The Inquiry

The Inquiry

United Kingdom

One pressing question from the news. Four expert witnesses. Challenging answers.


How Did We Mess up Antibiotics?  

Warnings about the approaching post-antibiotics apocalypse have been sounding for years. There are now strains of deadly bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics. This means that doctors are faced with patients who have completely untreatable infections. Hundreds of thousands of people worldwide are dying due to antibiotic resistance - and this number is set to rise rapidly. If we carry on like this, scientists predict we will return to a pre-antibiotic era, where organ transplants, chemotherapy and C-sections are impossible. We’ve come a long way since 1928, when the famous chance discovery of penicillin led to a golden age in which antibiotics were seen as wonder drugs, heralding in an age of huge medical advances and increased human life spans. But by the 1990s we were running out of new antibiotics and infections were again a killer. How did this happen? Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: A depiction EHEC bacteria. Credit: HZI/Getty Images)

Can a Corrupt Country Get Clean?  

The International Monetary Fund says corruption siphons $2 trillion a year out of the global economy, slowing growth and fuelling poverty. Endemic corruption is very hard to deal with. But not impossible. We tell the astonishing story of one country – Georgia – which did turn itself around. At the turn of the century Georgia was one of the most corrupt states in the world. Now it is one of the cleanest. How did it do it? (Photo: Two men in suits shake hands while one puts money into the pocket of the other. Credit: Shutterstock)

Why are 10,000 Children Missing in Europe?  

Earlier this year Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, announced 10,000 children had arrived in Europe, part of the wave of migration that has swept through the continent in recent years. They had been registered and identified. And then they had disappeared. Many of these children are travelling alone. Some are as young as six years old. But the authorities across Europe – the police, the border agencies, NGOs and care organisations – have no idea where they have gone. They are at risk from trafficking and exploitation as well as the hazards of the journey across Europe – jumping onto lorries at Calais, sleeping rough in Northern European weather. Under international and EU law children should be protected. There are various systems and regulations in place to deal with unaccompanied child migrants, whether refugees or not. But the system is failing and children continue to go missing at an alarming rate. Why? (Photo: A young boy walks past the Jungle Books Cafe in the Jungle migrant camp Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Is Islamic State finished?  

Islamic State is on the run. Caught in a pincer movement in Syria and Iraq, the group has lost large swathes of territory over the past year. With its revenues and numbers of fighters also dwindling, the demise of the caliphate appears all but unavoidable. And yet many caution against writing them off too soon, pointing to the group’s proven ability to change tactics. Already, they have redirected their efforts to launching terrorist operations around the world. And their ideology is still proving an effective recruiting sergeant. Presenter: Helena Merriman Producers: Estelle Doyle and Laura Gray (Photo:Syrian soldier sets fire to an Islamic State (IS) group flag after Syrian troops regained control the previous day of al-Qaryatain Credit: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Who Wins in a Cashless Economy  

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

What’s the point of lotteries?  

It is now hard to find a country that does not have a state sponsored lottery – even the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan recently adopted one. They have famously been called a “tax for people who are bad at maths” and make little economic sense for the individuals who play. Instead, lotteries allow governments to raise much needed revenue to be spent on ‘good causes.’ But there’s more to lotteries than powerballs and million dollar prizes. Should we embrace them as a way of making life more fair? Presenter: Michael Blastland (Photo: Lottery balls are seen in a box at a Liquor store in San Lorenzo, California. Credit: Getty Images)

Can Coral Reefs Survive?  

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

Is Retirement Over?  

For 40,000 years human beings worked until they dropped. Then in the late 19th century, Otto von Bismarck started the first state pension in Germany. The idea caught on. By the 20th century, advances in medicine meant that many more people were surviving childhood and living longer and longer into old age. This was great news for those individuals, but not such good news for governments and companies who found themselves having to fund ever-longer retirements. Many of the most generous schemes have now been withdrawn and it’s increasingly up to the individual to save for their retirement – but many aren’t saving enough. Volatile stock markets and low interest rates are making the situation worse. Many think retirement will turn out to be a "blip" in human history; it didn't exist in the past, and it won't exist in the future. So, is retirement over? Our expert witnesses are: Professor Noel Whiteside of the University of Warwick, UK; Thomas B Jankowski, research director at Wayne State University, US; David Blake, director of the Pensions Institute at Cass Business School, London, Andrew Scott, professor of economics at London Business School. Presenter: Ruth Alexander (Photo: Clayton Fackler, 72, works at the check out at a supermarket in Ohio. Credit: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

Would Donald Trump Be a Dangerous President?  

