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Jan 5 & 8, 2012: from Amsterdam - Romania - Florence, Italy - Addis Ababa - Punta Allen, Mexico - Ukraine

From our correspondents around the world...

A tourist smokes marijuana at a "coffee shop" called de Dampkring (Atmosphere) in the center of Amsterdam. The Dutch government plans to introduce a system that would allow only card-holding members to buy the drug -- which could block foreign tourists from buying the drug at famed marijuana cafes (a.k.a. coffee shops). (AP Photo/Peter Dejong,)

Smoking, nope. The Netherlands considers a crackdown on notorious pot cafes.
Educating Roma.  A well-meant effort to address racism in Romania is going spectacularly wrong.
Lobsterman Charley's beaten back nature's attack on his livelihood in Mexico. But a man-made threat is proving a much greater hurdle.
A Canadian filmmaker documents the cultural challenges confronting black foster kids in Ukraine.
And renting the news, in Addis Ababa

Download the podcast (right click: save target as) 

Pot cafes take heat in Holland

Europe is a cafe society.  From Islington to Istanbul, leisure comes one cup at a time in the neighbourhood coffee house. 

In The Netherlands though, it can also be taken a toke at a time.

To the delighted astonishment of some North Americans, the sale of marijuana and hashish in select cafes has been public policy for years.

The trails of giggling tourists strewn like blissful breadcrumbs along the canals of Amsterdam inevitably lead back to one of them. 

But a shift in the political landscape means there are plans afoot to restrict where and who can fire up a phatty. Melanie Sevcenko visits one smokers' haven. 

 Melanie's documentary

Romania outreach to Roma falls short

Alin, one of the three subjects of Our School, is a rambunctious, carefree Roma child who's seen as "a problem" when he goes to the big, Romanian school in town. Photo: Mona Nicoara

Romania's building new schools to educate the children of the Roma, which sounds like a good thing for a population that's been scorned as gypsies, and ghettoised in Europe for generations.

But there's not much good about it really.    

The courts said Romania's history of enforced segregation is illegal, so the European Union put up the money to integrate Roma kids in 30 different towns. 

But it's flying apart. 

Filmmaker Mona Nicoara wanted to know why. So she's made a documentary she calls Our School. It features three Roma kids in a small town in Transylvania, where their prospects for a better future are being slowly snuffed out.

Mona, with Rick in our studio

Our School was shown last month at the Lincoln Centre in New York, and screening later this month, at film festivals in the Swiss town of Soleure and Trieste in Italy. 

Soundtrax 1968

We invite you to send us your musical memories from far-off places for our Soundtrax feature.

Here's one from Bill Metcalfe of Nelson, British Columbia, who was hitching through Europe when the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Maria Farandouri

"I was 22," he writes, "I got an enduring lesson in both music and politics.

"In Florence, Italy, a few days after the tanks rolled into Prague, I attended a concert given by (exiled) Greek musician...Mikis Theodorakis, in solidarity with the Czech people."

Listen to his Soundtrax 

Celebrated Greek singer Maria Farandouri with The Lad Is Troubled, by the famed Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis.  


Still front and centre: Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (right) delivers a speech during a massive peaceful rally against austerity measures on Tuesday, May 31, 2011.About 25,000 people took part in the protest organized by university teachers. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Got Soundtrax of your own from some distant place? Email us: dispatches@cbc.ca 



Flashback: The View from Here  

News junkies in Addis Ababa, getting their fix by renting newspapers in the city centre Photo: Maggie Downs

The View From Addis Ababa last March: 

Dispatches contributor Kaj Hasselriis reports from a part of Africa where they'd rather rent their information than buy it.


Listen to Kaj's View from Here



The lament of Lobsterman Charley

Lobsterman Charley, as he's known in his small fishing village in Mexico, holds up his latest catch, the venomous lionfish. Photo: Joey Gill

Far from the resorts and development of Mexico's East coast is the little town that lobster built.

Punta Allen has been feeding fishermen and an entire industry for many years without incident.

Until now.

Now it's got two problems.

One of them man-made.

The other, more poisonous, as we hear in the lament of Lobsterman Charley, heading to the water with reporter Joey Gill in tow.

Listen to Joey's documentary



Ukraine's mother of the many 

Olga Nenya and her foster children in front of their house. Sumy, Ukraine, 2008.  Photo: Interfilm Productions.

Being a foster child in Ukraine has its challenges. Black ones face even more.   

And it's the subject of a film, Family Portrait In Black And White, the only feature-length Canadian documentary selected for last season's Sundance Festival.

It turns on the heartwarming and headstrong Olga Nenya, who's looked after 25 foster children in all.

Sixteen of them, mixed-race.  The film was written and directed by Russian-born Julia Ivanova, who joined us from Vancouver.  

Hear Rick's interview with Julia

 Read more about the film here.

Family Portrait In Black And White won Best Canadian Feature Film at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto in 2010.
Listeners take note!!

For the next four weeks, we're loaning our Thursday on-air real estate to a special series called Trailbreakers, with Don Kelly.  It examines the conflicted relationship between aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canada.

But we'll still bring you original programming in the Sunday slot.

And our full program and podcast will be available online as usual on Thursdays.

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

We'll bring you the world.

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