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September 2 & 5: from From Zimbabwe - Oelwein, Iowa - Zurich

No minarets, we're Swiss.  How a Swiss political party persuaded the public to ban minarets from mosques. Wait'll you hear what it's working on next. 

Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, Zimbabwe, in this 2006 photo. (Tsvangirai Mukwazhi/Associated Press)

The trouble with Zimbabwe.  Blood diamonds are an effect.  Is President Robert Mugabe the cause?

 What's not to celebrate after three decades of Mugabe's rule?  An opponent tells us.

 Human heads in the trees. Roland Jarvis tells the story about why methamphetamine has such a hold on the American heartland.

 

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Swiss minus minarets

Aaaah Switzerland.

Alpine vistas. Discreet bankers.

Home to well-kept time, and well-made chocolate.

And now, the country that voted to ban minarets from mosques. 

No longer is the public to be plagued by the sight of those little Islamic towers from which the faithful are called to prayer.

No sir. More than a handful of those little gates "from heaven and earth" turns out to be too many for the punctual Swiss.

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

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

Kyle's documetary...

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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 anyway. It calls the  court as 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.


Heaven and hell of hillbilly heroin

 Maybe you've seen one of the clues there's a meth lab near you. Empty packs of cold medicines in piles on the ground.

Sudafed and similar over-the-counter medications are a key ingredient in methamphetamine.

But meth -- crank, crystal -- it's not just another addictive street drug. It's worse. Because it makes you crazy.

It means you'd feed nickels to your infant son because you think they're baby food, and he'd need surgery to remove them from his throat. 

True story. 

But manufacturing meth is big business in small U.S. towns. Perhaps because it's "uniquely suited to middle-America," according to journalist Nick Reding. 

He documents its rise in his recent book Methland: The Death And Life Of An American Small Town. 
 
Rick, and Nick, from St. Louis...

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Methland is published by Bloomsbury, and winner of the 2010 Hillman Prize for Book Journalism.

 

 Diamonds are a strongman's best friend

The discovery of diamonds in Zimbabwe back in 2006 could have been a cause for celebration for a country with huge economic problems.  

But like the farmland seized by President Robert Mugabe, it may become another opportunity lost.

His own minister of mines claims this is not like the "blood" or "conflict diamonds" trafficked in other parts of Africa. But there are dissenting voices within Zimbabwe's coalition government. 

Touring the region where they're mined earlier this year, Canadian journalist Laura Lynch heard disturbing evidence the gems are costing lives.

Laura's documentary...

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Since we first reported that story, Zimbabwe HAS received approval to sell 900,000 carats of diamonds, through the multi-national body that oversees diamond certification, known as the Kimberley Process.

Another review is set for this month, to see whether full exports can resume. But concerns about human rights abuses at the Marange mines persist.  One major American diamond trading network recently instructed its members to keep up the boycott of diamonds mined there, saying it's not convinced the abuses have stopped.

 

Mugabe:  Decade IV

Zimbabwe's President turned 86 this year.

Robert Mugabe. Still on top after 30 years.

Still untroubled by the nuances of democracy.

Nor does his rule appear to be impaired by the so-called Unity Government he entered into last year, with his bitter political rivals in the MDC --- the Movement for Democratic Change.

For example, he recently ordered foreign companies to hand voting control over to black Zimbabweans. Somehow neither the MDC or the cabinet knew anything about it. 

And the country's freefall goes on. 

Zimbabwe's plight is no surprise to Philemon Matibe, a black farmer forced off his land for opposing Mugabe.  An early candidate for the MDC, he's now among its critics.

He writes about it in his new autobiography entitled "Madhinga Bucket Boy."

 Philemon spoke with Rick earlier this year, just as Robert Mugabe marked a birthday.

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 Philemon reads a passage about a land seizure...

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And another, about a white wedding...

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Madhinga Bucket Boy is published by Mbedzi Publishing. Philemon Matibe lives in exile in Texas. That interview first aired last fall.

This summer, South Africa's Jacob Zuma -- mediating between the two sides in Zimbabwe's power-sharing government -- gave them a month to settle their differences, and work toward fresh elections.

Meanwhile in the United States, Senator Jim Inhofe has introduced a motion to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe. But the U.S. ambassador in Harare cautions that won't happen until "real and tangible" democractic reforms have been implemented.

 

This has been the last Dispatches of the Summer Season.  Next week we return for our eleventh season.


Coming up on the first program of our new season:

What's stopping America's food revolution?

A few weeks ago, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver won an Emmy for the reality TV series that took his "Food Revolution" from Britain to the schools and homes of Huntington, West Virginia -- the heartland of America's diet disaster.

Jamie Oliver on Huntington radio...

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 Jamie Oliver did fail. But what a story!  The CBC's Jennifer Westaway found it's not so easy in California either. Next week, she portrays the sputtering food revolution in the school lunch rooms of Oakland. ...

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This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally, technical producers Tim Lorimer and Victor Johnston, senior producer Alan Guettel and Rick MacInnes-Rae.

 

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