The Inquiry

The Inquiry

United Kingdom

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


How Did the US Get Stuck With Guantanamo?  

In 2002 US military personnel at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were given 96 hours to prepare their sleepy base for the arrival of hundreds of prisoners. “The worst of the worst,” they were told. Beyond US jurisdiction, with no clear legal framework, prisoners accused of terror offences have been held there indefinitely without charge ever since. For many, Guantanamo has stained the image of the United States. When President Obama came to power in 2008 he vowed to close it. He failed. In this week’s Inquiry we are telling the full story of Guantanamo - from its creation to the so-called “forever prisoners” held there today. Presenter: James Fletcher (Photo: A US soldier walks next to a razor wire-topped fence at the abandoned 'Camp X-Ray' detention facility at the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Credit: Getty Images)

Is There Anybody Out There?  

It’s a question humans have asked forever. Are we alone in space? But it wasn’t until the late 1960s that humans started an organised, systematic hunt for extra-terrestrial intelligent life. We have listened to radio waves, peered through the celestial dust and beamed The Beatles to distant planets. So how’s it going? Is there anybody out there? This is the story of the search for extra-terrestrial life. Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: The ALMA, an international partnership project between Europe, North America and East Asia, with the cooperation of Chile. Credit to Getty)

Can We Eat Our Way Out Of Climate Change?  

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

What Went Right in 2016?  

A lot has gone wrong this year. We’re not talking about Brexit or the election of Donald Trump – both of which split opinion in Britain and the US – we’re talking about terror attacks, the brutal conflict in Syria, and the thousands of migrants who died trying to reach Europe. Good things did happen. But the good news was mostly buried under the bad. So for this edition of The Inquiry – our final show of the year – we wanted to find about four things that went right in 2016. And we wanted to talk to the people who made those things happen. That’s it. Four amazing stories united by one thing: the ambition of a small number of extraordinary people to achieve the seemingly impossible. Presenter: Helena Merriman (Photo: Betrand Piccard in his pilot seat, permission from Solar Impulse, Teresita Gaviria watches the announcement made by the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas, Getty Images, Sophien Kamoun and Dr Herath with kind permission)

Should We Give Homeless People Homes?  

It’s a surprisingly simple idea: to end long-term homelessness, give every person living on the streets a home. It can also be surprisingly effective. Medicine Hat, a city in Canada, recently became the first city to end homelessness in this way. The approach is known as Housing First, and – unlike many other homelessness initiatives – it doesn’t require homeless people to make steps towards solving other issues like alcoholism, mental health problems or drug addiction before they get a home. But is this approach solving the problem, or simply moving it off the streets? Presenter: Helena Merriman (Image: A homeless man with his dog outside a building. Credit to Getty)

Does Turkey Still Want to Join the EU?  

Turkey first applied to join the European club over 50 years ago. Over the subsequent decades-long flirtation, enthusiasm for the EU in Turkey has remained high. Integrating with Europe, it was thought, would spur modernisation and economic development. But the country is changing under President Erdogan – who recently survived a coup attempt – in ways which deepen doubts in Europe about whether Turkey really shares its values. And enthusiasm in Turkey for the EU has begun to ebb away, as fewer and fewer Turks believe the EU will ever fully embrace them. So, our question this week: does Turkey still want to join the EU? Contributors: Aykan Erdemir, former Turkish politician; Amberin Zaman, journalist and fellow at the Wilson Center; Senem Aydın-Düzgit, professor in international relations at Sabancı University; and Sinan Ulgen, scholar in Turkish foreign relations at Carnegie Europe. Presenter: Chris Morris Producer: Julia Ross (Photo: European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the EU Commission in Brussels, Belgium, 05 October 2015. BBC Copyright, Elvis)

Why Do Governments Do Stupid Things?  

Trust in government is at an all-time low in many countries. From failed healthcare policies to missed intelligence, government blunders happen often – and visibly. But successful policy-making is hard (and fixes are rarely as quick as politicians like to promise). Some argue that governments would do stupid things less often if they based their policies on the careful analysis of good evidence; find out what works, in other words, and then do that. But that’s not how most governments operate, most of the time. Why not? Presenter: Michael Blastland (Photo: a group of journalists being surrounded by the Media. Credit Shutterstock)

Why Did The Polls Get it Wrong (Or Did They)?  

Hillary Clinton lost the US election despite some polls putting her chances of winning at 99%. In the run up to the vote pollsters spent huge sums of money speaking to thousands of Americans. They were careful to collect the best possible data from representative samples, and they applied their finest statistical minds to analysing the numbers. Yet almost no-one predicted that Donald Trump would win. So – our question this week – why did the polls get it so wrong? Our expert witnesses explain why polling is getting harder, and why many pollsters weren’t – despite that – very far wide of the mark. (Photo: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump listen during the town hall debate at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, October 2016. Credit: Getty Images)

Why Does Anyone Still Smoke?  

Smoking tobacco is the single most dangerous voluntary activity in the world. It kills six million people a year, and if current trends continue that figure is expected to rise to 8 million people by 2030. Even if it doesn’t kill you, it'll give you bad breath, bad skin and cost you money. So why do so many of us still smoke? (Photo: A man holds a cigarette over an ashtree Credit: PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images)

What Next?  

On 8 November, as they stood in line to cast their votes, Americans were told by pollsters and pundits that, while close, the presidential race would be won by Hillary Clinton. As the results came in, precinct by precinct, many in the political establishment watched the unfolding story in disbelief. It was a similar feeling to that felt by many in Britain’s so-called ‘chattering class’ when, on June 24, they woke to the news that the UK had voted to leave the EU. Both were seismic political shocks. Neither was predicted by pollsters. So – our question this week – what next? After two extraordinary electoral shocks, both of which challenge the established order, and with elections coming up in France and Germany, should we expect more? Presenter: Michael Blastland Producers: Estelle Doyle and Sarah Shebbeare Editor: Richard Knight (Photo: Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, right, greets United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage during a campaign rally at the Mississippi Coliseum. Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Was this the Most Divisive US Election Ever?  

The Clinton–Trump race has been extraordinary. Two of the most unpopular presidential candidates ever have slugged it out through a bitter campaign. They are both – for different reasons – deeply polarising figures. Hillary Clinton is viewed with suspicion by Americans who have turned against what they regard as “the elite”. Donald Trump has exploited crudely divisive, sexist, even racist, rhetoric. The tone of the contest has been ugly. But there is historical precedent for much of this – divisive policy positions on slavery or the famous attack ads of the 1960s. How should we view this campaign compared to the candidates, rhetoric, policies and media climate of past elections? (Photo: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as she answers a question i their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. Credit: Rick Wilking)

What’s the Story of Aleppo?  

We see and hear about it almost daily as news stories emerge of the hardship endured by its besieged people. After years of bombardment this once majestic place, the 'jewel' of Syria and one of the world's oldest inhabited cities, has been reduced to rubble. Thousands are dead. The residents who remain in the rebel-held parts of the city suffer from the ever-present threat of barrel bombs while the international community has repeatedly failed to find a workable solution. But why is Aleppo such an important part of the story of the war in Syria? The answer lies in Aleppo's historic role as a strategic city for so many people over the centuries, from Silk Road merchants of medieval times to the Assad regime and the forces currently battling for control of the country. Four Syrians, including one current Aleppo resident, tell us what life has been like in the city during its long and turbulent history. (Photo: A view of the UNESCO-listed citadel (C) in the government-controlled side of the divided northern Syrian city of Aleppo. Credit: Getty Images)

How Do We Fix Antibiotics  

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

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)

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