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May 5th, 2011
09:55 PM ET

Revealing Istanbul's Mysterious Mosaics

This week's edition of The Revealer on BackStory takes us to the bustling metropolis of Istanbul.  Turkey's largest city is home to the spectacular Hagia Sophia monument, considered one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture.  The building began life as a Christian church, but became a mosque during the Ottoman Empire.

The Hagia Sophia is now a museum visited every year by more than two million people.  Many visitors think they know everything there is to know about the building.  But, a Byzantine expert takes us on a tour revealing many of the museum's little-known secrets, many of which are hidden in the building's beautiful mosaics.

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Filed under: backstory • The Revealer
April 27th, 2011
09:53 PM ET

The Royal Wedding: Bringing you the big event

In just two days, the eyes of the world will be focused squarely on London, as Prince William and Catherine Middleton tie the knot at Westminster Abbey.  Billions of people will savor every moment, from the instant Kate steps out of her hotel to the big nuptial kiss on the balcony of Buckinham Palace.  And CNN will be bringing you every moment of the historic event.  Supervising Producer Alec Miran gives us a look inside the broadcast facility across from the Palace, to preview just some of what you'll see on Friday.

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Filed under: backstory
April 26th, 2011
03:49 PM ET

Chernobyl: No Haven for Wildlife

Today marks 25 years since the worst nuclear accident in history.  On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine exploded, killing at least 30 people and sending hundreds of others to the hospital.  Soviet authorities evacuated 200,000 people from the area, and set up an exclusion zone the size of Switzerland around the crippled plant.  Millions of people were exposed to radiation, and thousands developed thyroid cancer.  Despite that, the United Nations says there has been no major public health impact in the decades since the accident.  But radiation experts say the true health costs of the disaster are still unknown.

Anecdotal evidence suggests beavers, deer, hawks, eagles and other wildlife have returned to the Chernobyl exclusion zone in abundance since people fled the area in 1986.  But one radiation ecologist says that picture is misleading.  Biology Professor Tim Mousseau of the University of South Carolina says biodiversity in the area around Chernobyl has dropped dramatically since the meltdown.  Last year, he and his colleagues published a census of wildlife in the exclusion zone.  He talked with BackStory about his findings.

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Filed under: backstory • Russia
April 22nd, 2011
06:59 PM ET

Oil spill taking toll on Gulf animals

It's been one year since the BP oil spill devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast, sending 4.9 million barrels of oil gushing out into the waters of the Gulf.   But scientists say it could take years, even decades, before we know the full environmental impact of the spill.

Just in the past few months, hundreds of sea turtles and dolphins has washed up dead on the shores of the Gulf Coast.  It's not clear just how many of those deaths are directly connected to the spill.  But scientists say it's an unusual – and troubling – development.  Rob Marciano takes us out with a Mississippi group that answers the call of animals in distress.

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Filed under: backstory • Gulf oil spill