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From Our Own Correspondent

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From Our Own Correspondent


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  • Anti-Lockdown Protests Hit The Netherlands
    History has long seen people protest against government-imposed restrictions, designed to stem pandemics. Meanwhile, opposition to vaccination is as old as vaccination itself. Yet anyone who thought rioting in the face of disease was something consigned to the distant past has had a rude awakening this week. There have been violent protests in Austria and Belgium in response to new Covid-related restrictions. However. the most bitter street battles were seen in The Netherlands, where police at one point fired live rounds. Anna Holligan was there. Ever since the coronavirus first appeared, it has caused social division: between those in favour of and against lockdown, or pro and anti-vaccination, and also between those able to carry on working and those who could not. Yet these splits came at a time when many believe the world was already increasingly polarised, and there were signs of that in Chile this week, where the first round of presidential elections were held. Centrist candidates were eliminated, and the two front runners who got through to the next round are a man who defends some aspects of the military dictatorship let by General Pinochet, and another whose critics accuse of having Communist leanings. Jane Chambers says this has happened partly because many Chilean voters seem to have their minds on the past. While Chile may be split along political lines, the split in Cyprus is geographical. Turkey invaded the island in 1974, leaving it divided between a mainly Turkish speaking part, and one where most are ethnically Greek. However, Cyprus has a third, far smaller community: Maronite Christians, whose ancestors arrived from the Middle East many centuries ago. Adelle Kalakouti grew up in one of the Maronite Christian villages, and says their future is now at risk. Plenty of autocratic leaders have attempted to hand over power to their children, but The Philippines seems to be taking this one step further; two politicians' offspring are attempting to win power on a joint ticket. Presidential elections will be held in The Philippines next year, and one man who has just announced his candidacy is Bongbong Marcos, son of the country’s former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos. Meanwhile, his running mate, standing for Vice President, is Sara Duterte, whose father, Rodrigo Duterte is The Philippines current President. Howard Johnson has been trying to understand why these family familiars remain popular. When the writer, Tishani Doshi accepted a temporary academic post in Abu Dhabi, she did not expect to end up helping refugees there. But Abu Dhabi has taken in more than eight thousand Afghans, who fled when the Taliban took over their country. One day, Tishani got a call, asking if she could lend them a hand.
  • The Desperation of Asylum Seekers on Poland's Border
    During the Cold War, the border between NATO countries and the Soviet bloc was heavily fortified, each side fearing the other might one day roll across it in their tanks. Since then, alliances have shifted, and Poland is now firmly within the western military ambit. But that means it is also on the front line in what some call a new Cold War, facing Belarus, a staunch ally of Russia. And these days, Poland is not worrying about tanks crossing any time soon, but people: the asylum seekers who were mustered on the Belarus side. As Nick Beak explains, most seemed desperate to cross over. There have been several thousand attempts by asylum seekers to cross into Poland from Belarus. Compare that figure to the situation in Turkey, which now plays host to four million people who fled there, most of them escaping the civil war in neighbouring Syria. Turkey and its President won international praise for accepting these new arrivals, and devoted considerable resources to providing them with food and housing. However, it seems the mood is changing. Ayla Jean Yackley says Turks are now ever less willing to see money spent on helping refugees, when their country’s own economy is in poor shape. The United States plays host to a wide variety of wild animals, such as grizzly bears, alligators and rattle snakes. It was once also home to millions of wild turkeys, a bird seen almost as a symbol of the US, as it is eaten each year for the Thanksgiving Festival. The wild turkey population had declined in recent decades, but a concerted conservation effort has restored some of this lost population. However, Alice Hutton says the birds are now causing havoc in some American cities. Libya might soon be ruled over by President Gadhafi - not that the late Colonel Gadhafi has been restored to life, nor did it turn out that his death was faked. But Libya is holding presidential elections next month, and among the candidates are one Saif Al Islam Gadhafi, Muammar Gadhafi’s son. He was one of his father’s more strident supporters, and the fact that he is being taken seriously says much about Libya today, according to Orla Guerin. The coronavirus outbreak and its lockdowns have meant isolation for many people, but few have been affected like sailors in the Royal Navy. They are accustomed to being cut off, being away at sea for long periods. However, with many countries closed to visitors, sailors have no longer been able even to enjoy shore leave the way they did previously, as Hannah King found when she visited one of Britain’s newest aircraft carriers.
  • The Battle for Ethiopia
    Kate Adie presents reporters' despatches from Ethiopia, the Cop26 climate summit, Switzerland, Georgia and Brazil. The conflict in Ethiopia has left the country's northern Tigray region largely cut off, with millions facing starvation. Among the many combatants now on manoeuvres are the “Oromo Liberation Army” – the Oromo being a people who live mostly in the centre and south of the country. Catherine Byaruhanga was given a rare invitation to meet them. Ethiopia is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change - the subject of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Among those attending were the BBC’s David Shukman, a veteran of ten previous Cops, and someone who has watched at close hand the long battle to see the dangers of climate change. The ski industry is already preparing for warmer temperatures, with predictions that the snow at many resorts will regularly melt, or never form in the first place. So what can these resorts do to stay in business? Simon Mills reports from Switzerland. After former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was smuggled back into the country, and then chucked in prison, he went on a hunger strike leading to protests in the street. What exactly is happening is still unclear, but then Rayhan Demytrie says that when it comes to Saakashvili, it has always been hard to separate myth from reality. The pandemic meant that Sao Paulo's bars and restaurants were forced to shut – and yet there was one kind of food outlet which was permitted to say open, deemed an essential part of Brazilian life. They are called lanchonetes, local eateries with a tradition going back more than a hundred years. Andrew Downie explains why he is a lanchonete fan.
