meanwhile, the city is now also home to communities from around the world, with 100,000 Africans adding to the already sensitive ethnic mix. How will the city change under the pressure of migration, and will its economic success survive the social tensions?
Ed Butler reports on a cycle of abuse in the orphanages of Bali. Some seventy orphanages now populate the island, housing thousands of children, many recruited from poor families, on the promise of a decent diet, education, and healthcare. But in some cases the promises are empty, as unscrupulous owners abuse and exploit the children - using them for free labour over long hours, and forcing them to beg. The most lucrative profits come from well-meaning tourists, who are often convinced by the tough living conditions to give generously - the hope being the money will benefit the children, not the owner. Is such charity actually intensifying the misery of Bali's most vulnerable children?
In 2000, President Robert Mugabe introduced "fast-track land reform" to Zimbabwe in a wave of often violent takeovers of mainly white-owned farms.
Led by veterans of the second Chimurenga - the Zimbabwe War of Liberation of the 1960s and 1970s - the takeover was seen internationally as a disaster. It was widely reported that cronyism and corruption meant only the country's politically-connected elite were benefiting from the land reform programme, and in the process were leading Zimbabwe's lucrative agricultural export industry into freefall. But what is the situation a decade on?
Martin Plaut travels across Zimbabwe to investigate new research which suggests that farm production levels are recovering. He meets some of Zimbabwe's new black farmers - some of whom took part in the land seizures - who reveal how land reform has transformed their lives.
He also examines the fortunes of Zimbabwe's remaining white farmers and the black farm workers they employed and asks if country's wider economy has recovered from the massive disruption caused by land reform.
Reporter: Martin Plaut
Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith.
The main focus of the violence in the North Caucasus these days is in Dagestan, Chechnya's neighbour. Shoot-outs between police and Islamist militants occur almost daily, and suicide bombings and assassinations have become common. In response, the authorities use what many see as excessive force and the violence spirals still further. In the past two years suicide bombings in the Moscow metro and a Moscow airport have been traced to the region. In Dagestan it's a war that has touched almost every community and family, and one where differences between the opposing sides are apparently irreconcilable. For the authorities, Dagestan is part of Russia and subject to its secular laws; for the militants the region should be a sharia state independent of Moscow.
After ten years trying to combat the militants and their appeal, Russian businessman Suleiman Kerimov has hit on a new idea - football. Sports facilities and pitches are being built across this impoverished and deeply conservative Muslim republic, encouraging young boys and men to play on the pitch rather than join the militants in the forest, and girls to watch them instead of withdrawing behind the veil. Dagestan's top club Anzhi Makhachkala has been bought up by the pro-Kremlin Dagestani billionaire and now he is buying world-class footballers, including Samuel Eto'o, currently the highest-paid player on the planet.
Lucy Ash asks whether this is just bread and circuses for the masses or whether it is making a real difference in this restive Russian republic. Mr Kerimov is bankrolling many other projects from mosque building to job creation, from a glass factory to a glistening vision of an entirely new city. The reclusive billionaire's representative in Dagestan says he is trying to find an economic solution to one of the poorest and most troubled regions in Russia. The government is also trying a new tactic; it has recently set up a commission to persuade young fighters to lay down their arms and return to a peaceful civilian life. Lucy watches an anti-terrorism policeman lecturing university students in the capital, Makhachkala, on the dangers of radical Islam.But with entrenched corruption, heavy-handed policing and a blatant disregard for law, the Islamic underground shows little sign of retreat. More alarmingly, it looks as if the insurgency is spreading from the north to the traditionally peaceful and secular south of the republic. Lucy visits the village of Sovetskoye where in May this year police beat up dozens of young Salafists. A few months later the head teacher was murdered, allegedly because he'd banned the hijab in class. Can a massive injection of cash really neuter deep-seated pressures for change?
