Business Daily [world Service]

Episodes

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20181218

How technology can help look after an ageing population. Ed Butler visits a care home in Japan where robots are used to help dementia patients, and hears from Adam Gazzaley, a California-based professor of neurology and psychiatry who has developed a video game aimed at keeping older people alert. Computer science academic Alessandro di Nuevo gives an overview of how technology is increasingly employed in elderly care.

(Photo: 'Paro', the therapeutic seal robot with an elderly woman in Japan, Credit: BBC)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181219

Presidential elections in the DRC this weekend come after 17 years of conflict-ridden rule under controversial president Joseph Kabila. Leading businessman and mine-owner Emmanuel Weyi explains why he has pulled out of the presidential race. But the country's mineral wealth also means the elections are being closely watched by international industries. Indigo Ellis from the risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft gives her assessment, and Jack Lifton, a business operations consultant in metals and an expert on cobalt, explains why one mineral produced in the DRC is so important to the emerging electric car industry.

(Photo: Women walk past a campaign poster of the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila's chosen successor Emmanual Ramazani Shadary in Kinshasa, Credit: Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181220

Is the telecoms equipment provider a front for Chinese espionage or just the victim of the escalating US-China dispute? Why don't Western governments trust the company to handle its citizens' data?

Following the controversial arrest in Canada of Huawei's finance head Meng Wanzhou, the BBC's Vishala Sri-Pathma asks whether the move is just the latest step in a tech cold war between the US and China. She speaks to Rand Corporation defence analyst Timothy Heath, tech journalist Charles Arthur, and China tech podcaster Elliott Zaagman.

(Picture: Security guard keeps watch at the entrance to the Huawei global headquarters in Shenzhen, China; Credit: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181221

Are dating apps like Tinder speeding up the decline of the arranged marriage in India? Manuela Saragosa speaks to the brains behind three apps competing in what is a gigantic market for hundreds of millions of lonely hearts.

Mandy Ginsberg, chief executive of Match Group, talks about the generational shift they are seeing in Indian attitudes to dating, having just launched the Tinder app there. Priti Joshi, director of strategy at Bumble describes her surprise that Indian millennials seem unconcerned about dating across social castes. And Gourav Rakshit, who runs the more traditional marriage-focused app Shaadi.com, explains why he thinks the scope for Western-style casual dating is still quite limited in his country.

(Picture: Young Indian woman using mobile phone; Credit: triloks/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181224

Will legal cannabis and smart scooters help transform the atmosphere that Angelenos breathe? Jane Wakefield reports from the Los Angeles on two hi-tech industries hoping citizens will breathe deeply.

Smart scooters have been taken up with alacrity in a city notorious for its traffic jams and smog, and public official Mike Gatto is a big fan. But not everyone is happy with users' lack of respect for the rules of the road.

Across town, at the clean-cut offices of marijuana app Eaze, Sheena Shiravi explains how getting high is becoming increasingly hi-tech.

(Picture: Airplane landing at Los Angeles Airport above a billboard advertising marijuana delivery service Eaze; Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181225

The history of the spice trade, and the human misery behind it, is explored by Katie Prescott.

Katie travels to the spice island of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean, where cloves, turmeric, nutmeg and vanilla are still grown to this day. But it also supported a trade in African slaves who worked the spice plantations, as Katie discovers at what was once the local slave market.

Food historian Monica Askay recounts the cultural importance that these spices gained in Europe and the other markets where they ended up, while Rahul Tandon how they came to define Indian cuisine.

(Picture: Spices; Credit: Whitestorm/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181226

Five years ago, Cyprus was in crisis. An international bail-out worth over ten billion dollars saved the economy from meltdown, but also cemented the Mediterranean country’s ties to wealthy Russians. Many of them received a slice of Cypriot banks for cash seized from their accounts to help fund the rescue plan. A controversial and lucrative investment-for-passport scheme has also attracted Russian money - as well as new EU scrutiny.

While many banks have ditched their Russian clients and authorities have implemented a new system of stringent checks, Ivana Davidovic travels to the port of Limassol to investigate whether Cyprus has really cleaned up its act.

(Picture: Yachts line the marina in Limassol, Cyprus; Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181227

The property market in some US cities has still not recovered from the 2008 meltdown, while others may be seeing the return of risky subprime lending.

Vishala Sri-Pathma travels to Slavic Village in Cleveland, Ohio, which became a by-word for the mass repossessions that followed the bursting of the housing bubble a decade ago. In the nearby Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, where property prices remain 70% below their peak and many houses are still boarded up, Anita Gardner has set up a community group to help residents with housing problems.

Meanwhile on the other side of the nation, Austin in Texas is the fastest growing city in the US, thanks to an oil and tech boom. But Edward Pinto of the American Enterprise Institute explains why there are fears that the loosely regulated federal housing loans that are fuelling this boom could be the next subprime crisis in the making.

(Picture: A resident walks past a boarded up building in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood in Cleveland, Ohio; Credit: Timothy A Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181228

What role can businesses play in filling Africa's cartographical gaps? And can better maps help fight diseases like cholera?

In her third and final programme about the progress being made in properly charting the continent, Katie Prescott asks what companies can do in locations where satellite images cannot penetrate dense rainforest and cloud cover, or in slums whose streets are not navigable by Google streetview cars.

