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Beyond the Headlines

Author: The National UAE

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Dive deeper into the week's biggest stories from the Middle East and around the world with The National's foreign desk. Nuances are often missed in day-to-day headlines. We go Beyond the Headlines by bringing together the voices of experts and those living the news to provide a clearer picture of the region's shifting political and social landscape.
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On February 21 about 120,000 Indian farmers gathered at a grain market in Punjab to protest against the government. The crowds of men and women arrived early, making their way to the market in tractors, buses, trailers and cars. They waved flags and vowed to head south to the capital of New Delhi to make their voices heard.  Waiting for them in Delhi were tens of thousands more farmers who had been camping near the highways leading into the capital for months.   On this week's Beyond the Headlines, host Taylor Heyman looks at why India’s farmers have been moved to launch these protests.
At the beginning of 2020 the UAE faced a conundrum. Abu Dhabi Ports was seeking to boost its cargo-handling capacity, which meant more construction above and below water. A new project with Etihad Rail was also planned to connect Khalifa Port with the proposed national railway that would run through the country. But the Abu Dhabi shoreline is home to the Ras Ghanada reef, consisting of 8 million corals, of which 500 would be under threat from the proposed works.  In this week's Beyond the Headlines host Suhail Akram looks at how the UAE moved an entire coral reef.
On February 9, 2021, after seven months in space and six years since the mission's inception, a room full of Emirati engineers watched anxiously as their attempt to put a satellite into orbit around Mars reached its final destination. The UAE is just the fifth nation to send a spacecraft to the Red Planet. In this episode, we hear from Omar Adbelrahman Hussain, lead mission design and navigation engineer for the Emirates Mars mission, Hamad Alhazami, command controller of the Hope probe, and Mohsen Al Awahdi, mission systems engineer for the probe. We also talk to Sarwat Nasir, who watched the orbit attempt at a special event held in Dubai. Hosted by Suhail Akram.
During his 2015 presidential primary race, a day after the San Bernadino shootings in which a married Islamist couple shot and killed 14 people, Donald Trump said he wanted “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on”. In 2017, when Trump came to power, the so-called “Muslim Ban” was introduced. Trump signed an executive order banning the nationals of 7 predominantly Muslim countries from entering the USA for 90 day. All Syrian refugees were banned indefinitely and all other refugees were banned for 120 days. Although the ban hit some constitutional hurdles a slightly watered-down version came into effect in March of that year. When Biden became the Democratic nominee he pledged to repeal the ban on his very first day in office. And true to his word, on January 20 he did exactly that.  On this week's Beyond the Headlines host Cody Combs looks at how the repeal of the “Muslim Ban” will affect Muslim refugees.
In December 2019, two months after the start of the popular protests across Lebanon, Human Rights Watch warned of an impending health crisis in the country.  The government was failing to fund public and private hospitals, and they in turn were struggling to pay staff and purchase medical equipment. This was before anyone in Lebanon had even heard of Covid-19. Since then the situation has been getting worse. The impact of Covid-19 has steadily been building - the economy shrank over 19% in 2020 and inflation continued to rise. When an explosion tore through Beirut in August, five nurses died, hospitals were damaged and the pressure on the healthcare system increased yet more. On this week's Beyond the Headlines, host Gareth Browne, takes a look at Lebanon’s failing health system and asks, can it survive the coronavirus pandemic?
On 20 January, 2021, Joe Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. President Biden has come into power breaking records and making history. He received more votes than any other president in history, beating Barack Obama’s previous record. At 78, he is the oldest president to be sworn in, breaking Donald Trump’s record. And he is the first president to have a female vice president, Kamala Harris. At the same time, as Trump leaves the White House, he too departs having made history. Trump is the only president to have been impeached twice. We talk to Dr Lindsay Chervinsky, presidential historian and scholar at the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies in New York state, and Bryant Harris, The National’s correspondent in Washington, about how unprecedented this presidential handover has been. Hosted by Cody Combs.