Rupa Jha investigates how local-level campaigners against corruption in India face threats and violence - despite promises that the government will stamp out graft. She tells the stories of two whistleblowers in two different states who faced ferocious intimidation after they tried to challenge powerful individuals on the take.
Producer: Ed Butler.
David Shukman reports on the thousands who have become ill from the toxic dust that blanketed Lower Manhattan after the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept 11th. The buildings released a cocktail of deadly carcinogens including, asbestos, lead, mercury and PCBs.
Frontline responders such as fire-fighters, police and emergency medical workers breathed in the contamination for several weeks as they toiled at Ground Zero. The fires burned for a hundred days and many of the emergency workers toiled without respirators or proper protection amid the dust and debris.
Now officials say more than 18,000 people have received medical treatment in the last 12 months for World Trade Center related conditions - many of them serious. The head of the federal programme overseeing victims compensation says he expects more people to die because of their exposure.
Nearly three thousand people perished on the day, but the suffering resulting from the attack is far from over.
Producer: Linda Sills.
On the 18th of February 2011 a Palestinian engineer by the name of Dirar Abu Sisi boarded a train in eastern Ukraine. He was travelling to Kiev, where he hoped to apply for Ukrainian citizenship. But when the train arrived at its destination the following morning, Mr Abu Sisi was no longer on board. He had vanished.
For more than a week, nothing was heard from Mr Abu Sisi, a manager at Gaza's main power plant. Then his wife got a phone call: her husband was in an Israeli jail. Now he is awaiting trial, accused of being the brains behind Hamas' rocket programme.
Only twice in the country's history has Israel abducted someone on foreign soil to bring them back to face trial at home. Adolf Eichmann, one of the principal organizers of the Holocaust, was kidnapped in Argentina in 1960, and subsequently tried and executed. In 1986, Mordechai Vanunu was drugged and smuggled out of Italy after revealing the existence of Israel's nuclear programme.
So who is Dirar Abu Sisi? Did he really study rocket science at a Ukrainian military academy, as the Israeli indictment claims? Is he a senior Hamas operative? Or is he an innocent victim of mistaken identity? What role if any did the Ukrainian authorities play in his disappearance from that train?
In this edition of Crossing Continents, Gabriel Gatehouse unravels the mystery of Dirar Abu Sisi, tracking his journey across Ukraine and beyond, to Israel and Gaza. It's a story that involves the secret services of at least two nations, and goes to the very heart of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Producer: Smita Patel.
In December, Ghana turned on the taps and began pumping its first commercial oil. Production will top 100,000 barrels a day this year -- enough the government believes to more than double the country's economic growth. At the centre of this oil rush is the once sleepy city of Takoradi. Already things are starting to change here: new businesses setting up to service the offshore oil industry, an increase in population, and, spiralling expectations. So can Ghana - one of the most stable countries in Africa - escape the curse of violence and corruption that has afflicted other big oil producers on the continent? Rob Walker visits Takoradi to find out, and he'll be returning to observe the transformation of Africa's newest oil city over the coming years.
Producer: Katharine Hodgson.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Central Americans leave home and travel north overland, hoping to make a new life in the United States.
This has always been a difficult journey. Now it is perilous. Mexican drug cartels have seen a business opportunity in the migrants: they are being systematically kidnapped en route, and held to ransom. Often they have been killed, and Mexico is currently investigating a number of mass graves.
With the Mexican government's hardline military campaign against the cartels, these criminal organisations are moving south. The northern Guatemalan department of Peten - an area through which many migrants cross to Mexico - is vulnerable. On May, 27 farmworkers were killed at a remote farm in Peten. This was apparently revenge for a drug debt, and the killers are believed to be Zetas - the bloodiest Mexican cartel. The Zetas are battling other organised crime groups to take control of Peten. There's a fear that if they succeed, not only will they terrorise the local population, but they will begin to kidnap, extort and murder some of the thousands of migrants moving through - as they do routinely in Mexico.