She speaks to John Kedar of Ordnance Survey, Zanzibar planning minister Muhammad Juma, Tom Tom vice president Arnout Desmet.

(Picture: Satellite images of rural Tanzania; Credit: Google maps)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20181231

How did whisky become the world's favourite tipple? Elizabeth Hotson discovers the secrets behind the water of life.

Rachel McCormack, author of Chasing the Dram, tells us how the giants of scotch attained their legendary status, and we delve into the archives of one of the world's most famous whisky brands with Christine McCafferty of drinks leviathan Diageo.

Elizabeth also talks to distillers from across the globe, including Whistlepig from the US state of Vermont, Japan’s Chichibu distillery, Spirit of Hven in Sweden and Rampur from India. She also unlocks the secrets of Scotland's silent distilleries during a visit to Edradour, and samples the most popular whisky cocktail at one of the world's best bars. Lucky Elizabeth!

(Picture: Glenlivet barrels; Credit: BBC)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190101

Had a late night? Well here's a programme about insomnia and the businesses trying to solve it.

Elizabeth Hotson takes part in what is possibly the world’s laziest gym class, and speaks to bed manufacturers, sleep app engineers and the inventor of a sleep robot.

But does any of these solutions actually work? Elizabeth asks Dr Michael Farquhar, sleep consultant at Evelina London Children’s Hospital. Plus Dr Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research programme at the University of Arizona, suggests a cost effective way of curing insomnia.

(Picture: Man suffering from insomnia; Credit: chameleonseye/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190102

Will we all abandon our cars in favour of self-driving taxi apps by the year 2030, or is this pure fantasy?

Justin Rowlatt takes on the many sceptical responses he received from readers to an article on the BBC website in which he sought to explain "Why you have (probably) bought your last car". In it, Justin laid out the thesis of tech futurist Tony Seba that the convergence of three new technologies - the electric vehicle, autonomous driving, and the ride-hailing app - together spelled the imminent death of the traditional family-owned petrol car.

But can AI really handle the complexities of driving? Is there enough lithium in the world for all those car batteries? And what if this new service becomes dominated by an overpriced monopolist? Just some of the questions that Justin pitches to a field of experts, including psychology professor Gary Marcus, management professor Michael Cusumano, renewable energy consultant Michael Liebreich, and Uber's head of transport policy Andrew Salzberg.

(Picture: Illustration of electric car; Credit: 3alexd/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190103

Jeffrey Sachs, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mohamed El-Erian discuss the big economic and political trends and risks to watch out for in the year ahead.

Economics Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University explains his pointed views on the US-China spat over Chinese tech firm Huawei, for which he recently received a barrage of criticism on social media. Former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala relays how Africans have been left astonished and consternated by Brexit. And bond investor supremo Mohamed El-Erian of Allianz and Pimco says the global economy and financial markets are likely to get tougher over the next 12 months, although nowhere near as bad as 2008.

The discussion is hosted by Manuela Saragosa. The producer is Laurence Knight.

(Picture: A man jump between 2018 and 2019 years; Credit: oafawa/Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190104

Is loneliness an ‘epidemic’ that business needs to tackle? Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, compared its effect on health to obesity or smoking. In the UK, the government has even appointed a minister for loneliness. But, Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University says that data doesn’t support the idea that we’re lonelier today than in the past. However, it is a serious health problem that needs to be dealt with. We hear how people ‘catch’ emotions from others at work. Sigal Barsade, a professor of management from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania tells us the negative impact on performance at work is an incentive for business leaders to tackle the issue. And for some, loneliness is a business opportunity. We hear from Karen Dolva, CEO of Norwegian start-up No Isolation, which is developing devices that help connect people who would otherwise be isolated.

(Picture: A business woman looking sad sitting on the floor. Credit: Getty Images)

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190122

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190123

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190124

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190125

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190128

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190129

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190130

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190131

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

20190201

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

#MeToo: Why the Backlash?20181203

Activist Danielle Moss talks about the backlash to the #MeToo movement highlighting abuse of women, while former gang member Eldra Jackson talks about toxic masculinity. Author of Rage Becomes Her, Soraya Chemaly, asks why men are allowed to be angry while women are not.

(Photo: A stock image of an angry woman, Credit: Getty Images)

Analysing the #MeToo movement one year on

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

A basic income for all?20190321

Would a Universal Basic Income help solve inequality or make it worse, and would it protect us from robots taking our jobs?

Finland has just completed a two-year experiment in doing just that. Manuela Saragosa speaks to one of the grateful recipients of the pilot project, freelance journalist Tuomas Muraja. A similar approach has already been taken for many years by some charities in the developing world, as Joe Huston of the GiveDirectly explains.

So how does it work? Anthony Painter of the Royal Society of Arts in London says the financial security it provides allows people to be more creative and invest more in themselves. But Professor Ian Goldin of Oxford University is sceptical, saying there are more effective and affordable ways of helping those most in need.

(Picture: Money falling on people; Credit: stocknroll/Getty Images)

Would a Universal Basic Income help solve inequality, or make it worse?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

A Dog's Life? Yes please!20190108

The global pet food industry is predicted to be worth nearly $100bn by 2022. Premium pet food has become big business. Sheila Dillon asks whether we've gone too far in pampering our pooches with expensive treats. We hear from Kevin Glynn and David Nolan, co-founders of food delivery service, Butternut Box. Butcher John Mettrick tells us about the raw pet food he makes for dogs and we peruse the menu at a high-end brunch for canines at M Restaurant in London.

