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Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Saturday, 29 December 2012
Today: Saturday 29th December

Our Guest Editor this morning is Dame Ann Leslie who has had a long and distinguished career as a a foreign correspondent. We will be reflecting on Britain's Olympic year with three athletes who won gold medals. Also on the programme, President Obama has expressed hope that American politicians can reach a deal to avoid big tax rises and spending cuts.

We are no longer providing clips of every part of the programme but you will be able to listen via the BBC iPlayer .

In the US, the White House and Congress are arguing about whether they can agree legislation to avoid falling over the "fiscal cliff" on Monday evening, when automatic tax rises and deep spending cuts are triggered that it is feared would put the American economy into reverse. The Republican majority in the House of Representatives has so far refused to compromise with President Obama. The BBC's correspondent Ben Wright presents the latest news.


The mobile phone is proving to be an unexpected tool of female liberation in the Arab world. Our guest editor this morning Dame Ann Leslie, veteran foreign correspondent, has been struck by the way they are being used by women to communicate beyond the watchful eyes of the moral police, and to turn a camera upon incidences of abuse. Robert Lacey, author of Inside the Kingdom and Fawziah Bakr Al-Bark, a professor of education at the country's King Saud University, debate the state of women in Saudi Arabia.

The medical student who was gang raped on the public bus in Delhi - a crime that caused outrage across the county - has died in hospital in Singapore. Andrew North is the BBC's correspondent in Delhi.

More than one in ten of those honoured in the New Year's Honours list this morning were involved in the Olympics or Paralympics. Our reporter Andy Swiss takes a look at who made it onto the list.

Sport news with Rob Bonnet


The year 2012 will be remembered, above all, for the Olympics and Paralympics - the games that dominated the summer, and probably surprised many people with their spirit. All the heroes of the summer are rewarded in the New Year Honours list, published this morning. Today presenter James Naughtie, spoke to Nicola Adams, who won the first women's boxing Gold, the rower Anna Watkins who won in the double sculls and Hannah Cockcroft, double gold medallist on the track in the Paralympics, about their experience of the games.

Paper review.


If you report on wars, which are so often sectarian conflicts conducted in the "name of God", are you more likely to lose your own faith? Is it possible for foreign correspondents, who may often see the very worst of humanity, to still believe in God? Our guest editor Dame Ann Leslie, who lost her own Catholic faith, spoke to John Humphrys and Edward Stourton.

Thought for the day with the Reverend Rob Marshall, Team Rector Designate of East Ham.


Do we hold America to a higher moral standard than other countries? Our guest editor Ann Leslie thinks Britain is anti-American, we say nothing when Arabs kill other Arabs, but we heap criticism on the United States if it is responsible for any deaths. She suggests it is a form of racism. Jonathan Freedland writes for the Guardian and New York Times and has written about our mismatched attitudes. Lindsey German is convenor of the Stop the War Coalition and co-author of A People's History of London.


We heard overnight who made it on to the New Year's Honours List - the cyclist Bradley Wiggins and sailor Ben Ainslie both knighted, the Paralympian Sarah Storey made a dame. Sports men and women dominate the list. But there are also ordinary people who have dedicated their lives to good causes; for instance, people like Mandy Painter who has been awarded the British Empire Medal for services to seriously ill children.


Is the modern obsession with celebrity really such a new cultural phenomenon? Our guest editor this morning, Dame Ann Leslie, suspects not. We brought her together with the historian Bettany Hughes, who specialises in classical history, and the novelist and historian Stella Tillyard, a specialist in 18th Century British history. Stella began by explaining there may be nothing original under the sun.

Sport news with Rob Bonnet


As a veteran foreign correspondent, our guest editor this morning Dame Ann Leslie says she has always been moved by the unselfish courage and stoicism of ordinary people she's witnessed all over the world. Their leaders however - whether elected or not - are quite a different matter. Dame Ann Leslie presents her view.

Paper review.


Our guest editor, Dame Ann Leslie, has spent more than four decades working as a foreign correspondent. Her lengthy and distinguished career has taken her all over the world, from Apartheid South Africa, to the fall of the Berlin Wall, to the Middle East and the Falkland Islands. As a woman working in this clubbable, male-dominated world, Ann was a trailblazer. But today the ranks of foreign correspondents have been swelled by a new generation of award winning female journalists like Alex Crawford, Sky News' Special Correspondent who won widespread praise for after she and her team were the first international journalists to enter Tripoli with the Libyan opposition last year. The BBC's Defence Correspondent Caroline Wyatt sat down with Dame Ann and Alex to to talk about covering war.

London continues to be a city apart from the other major metropolises in England, though there are signs that output growth has been slowing - how has its economic performance compared to the other major cities in 2012, and how much will it continue to storm ahead in 2013 when there will not be things like the Olympics to provide a boost? Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of the business organisation London and Alexandra Jones, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities think-tank debate the future of London's economy.

Our guest editor this morning Dame Ann Leslie has always found the poem 'Memorial' by her friend James Fenton profoundly moving.

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