HARDtalk

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Thanks to the internet and the mobile phone our ability to communicate, inform and persuade has never been greater. So why is public debate getting ever more polarising and toxic? Stephen Sackur speaks to the american philosopher, neuroscientist and podcaster Sam Harris whose takes on everything from religion to race generate intense heat. Are extremism and intolerance drowning out reasoned debate?
Serj Tankian is the frontman of world-renowned rock band System of a Down, but is also an arch advocate for his family’s homeland, Armenia. His passionate views on genocide, war and corrupt governance have won him millions of fans and numerous enemies. What matters more to him: the politics or the music?
Zeinab Badawi interviews playwright, novelist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga, one of Zimbabwe’s most influential and acclaimed cultural figures. Arrested for her political activism, she says her art gives her a platform to call for change. Is she optimistic about her country's future? What are the prospects for better days in Zimbabwe, when every day is a struggle?
If Afghanistan is to find a way out of seemingly never-ending war the next few weeks will be critically important. The Biden Administration is pressing the Afghan Government and the Taliban to accept a transition plan based on a ceasefire and power-sharing. It’s a tough sell, given the taliban has intensified its military campaign in recent months. But what’s the alternative? Stephen Sackur speaks to Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh. Is the Afghan peace process running out of road?
The Covid pandemic looks like a watershed moment in global economics. Big Government is back as the failsafe engine of economic growth, as the usual fears such as soaring debt and rising inflation have been pushed aside. Stephen Sackur interviews acclaimed US economist Ken Rogoff, once dubbed ‘the godfather of austerity’. Is he a convert to Bidenomics?
The proportion of wealth owned by a super-rich elite continues to grow in societies around the world. The glaring disparity between the 'have-mosts' and the 'have-nothings' has fuelled a wave of political anger. Stephen Sackur speaks to the former newspaper columnist, editor, and one-time high society hostess Barbara Amiel, whose recent memoir, wittingly or not, paints an extraordinary, even grotesque, picture of the lives of the wealthy.
Sir Vartan Melkonian began his life as an Armenian refugee in Lebanon, spending his early years in an orphanage outside Beirut, followed by living rough on the streets for many years. He is now a renowned musician, conductor and composer. Zeinab Badawi hears his remarkable story.
Porn is one of the biggest drivers of internet traffic and a generator of vast amounts of money, but also an industry in a state of flux. The biggest online porn platforms have been accused of profiting from criminality and abuse. Stephen Sackur interviews Erika Lust - pornographer, feminist and entrepreneur. Is there such a thing as ethical porn?
Much of the art we love is presented via a medium - be it a canvas, a recording or celluloid. Stephen Sackur interviews Marina Abramović, an artist whose primary resource is her own body. In the course of a remarkable career, the world's most famous and garlanded performance artist has pushed herself to the very limits of physical endurance and stirred intense reaction from audiences confronting her eye to eye. Her art and life are one; so what do they tell us?
The Covid-19 pandemic has presented the European Union with an unprecedented test of its cohesion and competence. Right now, the scorecard looks decidedly mixed, with many member states facing a third wave of infection while, the vaccination rollout lags far behind that in post-Brexit Britain. Stephen Sackur speaks to the former president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. He once bemoaned a loss of collective EU libido, but is the problem getting worse?
It seems the Biden Administration is putting greater emphasis on human rights issues in its already fraught relationship with China. Will that prompt Beijing to think twice about the crackdown on pro-democracy activism in Hong Kong? Stephen Sackur interviews Regina Ip, Chair of the New People’s Party, member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and one of Beijing’s most loyal backers in the territory. Is the concept of ‘one country, two systems’ dead? (Photo: Regina Ip appears via video link on Hardtalk)
The idea of a social contract between the individual and the state is a staple of political philosophy. But what happens when that contract is threatened by forces beyond the control of any government, like a climate crisis or, right now, a global pandemic? Stephen Sackur speaks to Baroness Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics and former top official at the World Bank. Is humanity capable of collective action to meet global challenges?
Millions of readers all over the world are drawn to fiction that explores our fears. Horror sells and no-one does it better or more prolifically than Stephen King. He’s written more than 60 books, sold close to 400 million copies - he is the master manipulator of dark places and the paranormal. If you're not a reader you may have seen the Shining, Carrie, Stand by Me - all films based on his stories. He's been writing for half a century – how has our appetite for fear evolved?