(Photo: Three dogs behind a birthday cake surrounded by balloons. Credit: Getty images)

The global pet food industry is predicted to be worth nearly $100 billion by 2022

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

A hundred years of women in law20190327

It is only 100 years since women in the UK were first allowed to practice law. Women now make up more than 50% of lawyers in many parts of the world, but why are so few in the top jobs? Katie Prescott speaks to Dana Dennis-Smith, who has collated the stories of women in the law over the last century. Farmida Bi of Norton Rose Fulbright, a huge international law firm, speaks about her journey from non-English speaking Pakistani child to global leader in her profession. We also hear from Shana Knizhnik, co-author of Notorious R.B.G: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, about one of the most iconic women in the US legal profession.

(Photo: A statue of justice. Credit: Getty Images)

Why are so few women in the top jobs?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Bangalore: India's Silicon Valley?20181217

The people vying for success in India's tech startup scene. Rahul Tandon explores how Bangalore has turned into a hub for Indian tech startups, and meets the young Indians who have shunned the security of a salaried job in the tech sector to strike out on their own.

(Photo: Interns working at one tech startup in Bangalore, Credit: Getty Images)

The people vying for success in India's tech startup scene

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Billion-Dollar Eels20181211

European glass eels are worth a fortune in East Asia, where they're regarded as a delicacy in restaurants in China and Japan. But the lucrative smuggling trade from Europe to Asia is contributing to their status as an endangered species. Ed Butler tries some eel in a restaurant in Japan while UN researcher Florian Stein describes the scale of the smuggling. Andrew Kerr, chairman and founder of Sustainable Eel Group, explains the risks to the species in Europe.

(Photo: A fisherman holds glass eels fished in France, Credit: Getty Images)

Why smuggling one species of fish from Europe to Asia is a billion-dollar business

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Brexit: Oil, fish and bargaining chips20190322

How is the Scottish city of Aberdeen coping with the UK's imminent exit from the EU? It is home to the country's oil and gas industry, as well as some 5,000 fisherman.

Katie Prescott speaks to local businesspeople in both industries, who are increasingly anxious at the complete lack of certainty about what will happen when the UK does eventually leave - albeit that the date of departure has now been postponed by a few more weeks beyond 29 March.

How will European fishing quotas and access to British waters be decided post Brexit? And what will happen to Aberdeen's oil production, particularly as the flow of fossil fuels from under the North Sea begins to run dry? Aberdeen is the most vulnerable city in the UK to Brexit, according to Andrew Carter of research group, the Centre for Cities.

Producer: Sarah Treanor

(Picture: Fish at the Aberdeen fish market; Credit: BBC)

How is the Scottish city of Aberdeen coping with the UK's imminent exit from the EU?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Brexit: The Easy Guide20181204

As the UK's proposed exit from the EU nears, things are getting complicated in the British parliament. We explain the options for Theresa May and MPs with the help of John Rentoul, chief political commentator for the Independent, Jonathan Portes, economics professor at King's College London, and Jill Rutter, programme director at the Institute for Government.

(Photo: Protesters outside the UK parliament in London, Credit: Getty Images)

Things are getting complicated in the British parliament

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Can't Get No Sleep20190101

Had a late night? Well here's a programme about insomnia and the businesses trying to solve it.

Elizabeth Hotson takes part in what is possibly the world’s laziest gym class, and speaks to bed manufacturers, sleep app engineers and the inventor of a sleep robot.

But does any of these solutions actually work? Elizabeth asks Dr Michael Farquhar, sleep consultant at Evelina London Children’s Hospital. Plus Dr Michael Grandner, director of the sleep and health research programme at the University of Arizona, suggests a cost effective way of curing insomnia.

(Picture: Man suffering from insomnia; Credit: chameleonseye/Getty Images)

Had a late night? Well here's a programme about insomnia

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

China\u2019s New Silk Road Comes to Pakistan20190121

China is lending Pakistan billions of dollars as part of an ambitious policy to disrupt global trade. Beijing is six years into a trillion-dollar plan that's been dubbed the new Silk Road. The project – officially known as One Belt One Road – aims to connect Asia with the Middle East, Africa and Europe, through a network of new trade routes.

Vivienne Nunis visits Lahore in Pakistan, where Chinese-funded infrastructure projects are transforming the face of the city. So how do Pakistanis feel about the increasingly close economic ties with their much larger eastern neighbour? Vivienne hears from Rashed Rahman, the former editor of Pakistan’s English language newspaper, the Daily Times. China expert Joshua Eisenman, from the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, explains the thinking behind Beijing’s big-spending plans.

(Picture: Road at Khunjerab Pass on the China-Pakistan border; Credit: pulpitis/Getty Images)

China is lending billions to Pakistan in an ambitious attempt to disrupt global trade

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Decarbonising the Atmosphere20190115

Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is becoming technologically feasible, but will it ever be commercially viable at the scale needed to halt climate change?

Ed Butler speaks to Louise Charles of Swiss-based Climeworks - one of the companies that claims it is already turning a profit from the direct capture of carbon from the air. They're selling the CO2 to greenhouses. But what the world really needs to do to stop global warming is bury the stuff in the ground, and who is willing to pay money for that? Ed asks Princeton ecology professor Stephen Pacala, and Gideon Henderson, professor of earth sciences at Oxford University.