Crossing Continents follows part of the migrants' route - from Peten in Guatemala, to the southern Mexican town of Tenosique. Linda Pressly meets two Hondurans who were lucky to escape with their lives after an encounter with the Zetas. She hears from a Franciscan monk dedicated to protecting migrants. But the story of migration is complex. Not only do the cartels abuse the migrants, they also recruit them. And alongside the hopeful, innocent travellers travelling north, come criminals. In Tenosique, she speaks to a local businessman whose son was kidnapped and killed.
Tim Judah travels to Senegal to report on the Mourides, an increasingly powerful Senegalese Muslim movement that stresses the importance of hard work
Many of the African street sellers in cities like Paris or Rome, and on Mediterranean beaches, are in fact Mourides. Far from being chancers who washed up on Europe's shores and now barely scrape a living from selling fake designer handbags or miniature Eiffel towers, they are part of a very organised and supportive brotherhood that now wields great economic and political power in Senegal.
Thanks to their strong work ethic and the unparalleled networking opportunities the brotherhood provides, Mourides now dominate many sectors of the economy.
They are said to constitute up to 40% of Senegalese Muslims (who make up over 90% of the population.) So not surprisingly, senior politicians, if they are not Mourides anyway, are courting the Mouride vote by going on pilgrimage to the Mouride holy city, Touba, several hours' drive east of the capital. The president of Senegal is a Mouride, as is the man who is probably the most famous Senegalese of all: singer Youssou N'Dour, who tells Tim why his Mouridism matters to him, and why it could be a way forward for Africa.
So who are the Mourides? What do they believe and what matters to them? Tim travels to Dakar and the fabled holy city of Touba to find out.
Producer: Arlene Gregorius.
Lucy Williamson reports from Seoul on the dangerous trade of the people brokers, smuggling desperate people out of North Korea to the safety of the South. She investigates the way the South Korean government tries to integrate refugees from the North into their own modern, open society - and the challenges this creates for people who have only known poverty and extreme political repression.
Crossing Continents joins a British doctor volunteering to help women and children stranded in Tunisian refugee camps while the men fight Gaddafi's forces in the mountains south of Tripoli.
Producer: Bill Law.
The BBC's Kim Ghattas has gained exclusive, behind the scenes access to the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during one of her recent overseas visits. Code named "Special Air Mission 883", the trip took eight days, covered thirty thousand miles and touched down in four countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Kim joins what is affectionately known as "the bubble", the travelling band of diplomatic staffers, special security detail, international press and handlers that accompany the Secretary, or "S" as she is known, on the trip.
We share their thoughts and hopes, priorities and frustrations as Hillary Clinton pursues United States foreign policy goals. There are meetings of high diplomacy with kings and rulers as well as more grass roots events like the promotion of democracy and good governance at an African womens collective.
A surprisingly intimate portrait of the Secretary and her closest aides.
Producer: Jane Beresford.
Early-onset Alzheimer's has stalked a poor extended family in Medellin, Colombia. The family carries a dominant gene that means that half are at risk. The disease strikes family members as young as 25 and by their 40s sufferers are in the grip of full-blown dementia. Alzheimer's is by and large a disease of the developed world, if for no other reason than that people in the developing world don't live long enough to suffer from it. Now by using the Colombian family to trial new drugs, researchers say they may be on the road to a global cure for Alzheimer's. Bill Law asks if this represents an unfair exploitation of desperate people - many of them barely literate - to benefit those in the West? Or is it a case of bringing hope to those in a hopeless situation?
Producer: Natalie Morton.
Following the discovery that Osama Bin Laden was living close to the heart of Pakistan's military establishment in Abbotabad, Owen Bennett-Jones investigates the ties between elements of Pakistan's army, intelligence and government with jihadi and Taleban forces.
Producer: Rebecca Kesby.
In South Africa a mining company whose owners include the grandson of Nelson Mandela and the nephew of President Jacob Zuma has left thousands of its employees without work and, they claim, without pay.