In December 2011 in Cairo, during a protest in Tahrir Square, a woman was captured on video being dragged along the ground. During the attack, her abaya, the name for the long, loose cloak worn by women in many Arab and Muslim countries, came undone, exposing her midriff and her blue bra. This moment became the catalyst for a growing women's movement in Egypt.  Host Ayesha Khan talks to Ragia Omran, a lawyer from Egypt who has been a human and women’s rights activist since the mid ’90s, and Engy Ghozlan, a social activist from Egypt, about the movement. We also hear from Nadine Abdel Hamid, a 22-year-old woman who exposed Ahmed Bassem Zaki, a sexual predator who preyed on a shocking number of women and underage girls.
2020 ended with some relief that we now have vaccines for Covid-19. But the pandemic is not over yet and new strains of coronavirus have spread. Now we have to work out how to distribute the vaccines globally. And anyway, just how effective are they? Which is the best? How long will it take for them to reach us?  On this week's Beyond the Headlines, Suhail Akram looks at the next front in the battle against Covid-19.
As we look back on the year 2020 it is undeniable that there is one story that has defined the year. But beyond the coronavirus, what have been the defining stories from The National’s newsroom?  Iraq had a tumultuous year as it slid into economic despair after a year of anti-establishment protests. Lebanon sank deeper into economic crisis only to be hit with a blast that left a quarter of a million people homeless, two hundred dead and more than 6,000 injured. Ethiopia nearly came to blows over the Great Nile Dam, while fighting in the country’s Tigray region pushed the country to the brink of civil war. A brutal conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh killed more than 5,000 soldiers and 144 civilians on both sides. And then there was the simmering tension between Iran and the US, as well as, what was described as the most crucial election in America’s history.  On this week's Beyond the Headlines host Suhail Akram brings you the stories from some of our correspondents around the world about the defining moments of 2020.
On December 10, Azerbaijan held a triumphant military parade in its capital, Baku. Two-and-a-half months after the start of a conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region in the west of the country, Azerbaijan had won a victory against the local ethnic Armenian forces, and their supporters in Yerevan. The Azerbaijan flag hung from balconies and shop windows, alongside that of the country’s principal ally, Turkey. On this week's Beyond the Headlines, Finbar Anderson looks at Azerbaijan’s apparently decisive victory In Nagorno-Karabakh, and the prospect for peace in a region that has seen decades of conflict.
It is three years since then Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi declared the gruelling battle against the most feared terror group in history was over. ISIS had been defeated. The conflict itself took three long years. The legacy left behind in the rubble of Mosul, the mass graves across Sinjar and the divided parliament in Baghdad will last a generation. In this week's Beyond the Headlines, host James Haines Young looks back at the time when the black flag of ISIS hung like a pall over Iraq and how its former rule has left a seemingly indelible mark on the country.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit - global trade ground to a halt. Around the world people were scrambling to buy essentials as supermarket shelves emptied. But the UAE, a country that relies on imports for more than 90% of its food supermarkets, appeared to have more than enough. The government repeatedly assured people there would be no shortages. This week, we hear from Maximo Torero Cullen, the chief economist of the Food and Agriculture Organisation at the UN, and Kyle Wagner, Head of Operations at Madar Farms, about how the UAE began preparing for a food crisis over a decade ago. We also hear from Nicole Rogers, founder and CEO of Agripocity, a UAE-based company that connects farmers directly to the international marketplace.
On August 7, Habib Daoud, a Lebanese professor of history in Iran, was gunned down on a street in northern Tehran. Killed alongside him was his 27-year-old daughter Maryam. The assassin was riding a motorbike, and escaped without being identified.   Reports suggest that Daoud’s killing was carried out by Israeli spies. It fits the profile of those carried out by Israeli agents in Iran in previous years. Past targets, however, were mainly Iranian nuclear scientists. Daoud was a different kind of enemy to Israel. He was said to be affiliated with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, which is funded by Iran. At least, that was the story reported by the Iranian press.   Thre months later, news reports in the United States and Saudi Arabia told a different story, in which the man Iranian authorities identified as Habib Daoud never actually existed. While the assassins were still likely to be Israeli agents, Daoud’s identity was a cover.   There is a strong likelihood, rather, that the man assassinated in Tehran that day was a senior operative in one of the world’s most notorious terrorist organisations – one that has long claimed to be an enemy of Iran’s government.   The man has been identified by US and Israeli officials as Abu Muhammad Al Masri, second-in-command of Al Qaeda.   On this week's Beyond the Headlines host Sulaiman Hakemy looks at Iran’s covert and counterintuitive relationship with Al Qaeda.