(Picture: A Reykjavik Energy employee stands next to a carbon capture unit designed by the Swiss company Climeworks; Credit: Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

Removing CO2 from the air is technologically feasible, but is it commercially viable?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Education in India: In need of reform?20190311

In India experts and parents increasingly question whether the country's education system is fit for purpose.

With huge emphasis placed on college entrance exams and academic degrees - like engineering, medicine or law - Rahul Tandon explores what consequences that has on children's overall development. He visits an unorthodox school that uses Harry Potter to develop critical thinking, and he asks whether the economy would be better served by encouraging vocational training.

(Picture: Students seen coming out of the examination centre at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan School in New Delhi, India; Credit: Getty Images)

Too much emphasis on exams and academia might not develop workforce employers need.

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Europe: Dream or Nightmare?20181130

Could the European Parliament elections plus Brexit next year together provide the death knell for the European federalist dream? Populist parties from the far right and far left across Europe hope to take control of the heart of Europe at the 2019 elections.

Manuela Saragosa reports from the parliamentary building in Brussels, in the last of our five programmes this week looking at the future of Europe. She meets two Brits whose careers were thrown into turmoil by the Brexit referendum in 2016. Simone Howse has been told that she can keep her job as an interpreter in the plenary chamber even after her home country leaves the EU. But MEP Catherine Bearder, along with her 72 compatriots, will be turfed out when her current term ends in July.

But what fears do the they and others in Brussels have of a looming populist takeover of parliament? What will it mean for the future direction of the European project? Is it the end of federalism? Someone who hopes so is the pro-European but anti-federalist Czech MEP Jan Zahradil.

(Picture: Manuela Saragosa in the European parliamentary chamber; Credit: BBC)

Could the 2019 European Parliament elections be the death knell for the federalist dream?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Europe's Future20181126

How do German citizens feel about the future of the world’s largest trading bloc? Ed Butler visits PSM Protech, a specialist engineering firm in Bavaria where he speaks to its owner Irene Wagner about what the EU means to her company plus he asks Volker Wieland, an economics professor at a Frankfurt University and one of Germany’s five key economic advisors, the so-called Wise Men, what the threats to the EU are.

(Picture: Irene Wagner in the PSM Protech factory. Credit: BBC)

How do German citizens feel about the future of the world\u2019s largest trading bloc?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

France and a Federal Europe20181127

President Emmanuel Macron has big plans to shape the future of the European Union. It looks like a multi-speed, multi-lane motorway. Is this really the answer to those who are tiring of the European project? And will trouble at home mean he struggles with his plans anyway? Rob Young speaks to President Macron’s economic adviser, Philippe Aghion who tells him about President Macron's plans to renew, some say to save, the European Union. He also speaks to former Socialist Presidential candidate and a current French ambassador, Ségolène Royal, about what many see as the biggest threat the EU faces - nationalism. Plus he visits a factory just outside Paris to find out why they support domestic reforms to the French economy.

Why is President Macron pushing for a more federal Europe?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Ghosting at Work20190117

When is it acceptable to vanish from a job without warning or explanation, and why are more and more people doing it?

Ed Butler hears one woman give her reasons for doing just that, while web design entrepreneur Chris Yoko retells the tale of one no-show employee who took the art of ghosting to a whole new literal level. He also talks to the founders of the Japanese company Exit, which offers to provide resignation letters and phone calls for those too afraid to do it in person.

But why is ghosting - a cold shouldering tactic that first came to the fore in the online world of social media and online dating - becoming more commonplace in the real world of employment? Chris Gray of recruitment firm Manpower UK blames the booming jobs market, while Dawn Fay of US employment consultants Robert Half says whatever the reason, just don't do it!

(Picture: Co-workers have a business meeting while a man waits in the background; Credit: ER_Creative/Getty Images)

When is it acceptable to vanish from a job without warning or explanation?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Heineken in Africa20190314

The brewer has been accused of complicity with Africa's murkiest politics, and of failing to protect female brand promoters from sexual harassment. But can a company really separate itself from its political environment?

Manuela Saragosa hears from the Dutch investigative journalist Olivier van Beemen, whose book Heineken in Africa makes multiple accusations against the company, including collusion with the regimes of Burundi and DR Congo. Plus Heineken provides its response.

But is it a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don't? When a company finds that it cannot control what is happening on the ground in a politically challenging country, should it simply pull out of the country altogether? Human rights lawyer Elise Groulx Diggs of Doughty Street Chambers gives us her view.

(Picture: Heineken logo on a beer bottle; Credit: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The brewer is accused of complicity with Africa's murkiest politics

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

How Not to Save the World20181206

Are "voluntourists" - foreigners coming to do well-meaning voluntary work - actually doing more harm than good at developing world orphanages?

Manuela Saragosa speaks to one who says she saw the light. Pippa Biddle travelled to Tanzania to help do construction work at an orphanage. But she soon realised that the shoddy work she and her fellow American students were doing was creating more work for the people they were supposedly helping, and the whole project was really designed for their own benefit.

But the harm goes further than that, as James Sutherland, who works in Cambodia for the child welfare organisation Friends International, explains. Voluntourism creates a demand for an industry of fake orphanages trafficking in children who are not even orphans.