Back in 2009 the company, Aurora Empowerment Systems, bid R605 million (£55 million) to take over two gold mines on the outskirts of Johannesburg, despite having no experience in mining industry. Aurora promised steady jobs, housing and bursaries for miners' children.
The reality has been poverty, despair and even suicide, and mining unions claim the company still owes workers around R12 million in unpaid wages (£1.1 million). Aurora denies this, and says they have paid 80 per cent of the outstanding salaries.
Martin Plaut travels to South Africa and sees first hand the personal despair of the affected mine workers, and learns how the Aurora debacle has created a schism between the ruling ANC party and the working-class black South African voters, who feel the country's political elite no longer care about their plight.
Producer: Richard Fenton-Smith.
Lucy Ash revisits some of the significant stories covered in recent years and discovers what has changed since our initial reports.
In some instances, there have been attempts to bring suspects to justice. In 2009 Crossing Continents uncovered disturbing evidence of alleged atrocities by the Kosovo Liberation Army during the Kosovo War ten years ago. Since then a trial has opened in the capital Pristina and two former KLA leaders are being prosecuted for war crimes. The case began in March 2011, just a few months after Dick Marty, Special Rapporteur of the Council of Europe, released an explosive report claiming that the KLA summarily executed prisoners and harvested their kidneys to sell for organ transplants.
Also in 2009 Crossing Continents looked at claims that Rwandans in France and Germany were controlling a deadly African militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Reporter Peter Greste tracked down Callixte Mbarushimana to a Paris cafe. The elegantly dressed rebel Hutu leader flatly denied his group was responsible for attacks against civilians. But then, last October, Mbarushimana was arrested and sent to the International Criminal Court in the the Hague accused of 11 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including rape and murder. Bereaved families and victims in Congo have long complained about a climate of impunity - could that be about to change?
There appears to be a disheartening lack of change in Turkmenistan. Lucy Ash travelled there undercover in 2005 to find out what ordinary life was like for the citizens of one of the world's most repressive dictatorships. Despite the gold and marble clad buildings in the capital Ashgabat, she found people deprived not only of all rights and freedoms, but also of basic necessities such as healthcare. At that time the country was ruled by a man who renamed the month of April after his mother, outlawed ballet and banned gold teeth. The current president, ex dentist Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is less flamboyant but his promised reforms have failed to materialise. Doctors Without Borders, the last international nongovernmental organisation operating in the country recently left because the government refused to allow a programme to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis.
This special edition also catches up with an American policeman who created a cult following for his "Street Story" podcasts, vivid vignettes of his work for the Tulsa Police Department. And now that India has decriminalised homosexuality, what has happened to the Gay Prince of Rajpipla, once shunned by his family and his community?
David Goldblatt looks at whether Berlin's alternative culture is under threat from commercial pressures. Or do developers and artists need each other to exist?
Berlin has long been a magnet for artists from within Germany and abroad. After the wall fell in 1989 they flooded into the vast deserted buildings left in the Mitte area of the former East of the city. But over the last few years developers have been moving into this increasingly fashionable area, increasing rents and evicting squatted buildings.
Today the right and left banks of the Spree river, the district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, has become home to underground clubs and artists studios. But developers are increasing their grip on this area too. A few years ago they joined together to create an consortium called "MediaSpree" with the aim of turning the East bank of the Spree into a media hub. Universal Studios and MTV were two of the first companies to locate themselves in the converted warehouses of a deserted port in 'no man's land' where the border wall once ran. They were attracted, in part, by the alternative vibe of the area.
But now increasing rents in this area are pushing artists and original residents out - and with them the clubs and galleries that attracted the media businesses in the first place. Will developers and the alternative culture find a way to co-exist?
Producer: Jane Beresford.
Three years ago Bill Law travelled to Egypt for Crossing Continents to meet five extraordinary women who were fighting for human rights and equal pay for women in Egypt. For this programme, Bill returns to Egypt to tell the story of the unfolding revolution through the eyes of those very same five women. Their stories are a unique insight into how the revolution came about and raise questions about its future.