In 2019, Abiy Ahmed was riding high. For a year he had been Ethiopia’s prime minister, having emerged from byzantine internal jockeying at a time of deep unease and anger. He had ushered in a series of swift democratic reforms, seemingly bringing an end to decades of repression as he opened up the press and released political prisoners.  Then, the charismatic 43-year-old blew on to the international scene winning the Nobel Prize for reaching out to end the decades-long stalemate conflict with neighbouring Eritrea. He had solved an intractable situation once dubbed “No war, No peace.” But less than a year later, on November 17, the same people that awarded his peacemaking efforts with a Nobel prize released a statement expressing deep concern. The reason? Abiy was now at war at home against the province of Tigray, in Ethiopia’s north, sandwiched below Eritrea and next to Sudan. This week on Beyond the Headlines host James Haines Young looks at how Abiy Ahmed went from Nobel Peace Prize winner to the brink of civil war in Ethiopia.
For nearly four years, US President Donald Trump has torn up America’s foreign policy handbook. The implications, both at home and abroad, have been significant. Most recently, Trump’s administration was lauded for facilitating the Abraham Accord, the normalisation of relations between the UAE and Bahrain, and Israel. In exchange, Israel’s government has agreed to halt its proposed annexation of parts of the West Bank. But Trump’s days in the White House are now numbered. By the end of January 2021, a new administration will have taken the reins of American foreign policy.   This week on Beyond the Headlines, we hear from Sanam Vakil, Deputy Director of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, and Dr Nasser Saidi, Lebanon’s former Minister of Economy and former vice governor of the Lebanese central bank, about what will change for the Middle East and what will remain the same when Joe Biden takes his seat in the Oval Office. Hosted by Sulaiman Hakemy
The Philippines is no stranger to storms. The country's group of islands weather around 20 storms and typhoons a year. But when news of supertyphoon Goni was announced, it took action, preparing itself as best it could under the restrictions of Covid-19. 390,000 people were evacuated from their homes as 2020’s strongest storm hit the archipelago on the November 1. The storm was the most powerful typhoon to make landfall on the islands since 2013, when Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 6,000 people. As Goni left a trail of devastation in the Philippines, another storm was brewing on the other side of the world. Hurricane Eta bore down on Nicaragua, damaging homes, tearing down power lines and causing flash flooding. 2020 has seen more storms from the Atlantic ocean than ever in recorded history. On this week's Beyond the Headlines, host Sulaiman Hakemy looks at why climate change means superstorms are the new normal.
In this special edition of Beyond the Headlines, Michael Goldfarb, author, journalist and host of the FRDH podcast based in the UK, talks to Joyce Karam, The National's correspondent in Washington, and James Reinl, The National's correspondent in New York, about what has happened so far in the US elections leading up to November 3. They examine the logistics of an election of this size in a pandemic, mass protests, mail-in ballots and what exactly Americans are voting on.
Arab-Americans make up a tiny fraction of America’s 300 plus million people. But in three key swing states: Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania they are a significant enough voting block that they could help determine the outcome of the November 3rd Presidential election. Willy Lowry and Sophie Tremblay takes us through the heart of Arab America to look at the issues important to the growing community and which way they’ll vote.
The fires didn’t start the revolution, but you could say it was the kindling. The country suffers fires every year, but these were different. In this week's Beyond the Headlines, host James Haines-Young, looks back at a turbulent year in Lebanon from fires, to revolution to a massive explosion.
News update: Since publishing this podcast China announced on October 9 that it has joined Covax, the global scheme for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccine backed by the World Health Organisation. There are currently more than 150 Covid-19 vaccines in development. Billions of dollars are being pumped into research in the hope that a viable drug can reach the market in record time and ease the effects of the pandemic on individuals, societies and the global economy.  This week we talk about the challenges in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine. We hear from Dr Jeremy Rossman, a virologist at the University of Kent, and Daniel Bardsley, who writes about the coronavirus for The National. Hosted by Suhail Akram.
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