(Picture: American woman with two African children; Credit: MShep2/Getty Images)

Is "voluntourism" actually doing more harm than good at developing world orphanages?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

How to Be Uncertain20181213

These are uncertain times. The British Prime Minister Theresa May has survived a vote of confidence in her leadership, but the future of her Brexit deal remains unknown. In the US, Donald Trump faces a hostile Congress and multiple legal threats to his presidency. Meanwhile the IPCC says the entire planet must urgently address the existential challenge of climate change, yet the path forward remains littered with obstacles.

What is the best way to weather all this uncertainty? In a programme first aired in 2016, Manuela Saragosa gets advice from David Tuckett, professor and director of the Centre for the Study of Decision-Making Uncertainty at University College London. Plus, David Spiegelhalter, Winton professor for the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory, at the University of Cambridge, explains the difference between risk and uncertainty.

Lt Col Steven Gventer of the US Army tells us how soldiers are trained to deal with uncertainty in war. And, Will Borrell, founder and owner of Vestal Vodka and the owner of the Ladies & Gents bar in London, recalls how his customers reacted on the evening after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

(Picture: British Prime Minister Theresa May at the opening day of the G20 Summit in Argentina; Credit: Amilcar Orfali/Getty Images)

An economist, psychoanalyst, soldier and statistician on how to survive uncertain times

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Is humankind on the verge of disaster?20190319

To follow the world's headlines these days - from fake news to murderous terror attacks, from disease pandemics to global warming - you might be forgiven for thinking the world is becoming a pretty scary place. But is it really? Harvard University cognitive psychologist and author Steven Pinker tells us that is measurably not the case. As he argues in his new book Enlightenment Now, we are in a golden age of human existence.

But, David Edmonds meets academics who are putting Pinker's ideas to the test, concluding that with climate change and overpopulation, there is a 10% chance of humans not surviving the 21st Century.

(Photo: Activist at a climate change protest in Spain. Credit: Getty Images)

Academics are assessing the odds of a catastrophe taking place sometime soon.

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Is pan-African trade a pipe dream?20190328

Can the continent remove trade barriers and create a billion-person internal market? That's the hope of the African Continental Free Trade Area, but a year on from its initial signing, many obstacles remain.

Nearly all of Africa's 55 nations have signed up to the initiative, yet the most populous country Nigeria remains a hold-out. And there still remain huge logistical barriers to free trade, as Will Bain discovers when he speaks to frustrated truckers on the Zambia-Botswana border.

Ed Butler speaks to Ghana's minister for trade Alan Kyerematen, as well as Pearl Uzokwe of the African conglomerate Sahara Group, and Alex Vines of London-based think tank Chatham House.

(Picture: Trucks drive along the Ethiopian side of the Ethiopia-Eritrea border; Credit: Michael Tewelde/AFP/Getty Images)

Can the continent remove trade barriers and create a billion-person internal market?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Italy and the EU: Split or Quit?20181128

Is Brexit boosting a bust-up with Brussels? Gianmarco Senna, is a ruling Lega Party counsellor with the regional Lombardy authority. He told Manuela Saragosa he thinks Brexit is marvellous. But while Italy is unlikely to follow in the UK's footsteps, Manuela is in Milan looking at how Brexit might help the Italian Government extract what it wants from the EU – more money to spend on helping fix the economy. And Professor Francesco Giavazzi of Bocconi University says there is a danger the country could split in two – the north and the south.

Image: Italian and European flags (Credit: BBC)

Is Brexit boosting a bust-up with Brussels?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Italy embraces China20190329

Rome's decision to sign up to China's One Belt One Road initiative has proved controversial both at home and among Italy's closest allies.

Washington DC and Brussels are both sceptical of the true intent behind Beijing's programme for financing major overseas infrastructure projects, ostensibly to enhance China's trade routes. President Xi Jinping's recent invitation to Rome to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Italian government - an initiative spearheaded by the little known Italian economy minister Michele Geraci - has caused consternation.

Manuela Saragosa gets the view in Washington DC from Jonathan Hillman of think tank the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. And the former Italian foreign affairs minister Giulio Terzi Sant'Agata explains why many of his compatriots are worried about the contents of the that memorandum.

(Picture: Italys Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte greets China's President Xi Jinping at Villa Madama in Rome; Credit: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)

Rome's decision to sign up to China's belt and road initiative has proved controversial

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Judgement Day For Brexit Deal20190116

UK MPs have voted down Theresa May's deal for leaving the European Union. Rainer Wieland, German Member of the European Parliament gives the view from Brussels. David Phinnemore, Professor of European Politics at Queen's University Belfast explains the intricacies of the Irish Border. We have economic and financial analysis from Gabriel Feldmayr, Director of the ifo Center for International Economics and Sophie Kilvert of 7 Investment Management. And all through the show the BBC World Service UK Political Correspondent Rob Watson will comment on the day’s political developments.

UK MPs have voted down Theresa May's deal for leaving the European Union.