  • A Cup of Tea with the Taliban Neighbours
    The news from Afghanistan is ever more dire. Twenty three million people are at risk of starvation, according to the World Food Programme, a fate which gets ever nearer as winter approaches. For international donors and aid agencies, this presents an acute dilemma: whether or not to work with the Afghan authorities to try to solve this crisis. To do so might require handing over food and other supplies to the Taliban government, a regime which no country even recognises. That is because nobody is quite sure just what kind of rulers the Taliban will be. Since they took over in August, there have been reports of brutality, which in some cases meant the cold-blooded murder of people who were seen as Taliban opponents. Yet there have not been the kind of mass atrocities which many feared. Visiting Kabul, Andrew North has found a variety of attitudes among the Taliban members he’s come across, and they include his next door neighbours. They held a mass funeral in Sierra Leone, after a hundred and fifteen people were killed in a fuel tanker explosion. It happened in the West African country’s capital, Freetown, some of the victims dying because they had rushed towards the site of the accident, hoping to gather up some of the petrol which had spilled out. This latest disaster comes just months after a fire destroyed thousands of homes in one of the city’s slums. And many of this week’s victims were buried in the same cemetery as those who died in a mudslide; that disaster killed around a thousand people. But then Sierra Leone is a country which in recent times has also experienced an Ebola outbreak, and before that, civil war. Walking round Freetown this week, Lucinda Rouse found people shocked and upset, but also sometimes resigned to the misfortune so frequently visited upon them. We were hoping to bring you a report from Nicaragua, where they have been holding an election. However, our Correspondent, Will Grant was not allowed into the country, turned back at the border. But that in itself tells you plenty about the way politics works in Nicaragua these days he says. It is a country where journalists and other commentators are routinely locked up for what they write, and where people protesting against the government have been shot in the streets. Still, Will Grant did at least try to get in, knowing the chances were slim. People often have a love-hate relationship with tourists. They may well bring plenty of money into an economy, and jobs for those who need them. And yet the disruption caused by a mass of visitors is not always welcome. Of course, many tourist spots have had a terrible time under Covid, with lockdown preventing anyone from coming to visit. Some resorts have been positively praying for a return to the days when they could play host to hordes of holiday-makers. Others though have been surprised to find a surge in new arrivals, like residents on the Greek island of Tinos, where Antonia Quirke was among those paying a visit.
  • Bosnia: New Tensions From An Old Conflict
    Bosnia was the site of Europe's worst conflict Europe since the Second World War ended. Fighting there in the 1990s ended up killing around a hundred thousand people. Bosnian Serbs were pitted against Croats, and Muslim so-called Bosniaks. This was an old-fashioned battle for territory, and it only ended when a compromise was reached – that Bosnia would remain one country, but with two regions each having a certain degree of autonomy. There would be one, predominantly Serb region, and another joint Croat and Muslim. This was always a fragile solution, a fudge, some said, to ease the country away from bloodshed. But now, bits of that peace deal are beginning to look rather frayed, and some have even spoken of a return to fighting. While few predict war any time soon, Guy Delauney say this is still highly dangerous talk. You can understand why Poles are just a little sensitive about being told what to do by outsiders. Their country has suffered repeated invasion and occupation, and at times, has vanished off the map altogether. There were wild celebrations when Poland was accepted for membership of the European Union back in 2003. This was seen first of all as a mark of respectability, recognition that it had become a modern, free market democracy. But many Poles believed membership of the EU also took the country another step further away from the embrace of Russia to the east, while leaving it closer knit with friendly countries to the west. Today, EU membership remains popular in Poland, but not so the EU itself. The Polish government has promised to defy instructions emanating from Brussels, and indeed is currently facing a fine of one million Euros a day imposed by the European Court of Justice, for refusing to abide by previous rulings. Adam Easton has been looking at what is one of Europe’s most intense love-hate relationships. The COP summit on climate change chalked up an achievement this week. Delegates in Glasgow signed an agreement to stop deforestation by 2030, promising they would make attempts to reverse it. This follows decades in which vast swathes of forest have been chopped down, to provide wood, and to open up tracts land for growing crops on, often to feed animals which are then raised to provide meat. But the axe and the chainsaw are not the only threat which trees face. Climate change is already altering the conditions in which they grow, and sometimes with terrible consequences for individual trees and indeed, for the very landscape in which they flourish, as Jenny Hill discovered in Germany. The effects of climate change may be slow and initially barely visible, but sometimes they are all too clear. This summer just past saw record temperatures in parts of Europe, and out of control fires as a consequence. Trees in Greece were burned to a cinder, as one part of the country after another succumbed to the flames. Bethany Bell reported on those fires, and now she has been back to watch people picking up the pieces after this devastation, and also talking to those trying to figure out how to stop it happening again. The Europe of today is very much shaped by its experience of war and political upheaval. Bosnia’s conflict was born out of the collapse of Yugoslavia, a nation which itself was created out of the ashes of World War One. The EU was formed as an attempt to ensure that such a Europe-wide conflict would never happen again, and that democracy would become the rule. Even the natural landscape was shaped in part by war, with the need for food security high in people’s minds. And yet it remains an open question whether the lessons of this turbulent past have really been learned. A few thousand miles away from his original home in Vienna, Hilary Andersson spoke to a man who witnessed perhaps the worst of Europe’s modern history. Lying in hospital, just days from death, he shared his memories of the Nazis, and his fear that the value and fragility of democracy risks being forgotten.

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