Earlier this month 50 senior Republican national security officials signed a letter arguing that Donald Trump “lacks the character, values and experience” to lead the United States. “We are convinced”, they wrote, “he would be a dangerous president”. We want to know if they are right. Our expert witnesses are: Timothy O’Brien, author of The Art of Being The Donald; Peter Feaman, Florida representative for the Republican National Committee; Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts; and Elaine Kamarck from the Brookings Institution, an expert on presidential power and its limits. (Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during an event at Trump SoHo Hotel, 2016, New York. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Don’t Cities Want The Olympics?  

The Olympic Games has a problem. In recent years the number of cities entering bids to host either the Winter or Summer Olympics has dropped dramatically. For the 2004 Summer Olympics, 12 cities bid. For the 2024 summer Games, there are only four cities running. The 2022 Winter Olympics bidding cycle saw just two cities compete - winners Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan - after the other five cities that expressed an interest pulled out due to public and political opposition. And in cities that are hosting, the Olympics has been met with hostility. Protesters tried to put out the Olympic torch in Rio, and in Tokyo public outcry at the cost of the stadium for 2020 has led to a complete redesign. Four expert witnesses pin-point exactly what is putting off potential host cities and discuss radical solutions. (Image 'No Boston Olympics' permission from Liam Kerr and Chris Dempsey)

Has Russia Won In Ukraine?  

The fighting in Ukraine has fallen off the front pages recently after making headline news in 2014. But Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed separatists are still engaged in a frozen conflict with no military or diplomatic solution in sight. Soldiers, rebels and civilians are dying. It looks good for Russia. Ukraine lacks the military power and international support to take back the East of the country where Russian-backed separatists hold huge swathes of land. And President Putin’s approval ratings at home have soared thanks to his annexation of Crimea in 2014. But does this mean Russia has won in Ukraine? Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: Separatist soldiers stand on a military vehicle during a city celebration on September 14, 2014 in Lugansk, Ukraine. Credit to Getty Images)

How Did we Save the Ozone Layer?  

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

Can Colombia Reintegrate the Farc?  

After more than 50 years of armed conflict that has left 200,000 dead and millions displaced, Colombia is on the brink of peace. A final deal between the government and the Farc guerrilla movement is expected to be signed soon. Thousands of armed fighters will then lay down their weapons in preparation for reintegration into a society from which they have been estranged for years. But the process will not be easy – for the Farc’s fighters, or for the rest of Colombian society. (Photo: Fighters of the Front 53, a faction of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrilla movement, in Los Alpes, 150km south-east of Bogota. Credit: Getty Images)

Is Brexit Inevitable?  

“Brexit means Brexit,” says Theresa May, Britain’s new prime minister. It sounds pretty unequivocal: the UK voted in a referendum to leave the European Union, so that’s what it must do. But credible figures from US Secretary of State John Kerry to former prime minister Tony Blair have suggested that Brexit may not actually happen. Is that – legally, politically, democratically – possible? The Inquiry has the answer. Presenter: Maria Margaronis (Photo: Illustration flags of the European Union and the Union flag sit on top of a sand castle on a beach in Southport, United Kingdom. Credit to Getty images)

Can Trump Win?  

Donald Trump has shocked the US political establishment by knocking out every other Republican candidate to become his party’s presumptive candidate for President. Does he have a realistic shot of taking the White House? His campaign is short of money and some senior Republicans are refusing to endorse him. Current polls suggest his chances are slim. But his message has found an audience other politicians have failed to reach – he has become a lightning rod for many disaffected Americans. So, our question this week, can Trump win? Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: Donald Trump, presidential candidate 2016. Credit: Getty Images)

Can You Make Bankers Behave Better?  

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

Can the EU Survive?  

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

Why Do So Many People Dislike Hillary?  

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

Are We Really About to End World Poverty?  

“More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery,” declared President Truman at his second inauguration. “For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of these people.” That was 1949. It is a claim we have heard many times since - that ending poverty is within our grasp. But it is a dream which has - despite decades of effort - eluded us. Now the United Nations has set a new target - to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Will it be different this time? We have already come a long way. For the first time in history fewer than 1 in 10 people are poor around the world. A billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. But achieving the UN's new goal means reaching another 836 million people in the next 14 years. And that will be tough. Are we really about to end world poverty? Our experts include an economics professor who was himself born into poverty in China, and Helen Clark, who hopes to be the next leader of the United Nations.

Why Can't Egypt Stop FGM?  

Some 92% of married Egyptian women aged between 15-49 have had their genitals cut. FGM is more common in Egypt than anywhere else in the world. These astonishing statistics are all the more surprising when you consider that Egypt banned the practise in 2008. So why is FGM so prevalent in Egypt? Four expert witnesses tell us about the challenge of turning a widely-followed tradition into a crime. (Photo: A gynaecologist co-operating with the Coptic Center for Training and Development gives a lecture on Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in a village close to Beni Sueif, south of Cairo. Credit: Getty Images)

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