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Loneliness at Work20190104

Is loneliness an ‘epidemic’ that business needs to tackle? Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, compared its effect on health to obesity or smoking. In the UK, the government has even appointed a minister for loneliness. But, Eric Klinenberg, a sociology professor at New York University says that data doesn’t support the idea that we’re lonelier today than in the past. However, it is a serious health problem that needs to be dealt with. We hear how people ‘catch’ emotions from others at work. Sigal Barsade, a professor of management from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania tells us the negative impact on performance at work is an incentive for business leaders to tackle the issue. And for some, loneliness is a business opportunity. We hear from Karen Dolva, CEO of Norwegian start-up No Isolation, which is developing devices that help connect people who would otherwise be isolated.

(Picture: A business woman looking sad sitting on the floor. Credit: Getty Images)

Is it an \u2018epidemic\u2019 that business needs to tackle?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Making the Desert Bloom20190114

With the threat of climate change looming, and growing ambivalence about whether the world can meet its stringent carbon emissions reduction targets to limit global warming, many people are searching for new solutions. But some people think they’ve already cracked it, as well as the solution to world hunger, simply by growing plants in salt-water. Dr Dennis Bushnell, Nasa's chief scientist, explains the potential he sees in the salt-water loving plants, known as halophytes. We also hear from two scientists, Dr Dionysia Lyra and Dr RK Singh who are working to make that potential a reality, at the Centre for Biosaline Agriculture in Dubai.

(Photo: Low chenopod shrub, Samphire (Salicornia europaea), a kind of halophyte. Kalamurina Station Wildlife Sanctuary, South Australia. Credit: Auscape/UIG via Getty Images)

Can salt-water plants save the world from climate change?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

More Brexit blues for business20190313

A continued political crisis in the UK means more uncertainty for businesses. We hear from the boss of a manufacturing company in Birmingham and Nicole Sykes, head of EU negotiations at the UK business group the CBI, as well as the BBC's Rob Watson in Westminster and Adam Fleming in Strasbourg.

(Photo: A protester carries an EU flag in London, Credit: Getty Images)

A continued political crisis in the UK means more uncertainty for businesses

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Neverending Brexit?20190315

As the UK parliament votes to delay Brexit beyond 29 March, businesses brace for yet more uncertainty. But will the EU even be willing to grant a delay?

Manuela Saragosa speaks to companies on both sides of the English Channel. British Barley farmer Matt Culley says he now has to plant his coming year's crop with no clue whether or how he will even be able to export his produce to breweries in Germany come harvest time.

Meanwhile Chayenne Wiskerke, who runs the world's biggest onion exporting operation from the Netherlands, expresses her exasperation that with two weeks to go, every possible outcome - from delay, to cancellation, to the UK leaving without any agreement at all - remains on the table.

But fear not says David Henig, director of the UK Trade Policy Project at the European Centre for International Political Economy. He explains why he thinks a year's delay is the most likely outcome.

(Picture: A pro Brexit supporter holds up a placard that reads 'Just Leave' outside the Houses of Parliament; Credit: John Keeble/Getty Images)

As the UK parliament votes to delay Brexit, businesses brace for yet more uncertainty

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Our Hilarious Universe20190110

Revenge of the nerds - how comedians are helping explain the world of science and tech. Reporter Elizabeth Hotson finds out how people are forging careers from our desire to know how the world works. We get a practical demonstration from Natasha Simons a science performer and writer. Ron Berk, Emeritus Professor at the Johns Hopkins University in Maryland explains why he creates musicals about biostatistics and measurement. Helen Arney, co-founder of the Festival of the Spoken Nerd gives us a taste of science stand-up comedy and Jorge Cham, creator of PhD comics and co-host of the podcast ‘Daniel and Jorge explain the universe’, puts the fun into string theory.

Pic credit: Getty images

Revenge of the nerds - how comedians are helping explain the world of science and tech

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Poland Perturbed20181129

The populist government in Warsaw is accused of picking fights with the EU and dividing the public against each other. Ed Butler reports live from the city of Poznan, where some residents tell him that they no longer discuss politics at home because it has become such a divisive topic within their families.

In a post-Brexit world, few Poles want to follow the UK in leaving the EU, and most agree that their country has benefited enormously since joining in 2004. Ed visits the Solaris bus manufacturing plant, where director Mateusz Figaszewski explains how his company can now easily export to the rest of the Continent. But many Poles feel that Europe is not treating their country fairly, among them are Zbigniew Czerwinski, the deputy head of the ruling PIS party in the Poznan region.

(Picture: Protest against supreme court reforms in Poland; Credit: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The government in Warsaw is locking horns with the EU and dividing the population

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Consequences of China Cyber Espionage20190111

Did China steal the plans for much of its military hardware, like the J20 jet, from Western defence firms? And what has the US been doing to counter Chinese hacking?

Ed Butler speaks to Garrett Graff, a journalist for Wired magazine who has been following the twists and turns in US-China cyber relations over the past few years, including a hacking truce secured by President Obama, that broke down after he left the Oval Office. Plus Ian Bremmer, president of the risk consultancy Eurasia Group, explains why he fears that we are seeing a widening split in the tech economy between China and the West, and that this may be paving the way to a more dangerous real-world conflict.

(Picture: A J-20 jet performs at Zhuhai Air Show in China; Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images)

Did China steal the plans for its military hardware? And what is the US doing about it?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Electric Robotaxi Dream20190102

Will we all abandon our cars in favour of self-driving taxi apps by the year 2030, or is this pure fantasy?