Producer: Daniel Tetlow.
The Ecuadorian Amazon region is one of the most bio-diverse on the planet. In one area, nearly 600 bird species, 80 kinds of bat and 150 varieties of amphibian have been recorded. And it's possible that the density of one of the rarest wild cats, the jaguar, is twice as high as anywhere else in the world. This is also home to two of the last uncontacted groups of indigenous people in the world, who choose to live undisturbed in voluntary isolation.
But beneath the rich tropical soil lies another treasure - nearly a billion barrels of untapped oil, 20% of this Latin American nation's reserves. Ecuador has calculated that if it were to exploit this petroleum, it would make over $7 billion. That is a significant sum of money for a relatively poor nation. But instead, the government has a radical plan: if the international community will compensate Ecuador for half of the loss of revenue, the government will pledge to protect this unique environment and keep the drillers out. With the funds raised, Ecuador will invest in social projects and non-carbon forms of energy, and aims to create a global template for other poor equatorial countries with oil.
This is what's known as Plan A in Ecuador, and President Correa has set a deadline of the end of 2011 to collect the first US $100 million. If donors don't materialise, he has always said he will implement Plan B - to begin the process of extracting crude from this particular oil block, known as Yasuni-ITT.
For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly travels deep into the rainforest to find out what is at stake. She visits a community of Haorani indigenous people who have a history of resisting - often violently - the encroachment of oil companies in the Amazon. And with the recent court judgement against the US oil giant Chevron - who took over Texaco - and a resulting hefty fine of over US$8 billion for pollution, she traces the often dirty history of oil exploitation in Ecuador.
But how realistic is the Yasuni-ITT initiative? Ecuador's economy is dependent on oil exports. Technology too has moved on, and an oil investor and analyst tells Crossing Continents that not only has the industry learnt some lessons, but also that it is now possible to extract oil from the pristine forest with minimal damage to the ecosystems.
So far it seems the Ecuadorean people support Plan A. But although international donors have shown moral backing for the government's idea to save the rainforest, this hasn't been matched by contributions to the fund. And with less than half the $100 million pledged, the clock is ticking for one of the world's most unique and precious habitats.
Producer: Emil Petrie.
Anna Cavell investigates the human trafficking of Ugandan women to Iraq. They were lured there by promises of well-paid jobs - but instead found themselves effectively in slavery, beaten and in some cases raped. She hears the story of how a Ugandan security contractor and an American officer together organised a courageous freelance raid which freed nine of the women. And she discovers that despite the rescue, the practice appears to be continuing.
Producer: Natalie Morton.
Gabriel Gatehouse hears the extraordinary tales of the people coming into and out of Iraq - and paints a portrait of a still troubled country through its international gateway.
It's not been the safest of places: one worker describes seeing a car bomb attack on the airport road and you still need to pass through five checkpoints to enter the terminal. Gabriel meets the people entering the country - like British and Ugandan security men, and pilgrims from Iran, bound for Iraq's Shia holy sites. There are the people leaving Iraq, including a Christian family who fear for their lives if they stay. And then there are the people who live in the airport compound - like the American air traffic controller who never leaves, except to return home on holiday.
Producer: Becky Lipscombe.
The paddy fields of impoverished Cambodia have suddenly become a prime slice of global real estate. But will the rural poor pay the price? This tiny Asian nation has just begun to recover after dictator Pol Pot's reign of terror, in which around 2 million Cambodians died, and the brutal civil war that followed. But now a very different story is unfolding in the agricultural heartland which once became notorious as the "killing fields." In a world plagued by food shortages, Cambodia is suddenly awash with global investors keen to snap up its cheap fertile land. The global financial elite see it as a recession-proof investment, and the government is desperate to invite in money and development. But it's driving a surreal land boom in the poorest villages: an estimated 15% of the country is now leased to private developers and stories are filtering in from the country's most impoverished farmers who tell of fear, violence and intimidation as private companies team up with armed police to force them from their land. In this week's Crossing Continents, Mukul Devichand samples the heady atmosphere of Cambodia's business elite, uncovers a lawless reality and investigates the claims of corruption and violence visited on the poor. He tells the stories of three very different men, Cambodian and foreign, who have very different plans for Cambodia's land: and asks what's really happening as one of rising Asia's poorest nations struggles to catch up.
