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February 18 & 21: from Zurich - Kabul - Cambodia - London

How an obscure political party managed to persuade the Swiss public to ban minarets from mosques. Wait till you hear what they're working on next.

Operation Moshtarak is rolling over southern Afghanistan. But has NATO got the target wrong?

Pop a pill, kill a tree. We revisit the drug trade that's damaging the forests of southeast Asia. 

And, the trouble with paradise; how Jamaica's turbulent past still shapes its troubled future.

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Behind the Swiss minaret ban

Alpine vistas. Discreet bankers. Home to well-kept time, and well-made chocolate.

And now, a new claim to fame. Now it's the country that voted to ban minarets from mosques.
No longer is the public to be plagued by the sight of those little towers from which the faithful are called to prayer.

Nossir. More than a handful turns out to be too much for the punctual Swiss.

Swiss minaret vote posters
In this Oct. 26, 2009, file photo, pedestrians walk in Zurich below posters promoting a "Yes" to the initiative banning the construction of minarets in Switzerland. (Steffen Schmidt/Keystone/Associated Press)

And now the obscure political party that crafted that campaign is working on a new one that'll put the run to all the foreigners -- good and bad -- because apparently there's too many of them too.

Canadian journalist Kyle G. Brown took in their recent gathering to see democracy at work, Swiss-style.

Kyle's dispatch....

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And the European Court of Human Rights is investigating whether the Swiss minaret ban is a violation of the freedom of religious worship.

If it is, the Swiss People's Party vows to defy the ruling. It calls the court a threat to Swiss independence, rivalled only perhaps by militant Islam.

The Party may be overstating its case. Then again, perhaps that's the point.

The new Afghan offensive

Afghanistan this week is a curious tableau of blunt force and calculated diplomacy, all of it directed at the Taliban.

On the one hand, there are back-channel negotiations and talk of cash to encourage them to quit. And on the other, this new NATO/Afghan offensive, to remind them their are consequences to insurgency.

Operation Moshtarak is a two-pronged attack in the southern province of Helmand.

NATO's sent 15,000 troops into the Taliban stronghold of Marjah, and another eleven-hundred to Nad Ali in the north.

The end game is to widen the campaign and recover ground the Taliban have steadily taken in recent years. It's the first big test of the American surge, and NATO considers this operation to be a big deal.

Norine Macdonald does not.

She's a Canadian lawyer, living about 30 kilometres from Marjah in the provincial capital of Lakshar Gah. She thinks NATO's got the target wrong.

Macdonald's been in Afghanistan for five years, working on security and development issues for the think-tank she leads called the International Council on Security and Development, formerly The Senlis Council.

Rick's interview with Norine Macdonald...

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Norine Macdonald's views on the current NATO campaign appear at Foreignpolicy.com

Ecstasy and agony

Ecstasy dance music ...

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The tune is called Ecstasy, because that's the drug some take when they dance to it with their water bottles in their hands and "Save the Rain Forest" buttons on their backpacks.

The euphoric buzz makes E a favorite of western rave culture, though it can be deadly.

On the other side of the world, it's also deadly for the rare tree Mreah Prew.

There's an oil in the bark called safrole oil that can be used to manufacture a pure form of the drug, so poachers in southeast Asia are hard at work cutting the trees down.

To try to stem the slaughter, environmental groups and legal agencies are teaming up in the jungles of Cambodia in an effort to take down the ecstasy oil factories.

CBC Correspondent Michael McAuliffe is with them.

Michael's dispatch...

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Corrupted Eden

In parts of Jamaica, God is a gun. And gun culture, fostered by drugs and politics, has turned some areas in no-go zones.

It's a tragic continuation of the misery that started in Jamaica with slavery and sugar and foreign occupation.

Britain's role in it is a theme of a new book called The Dead Yard: Tales of Modern Jamaica.

Its author, Ian Thomson, joins Rick from our studio in London, England.

Rick's interview with Ian...

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Ian Thomson is the author of The Dead Yard, published by Faber and Faber.

A preview

Now a few words about an interview we're preparing for you next week:

Tajikistan. A chaotic little piece of strategic real estate on the Afghan border. An undefended border.One the Taliban has begun to penetrate. Nervous Russia and Chinese miltaries have already held military exercises in the region, anticipating it may be overrun.

But Tajikistan's government doesn't seem too concerned. It's too busy filling its pockets, says Donald Bowser. He's been the chief technical advisor to the U.N. Development Program there for the past five years.

Listen to a clip of Donald Bowser...

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The Trouble with Tajikistan, next week on Dispatches.

This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally. With technical producers Victor Johnston, Carol Ito, senior producer Alan Guettel and Rick Macinnes-Rae.

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