Justin Rowlatt takes on the many sceptical responses he received from readers to an article on the BBC website in which he sought to explain "Why you have (probably) bought your last car". In it, Justin laid out the thesis of tech futurist Tony Seba that the convergence of three new technologies - the electric vehicle, autonomous driving, and the ride-hailing app - together spelled the imminent death of the traditional family-owned petrol car.

But can AI really handle the complexities of driving? Is there enough lithium in the world for all those car batteries? And what if this new service becomes dominated by an overpriced monopolist? Just some of the questions that Justin pitches to a field of experts, including psychology professor Gary Marcus, management professor Michael Cusumano, renewable energy consultant Michael Liebreich, and Uber's head of transport policy Andrew Salzberg.

(Picture: Illustration of electric car; Credit: 3alexd/Getty Images)

Will we all be using self-driving taxi apps by 2030, or is this pure fantasy?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The essay cheats20190326

The lucrative business of 'essay mills' - companies that will write your university assignments for you. Chris makes thousands of dollars a year writing essays for fellow Chinese students struggling with English. Gareth Crossman from QAA - a UK education standards agency - says technology is facilitating the growing problem of essay mills.

(Photo: A stock image of a classroom assignment, Credit: Getty Images)

People will write your university assignments for you - for a price

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Firm Where Everyone Has Autism20190107

Reporter Jane Wakefield explores the various ways companies can accommodate those on the autistic spectrum. Jane visits Autocon, a software company based in California which exclusively uses autistic employees. Jane meets company co-founder, Gray Benoist, the father of two autistic sons. We have contributions from employees, Evan, Peter and Brian and hear from Stephen Silberman, author of Neurobites which explores autism in the context of the modern workplace - especially in Silicon Valley. We also get the perspective of the National Autistic Society's Head of Campaigns and Public Engagement, Tom Purser.

(Photo Credit: Autocon)

Jane Wakefield visits a software company which exclusively uses autistic employees

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Forgotten Workers20181205

Fighting for the rights of domestic workers in America, plus other 'forgotten' segments of the economy. Jane Wakefield speaks to Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance in the US, at a TED Women event in California. Yvonne Van Amerongen describes a 'dementia village' in the Netherlands allowing older people with the condition to continue to be part of society rather rather than being forgotten in a nursing home. And Activist Danielle Moss Lee defends 'average' workers.

(Photo: Domestic worker being trained in Manila, Philippines, Credit: Getty Images)

Fighting for the rights of domestic workers in America

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Housing Disruptors20190109

There’s a shortage of affordable and social housing in most large urban centres around the world. But the construction sector is blighted by inefficiency and low productivity, and many say it’s ripe for disruption. Could modular or factory-built homes be the answer? We visit the factories and hear from two UK house-building ‘disruptors’; Rosie Toogood CEO of Legal and General Modular Homes and Nigel Banks at Ilke Homes. Mark Farmer of Cast Consultancy explains what’s been holding back innovation and Richard Threlfall, Partner and Global Head of Infrastructure at consultants KPMG gives us his take on the prospects for factory-built homes globally. Plus Rudy van Gurp from Dutch construction company Van Wijnen on why this may just be the cusp of big changes about to take over the construction industry.

Picture description: A crane taking modular home segments and stacking them on one on top of the other to make a new duplex.
Picture Credit: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Can factory-made homes solve global housing shortages?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Internet: Welcome to Creepsville20181207

It's easy for anyone, from criminals to stalkers, to dig up your personal information online. So is it even possible to disappear in our digital world?

Manuela Saragosa is somewhat shocked by Tony McChrystal of data security firm ReputationDefender, when he reveals the personal details he discovered about her from a cursory search on his mobile phone shortly before she interviewed him.

Silkie Carlo of pro-privacy lobby group Big Brother Watch explains why she thinks the big social media companies and online retailers need to end the implicit deal whereby they offer us free services in return for the ability to track and monetise our data.

Plus Frank Ahearn explains how his job used to be trying to trace individuals who want to disappear, such as those who have skipped bail. Today he helps clients disappear online, to escape stalkers or dangerous former business associates. He says it's not that hard to throw people off your digital trail.

(Picture: Computer hacker working on laptop late at night in office; Credit: FangXiaNuo/Getty Images)

It's easy for anyone, from criminals to stalkers, to dig up your personal data online

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Mug that Stood Up to the Mailman20181210

Donald Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the global postal system, after receiving a letter from the inventor of the "Mighty Mug".

Jayme Smaldone tells Manuela Saragosa how he was prompted to write the letter by the inexplicably low prices that Chinese knock-offs of his product were able to charge on online retail platforms in the US.

It all boiled down to the arcane system of international postal charges set by the Universal Postal Union way back in the 1800s, as Washington DC-based lawyer Jim Campbell explains. And according to Gary Huang of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai, some Chinese businesses are profiting enormously.

(Picture: Mighty Mugs; Credit: Mighty Mug)

How "Mighty Mug" got Donald Trump to threaten to pull out of the global postal system

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The Outlook for 201920190103

Jeffrey Sachs, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mohamed El-Erian discuss the big economic and political trends and risks to watch out for in the year ahead.