Producer: Jo Mathys.
It's estimated that nearly one million Indians with conditions like cancer die in acute, unnecessary pain because of the lack of palliative care. Restrictions on morphine prescription are being lifted, but too slowly.
One of the most sophisticated systems of palliative care in the developing world has been established in the Indian state of Kerala. The grassroots movement to create a much-valued and effective palliative care system in Kerala has been called a silent revolution. Every week, thousands of volunteers across the state give up their time to go and tend to those who are dying. They may cook food, help with chores, or simply provide a listening ear. Hundreds of thousands more people in Kerala belong to Palliative Care Societies. They donate money regularly - even just a few rupees - to help support this kind of outreach. The hope is that people will not die alone, and in pain, without any support.
Linda Pressly travels to Kerala, which has more palliative care centres than the rest of the country put together, and ask whether this is a model to treat the dying that could be rolled out in other nations, as well as other parts of India.
Corruption in Syria is commonplace. You can see it almost everywhere you go: from a small tip for a government worker to process paperwork, to customs officials requiring payments to allow goods into the country. The single-party government says it's stamping out corruption and that it's determined not to let it stand in the way of the country's economic development. But with economic reforms opening Syria up to foreign investment, it's claimed corruption is getting worse. And those who raise the issue in public can find themselves thrown in jail.
The BBC's Damascus correspondent Lina Sinjab investigates the impact of corruption and bribery in the country, and looks at whether Syria's drive to modernise is being hampered by the millions of dollars lost in graft.
Producer: Duncan Crawford.
It is called "Laamb" or "La Lutte Sénégalaise". Originating in the countryside as a test of strength for farmers and fishermen, Senegalese wresting moved to the city with the migrants. It took on punching to become "La Lutte avec frappe". It involves special charms, singers, drummers and excited crowds, with the champions now earning huge amounts of money. In Crossing Continents David Goldblatt examines how wrestling has become Senegal's most popular sport, deposing even football.
Producer: John Murphy.
Bahrain projects itself towards the world as an Arab state that is open to investment, progressive about change and moving confidently toward democracy. But there is another Bahrain where dissent is suppressed and critics jailed. It is a country where allegations are rife that political prisoners are routinely tortured. Bill Law investigates both sides of the Bahrain story and asks what lies behind the apparently heavy-handed repression of those who criticize the ruling al Khalifa family
Producer: Caroline Pare.
The Christmas tree industry is worth almost a billion pounds a year in Europe alone. Most of the ones around us now, covered in baubles and tinsel didn't start life in the UK or even Scandinavia, but in one small village, in the mountains of Georgia close to the border with Russia. Angus Crawford travels to the small town of Ambrolauri in the shadow of the Caucasus mountains. There men risk their lives climbing the big firs to harvest the seeds of Abies Nordmanniana, the Nordman pine. More than forty million are sold in Europe every year. The harvesters are paid little and many are given no safety equipment. If they fall they may be injured or killed. The pine cones they gather are sold abroad and it's foreign companies that make profits from growing and selling the crop. Meanwhile Georgia's villages are dying. Families can't make enough money from farming and move away. Most of those who remain have to live on less than three pounds a day. But things are changing. One Danish firm is working with local people to put more of the profits from the business back into their hands. They pay their workers above the market rate, process the seed locally and for every tree sold abroad money is sent back for development projects. There's talk of starting nurseries near Ambrolauri to feed growing markets in Eastern Europe and bring more foreign capital into the country. Money that Georgia desperately needs. Its economy is still only 60% of what it was in Soviet times, and it now imports eighty per cent of its food. The rusting hulks of abandoned factories litter the countryside. But now some Georgians are asking if the pine cone trade can provide a model of how to breathe new life into their country's crumbling economy.