The legacy of conflict and hate left behind after the collapse of Yugoslavia is not easily overcome. They know that in Kosovo, which declared independent statehood a dozen years ago but has yet to make a lasting peace with neighbouring Serbia. Right now Kosovo is experiencing a major political shift. Stephen Sackur speaks to the country’s Acting President Vjosa Osmani. She is part of a new generation of young, post-war politicians challenging the old guard of the Kosovar independence struggle. She promises clean government and a fresh start, but can she deliver?
Stephen Sackur speaks to Adar Poonawalla, the CEO of the biggest vaccine producer in the world, Serum Institute of India. He went all-in on a production deal with Astrazeneca, and for many of us, the jab we get will have been made by him. He’s a super-rich vaccine visionary; is he driven by more than profit?
Dr Sasa has a remarkable life story, which has taken him from a remote mountain village in western Myanmar to a place in the international media spotlight as a key spokesman for the political movement intent on reversing February’s military coup. He is from the Chin people - one of many minorities to have suffered long-term discrimination and persecution in Myanmar, or Burma as it was. He was the first child in his village to go to high school. He went on to train as a doctor and has devoted much of his life to improving medical and educational opportunities for the Chin people. For the past decade he’s been an activist in the National League for Democracy. He was with party leader and national figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi just hours before the generals mounted their coup on February 1. She was detained, along with many members of Myanmar’s Government and parliament. Dr Sasa managed to flee to a neighbouring, but undisclosed country. He’s since been appointed as UN representative of the Committee representing the ousted parliament, and is a leading voice in the pro-democracy movement. But with the military continuing to use lethal force against street protests what options do the opponents of the coup really have?
A combination of personal testimony, leaked documents and satellite imagery points to a systematic policy of repression of the Muslim Uighur population of Xinjiang province in China. Jewher Ilham, a young Uighur woman, currently living in America, tells Stephen Sackur about her campaign to save her father who has been imprisoned for the past 7 years. The fate of the Uighurs has become a geopolitical issue - but is anything going to change?
Despite losing the presidency and both Houses of Congress, Donald Trump still seems to have a chokehold on the Republican party. So what will Republican anti-Trumpers do next: continue the fight from within the party, or get out and create a new one? Evan McMullin is one of the most prominent American Republicans determined to loosen President Trump's grip on the Party, and one of the key organisers and strategists behind the Stand Up Republic group of unhappy Republicans.
Mass protests against military rule across Myanmar have been met with increasing force, and the death toll is rising. Stephen Sackur interviews Khin Zaw Win, a prominent political prisoner under the previous junta. What do the people of Myanmar want now - and what are they likely to get?
Stephen Sackur speaks to the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President with responsibility for the economy and trade, Valdis Dombrovskis. Protectionism and nationalism are on the rise in global trade. With the US and China locked in strategic competition, is the EU ready to aggressively defend its interests?
Stephen Sackur interviews one of the UK’s top live music promoters, Harvey Goldsmith. One of the many costs of the Covid pandemic means that, in much of the world, we can’t gather to enjoy the arts live; the creative world we used to know may be hard to revive. Has the cultural cost of Covid been ignored?
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised that a vast gulf is opening up between Covid vaccination rates in the richest countries and the poorest. But still the numbers are shocking. While the UK has given 27% of its population a first dose, many nations have yet to inject a single arm. Hardtalk speaks to Dr Seth Berkley, head of Gavi, the Global Vaccine Alliance and key driver of the effort to ensure the whole world gets Covid protection. It is a great ambition; is it achievable?
How far does the Republican party need to go to reinvent itself following Donald Trumps defeat in the November Presidential election? Elizabeth Neumann, a former counter terror official in the Trump Administration says she saw America’s far right, white-supremacists as a growing security threat and she felt Donald Trump was fanning the flames of their extremism. In April 2020 she resigned. Now she says she is fighting for what she calls accountability in the Republican party - but has her stand come too late?
Stephen Sackur speaks to Timothy Snyder, renowned American historian of totalitarianism and the Holocaust, about the Trump presidency. Professor Snyder believes the former US president and his movement brought America face to face with early stage fascism. Historical parallels may be seductive, but are they useful?
Stephen Sackur speaks to the Booker prize-winning author Douglas Stuart. His novel, Shuggie Bain, centres on a boy growing up amid poverty, addiction and intolerance in Glasgow. There are deep parallels with his own life. How does he extract so much love from hardship?
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Podcast Details

Created by
BBC
Podcast Status
Active
Started
Jan 12th, 2015
Latest Episode
Apr 14th, 2021
Release Period
3 per week
Episodes
827
Avg. Episode Length
24 minutes
Explicit
No
Language
English

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