Economics Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University explains his pointed views on the US-China spat over Chinese tech firm Huawei, for which he recently received a barrage of criticism on social media. Former Nigerian finance minister and World Bank managing director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala relays how Africans have been left astonished and consternated by Brexit. And bond investor supremo Mohamed El-Erian of Allianz and Pimco says the global economy and financial markets are likely to get tougher over the next 12 months, although nowhere near as bad as 2008.

The discussion is hosted by Manuela Saragosa. The producer is Laurence Knight.

(Picture: A man jump between 2018 and 2019 years; Credit: oafawa/Getty Images)

Jeffrey Sachs, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mohamed El-Erian discuss the year ahead

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The periodic table turns 15020190318

Are chemical elements critical for the modern economy in dangerously short supply? It's a question that Justin Rowlatt poses a century and a half after the Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleev published the original periodic table.

Justin speaks to two chemists - Andrea Sella of University College London explains the significance of Mendeleev's scheme to the modern world, while David Cole-Hamilton talks us through an updated version of the table he has just published that highlights chemical elements that could run out within the next century unless we learn to make better use of them.

However, perhaps we don't need to worry just yet, at least not for two of those red-flagged elements. Thomas Abraham-Jones describes how he happened across the world's biggest reserve of helium in the African savannah, while Rick Short of Indium Corporation explains why the metallic element his company is named after is in abundant supply, so long as you don't mind sifting an awful lot of dirt for it.

(Picture: Manuscript of Mendeleev's first periodic system of elements; Credit: Science & Society Picture Library/SSPL/Getty Images)

Are critical chemical elements of the periodic table in dangerously short supply?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

The US Government Shutdown20190118

At what point will the standoff in Washington DC start doing serious harm to the US economy?

Vishala Sri-Pathma speaks to two victims of the shutdown. As a prison officer, Eric Young is currently not getting paid by the government, even though he is still legally required to turn up for work. He is also a national union representative, and is calling on the government to start planning for a lockdown of jails as staffing numbers dwindle. Meanwhile Bob Pease, head of the Brewers Association, says that small craft beer makers could be facing real a crisis if the government doesn't start issuing licences again soon.

So how much longer can this all go on for? We ask Megan Greene, chief economist at US asset managers Manulife, and the BBC's North America reporter Anthony Zurcher.

(Picture: A signs says the Renwick Gallery museum is closed because of the US federal government shutdown; Credit: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images)

Is the standoff in Washington DC starting to do serious harm to the US economy?

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Ukraine: Trading across the front line20190325

The economy of Russian occupied territories in Ukraine. Ed Butler reports on the people living between western Ukraine and the eastern occupied territories including the city of Donetsk, and the flow of goods and people across an active front line.

(Photo: Russian servicemen near the Crimean town of Dzhankoy, 12 miles away from the Ukrainian border, Credit: Getty Images)

The economy of Russian occupied territories in Ukraine

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Ukraine's corruption problem20190312

Ed Butler reports from Ukraine ahead of the presidential elections scheduled for the end of March. With endemic corruption and ongoing conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the east, what verdict will the voters give to the President Petro Poroshenko? Ed Butler speaks with MP Serhiy Leschenko who's recently left Poroshenko's Solidarity faction over concerns about corruption and nepotism.

Other candidates include the former Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and comedian and actor Volodymyr Zelensky. Olesia Verchenko from the Kyiv School of Economics says she has doubts about all of them.

And Deputy Minister of Health Pavlo Kovtoniuk explains measures taken within the healthcare service to clean up its act.

This programme was produced by Anna Noryskiewicz.

PHOTO: Anti-corruption protest in Kyiv, Ukraine. Copyright: Ed Butler, BBC

Ahead of the presidential elections, the country grapples with conflicts and corruption.

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Ukraine's troubles with Mariupol20190320

Ed Butler reports from Mariupol port in eastern Ukraine. The port has lost a third of its fleet and up to 140,000 tonnes of exported metal products a month since Russia's construction of a bridge across the Kerch Strait in May 2018, and restrictions on the size of ships that can pass underneath.
Cargo vessels are being delayed by up to a week, and the cranes on the dock stand idle. Larger international shipping firms have simply stopped coming.
Hundreds of jobs depend on the work here - Mariupol is Ukraine's second port - and local businesses are desperate for the blockade to be lifted. But that is not the only problem - corruption and proximity the front line create a whole host of issues. Mariupol was at the eye of the storm when Russian-backed rebels launched an armed struggle against the Ukrainian government five years ago.The airport connecting the city with the rest of the country has been shut ever since.
This programme was produced by Anna Noryskiewicz

PHOTO: The bridge from Russia to annexed Crimea opened in May and heightened tensions with Ukraine. Getty Images

Recent partial blockade by Russia hampers business

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.

Young, Gifted and Black20181214

Racism persists in the workplace - how do we stop it blighting another generation of talent?

Vishala Sri-Pathma visits Deji Adeoshun, leader of the Moving On Up programme, which seeks to improve employment opportunities for young black men in London, to find out how simply having the wrong name and sounding too street can harm your job prospects.

Business psychologist Binna Kandola explains how racism in the office has mutated into a more subtle form that many white people fail to recognise exists. Plus Michael Caines - one of only two black Michelin-star chefs in the UK - tells of the grit and doggedness he needed to rise to the top of his profession, despite his skin colour.

(Picture: Michael Caines; Credit: Michael Caines)

Racism persists in the workplace, and threatens to blight another generation of talent

The daily drama of money and work from the BBC.