Russia's police are out of control. They are often referred to as "werewolves in epaulettes" because so many officers prey on the public rather than protect them. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin complains about the lawlessness of the country's law enforcers. He once said upstanding citizens cross to the other side of the street as soon as they see a man in uniform.
The crimes police commit range from bribe taking to kidnapping, drug trafficking, torture and murder. This brutality is accompanied by corruption. Illegal raids of businesses by police are commonplace as well as the subsequent jailing of their owners on false charges. Victims of police abuse are often helpless in a system of cover-ups long established in the law enforcement forces.
Earlier this year, a group of six young men in Primorye, the remote Maritime region of Russia's Far East, decided to fight back. They declared a guerrilla war against the police with the sole purpose of killing as many cops as they could. Their attacks have included shooting of traffic policemen on roads, raiding a village police station and stabbing to death the officer on duty. Bare-chested and brandishing pistols, the 'Primorsky Partisans' posted videos on the internet to explain the motives behind their actions.
This summer the gang's exploits gripped the Russian public's imagination. Many people in the Far East and beyond supported them: a poll on Ekho Moskvy radio indicated that 60-75 percent of listeners sympathised with the "young Robin Hoods" and would offer them help.
In June the authorities launched a manhunt with tanks and helicopters. Eventually two members of the group died in a shoot-out with police while the rest were captured and are now behind bars awaiting trial.
The local government of the Maritime Region is jittery about the case and is reluctant to comment. Local police and the prosecutor's office dismiss them as gangsters. Lucy Ash visits Kirovskiy, the home village of the young men, to investigate what drove the men to act in such an extreme way.
Producer: Ibrat Jumaboyev.
Millions of people die on our roads each year. Hundreds of children are killed as they try to get to school each day. Road deaths threaten to overtake malaria and HIV in how many lives they take around the world, particularly in poorer countries.
Sheena McDonald visits some of the world's most dangerous roads in Kenya and Costa Rica to find out why the death toll in developing countries is rising, when the solutions to road accidents are so simple. Kenya's poor record improves and then falls again as new transport ministers come and go; while Costa Rica struggles to implement the road safety plan it so confidently launched over 5 years ago.
When there's not much money, should reducing road deaths be a priority? The Millennium Development Goals push countries to work hard to improve the mortality rates for children under 5, but there are no goals to stop those same children being knocked down when they start school.
Sheena McDonald, who was nearly killed by a speeding police car just over 10 years ago, visits accident blackspots, meets victims and people campaigning for better road safety and challenges those in power who don't believe it's important enough.
Producer: Kirsten Lass.
This year's Commonwealth Games will be held in October in the Indian capital Delhi, the largest sporting event ever to be held there. No expense is being spared to build the appropriate facilities and infrastructure. But many are questioning whether spending billions of dollars hosting a two-week sporting event is the best use of resources in a city where poverty is entrenched.
As the budget for the games spirals, the organisers are being accused of hiding the true cost, and of diverting funds intended for the very poorest. They're also accused of condoning the displacement of thousands of poor families and a blatant disregard of the rights of the workers building the stadiums.
Rupa Jha asks who are the winners and who the losers in Delhi's attempt to turn itself into a "world-class" city.
Producer: Tim Mansel.
Christopher Landau explores the explosive growth of christianity in China, with millions flocking to the official Protestant and Catholic churches. The country has the world's largest bible printing press while some factories are run on Christian principles. Why has the Communist state, which is formally atheist, endorsed this transition? There is official interest in the idea of a "Protestant work ethic" aiding the country's economy while some branches of government hope that the church's social services will help care for an ageing population.
Producer: Caroline Finnigan.