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Recently in Backstory

Backstory: Hugo Chávez

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has been governing his country for the last month from a hospital bed in Cuba. Nikolas Kozloff, author of the book Hugo Chávez: Oil, Politics, and the Challenge to the United States, looks at the Chavez presidency and how he has maintained his grip on power.  

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Backstory: Christine Lagarde

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Earlier this week, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was officially selected to lead the International Monetary Fund. On this week’s first Backstory, Sophie Pedder, Paris Bureau Chief for the Economist, describes Lagarde’s political career in France, her track record as Finance Minister, and how she’s expected to run the IMF as economies across the world continue to struggle.


Backstory: Detainees at Bagram

Thursday, June 23, 2011

According to a new report put out by Human Rights First, the number of detainees held in the U.S. Prison at Bagram has nearly tripled, to 1,700 since 2008. Daphne Eviatar, an attorney at Human Rights First, examines what this means as the President announced his troop drawdown plan for Afghanistan.

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Backstory: Oman

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oman is a Gulf country we usually hear very little about, despite its strategically important location in the region and its great oil wealth. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, tells us about the country, its ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, and the harsh crackdowns on dissent there.


Backstory: Saudi Arabia and the Arab Spring

Thursday, June 09, 2011

As countries across the Arab World have been protesting in the streets and overthrowing decades-old regimes, Saudi Arabia has been trying to prevent the spread of unrest within its own borders. On today’s first Backstory, New York Times United Nations Bureau Chief Neil MacFarquhar explains how the Saudi royal family has spent billions of dollars to try to keep its people happy – and how well their efforts have paid off. He’s also the author of The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday.


Backstory: Debit Card Fee Vote

Thursday, June 09, 2011

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to keep new rules on debit card fees that were a major part of the financial reform bill championed by the Obama Administration. The vote comes after months of intense lobbying from both sides. We’ll speak with Ben Hallman, staff writer for iWatch News, an online publication of the Center for Public Integrity.

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Backstory: Update on the Protests across the Arab World

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Protests have turned violent across the Arab World. Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell gives us an update on the clashes between the police and protesters in Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain. Plus, we’ll take a look at the role that sectarianism is playing in those countries and in Egypt.

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Backstory: Drug Violence in Monterrey Mexico

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Monterrey is Mexico's financial capital and was once considered the safest city in Latin America, that is, until the arrival of the drug war. We’ll speak with Human Rights Watch researcher Nik Steinberg about the influx of organized crime and drug related violence into the city.

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Backstory: Prescription Painkiller Addiction

Thursday, May 26, 2011

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been a tenfold increase in prescriptions for opioids like OxyContin in the U.S. since 1990, and during that time the number of accidental deaths from drug overdose have nearly quintupled. In a growing number of states, unintentional overdoses replaced motor-vehicle incidents as the leading cause of accidental death. New York Times reporter Sabrina Tavernise discusses the factors behind prescription painkiller abuse, how these controlled substances are readily accessible to so many, new legislation aimed at curbing the problem, and why prescription pill abuse is so prevalent in Appalachia.

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Backstory: The IMF

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The hunt is on for a new head of the International Monetary Fund as the organization still tries to manage both global economic troubles and sovereign debt crises. On today’s first Backstory segment, we’ll take a look at the history of the IMF, criticisms of it, and its difficult tasks in today’s economic climate. We’ll be joined by Simon Johnson, Professor of Entrepreneurship at MIT and former Chief Economist for the IMF.

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Backstory: The Obama Administration's Crackdown on Leaks

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer describes how the Obama Administration is cracking down on leaks by prosecuting whistle-blowers. Her article, The Secret Sharer, appears in the May 23 issue of The New Yorker.  

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Backstory: UK Referendum

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Voters across the UK are heading to the polls today to vote in their local elections. There’s also a referendum on the ballot that, if passed, would change how the voting system works. On today’s Backstory, David Rennie, Political Editor and Bagehot columnist for The Economist, and Gideon Rachman, Chief Foreign Affairs columnist for The Financial Times, explain what that would mean for UK politics.


Backstory: More Questions from the Guantanamo Papers

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The release this week of government files on detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay have given us an unprecedented glimpse into the camp and the people who have been held there. The Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg looks at what they do and don’t tell us about the Guantanamo system.

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Backstory: Protecting the Tigris River in Iraq

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Tigris River is one of the most important bodies of water in the Middle East, but years of extensive toxic dumping and gravel mining have severely compromised its ecosystem. We’ll speak with Humbolt Baykeeper Executive Director Pete Nichols and Nature Iraq founder Dr. Azzam Alwash about efforts to clean up the river and the newly founded group, Upper Tigris Waterkeeper.

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Backstory: Ali Abdullah Saleh

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Despite 32 years of near absolute rule, the regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is teetering. A rapidly intensifying protest movement, along with an insurgency in the north and a secessionist movement in the south have put Yemen on the brink of unraveling. Christopher Boucek, an associate in the Carnegie Enowment for International Peace’s Middle East program, looks at how President Saleh has kept a grip on power, even as ambassadors from the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries meet opposition representatives in Saudi Arabia to work on negotiating a deal for his exit.


Backstory: The Legal Troubles of Silvio Berlusconi

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has had legal troubles for years, and now he’s facing several different trials, ranging from underage prostitution to tax fraud. Columbia journalism professor Alexander Stille describes the cases against Berlusconi, how he’s has managed to avoid charges in other cases, and how Berlusconi is dealing with his duties as prime minister.

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Backstory: The House of Saud

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Saudi Royal family has been a close ally with the United States for decades; they are also one of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East. Madawi Al-Rasheed, Professor of Anthropology of Religion at Kings College, London, looks into the history of the family, how they rule the country with an iron fist and why a nascent protest movement there has been suppressed.

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Backstory: Communications Management Units in Federal Prisons

Thursday, March 17, 2011

In 2006, the Bush Administration opened what are known as Communications Management Units, aimed at isolating inmates thought to have links to terrorist-related activity. Reporter and former Department of Justice Civil Rights Division Attorney Alia Malik describes these facilities, who's being kept under the restrictive conditions there, and why critics question their constitutionality.


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Backstory: Guantanamo

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More than two years after President Obama pledged in an executive order to close the detention facility at Guantanamo bay, the prison remains open. On Monday the President also reversed course and will allow military tribunals of detainees there to resume. We’ll speak with Carol Rosenberg, a reporter for McClatchy and the Miami Herald, about the reasons why the prison was created in the first place and what the future holds for its prisoners. We’ll also be joined by Emily Berman, counsel in the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Program.


Backstory: Moammar Gadhafi

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dirk Vandewalle, Associate Professor of Government at Dartmouth University, discusses the 40-year rule of Libya’s Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. Professor Vandewalle’s most recent books are A History of Modern Libya and Libya since 1969: Qadhafi's Revolution Revisited.

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