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March 29 & April 1, 2012 - from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico - Laos - Liberia - Iwaki, Japan - Kuatan, Malaysia

From our correspondents around the world...


A typical front page for one of Mexico's biggest Nota Roja tabloids. The term means 'red press', referring to the bloodshed it features. Mexico's drug war has provided them with plenty to write about. (Photo/El Manana)

All the death that's fit to print. Mexican journalists wrestle to report their country's descent into drug violence, and survive.

Rare earth is in everything from smart phones to smart bombs. But after one bad experience with the radioactive metal, is Malaysia smart to start refining it again?

Gambling on the Golden Triangle. A colorful entrepreneur is betting the punters will come to play in his golden casino in the Laotian jungle, despite trigger-happy druglords for neighbours.

And, after the deluge; as Japan counts the cost of last year's terrible tsunami, the latest casualty may be public trust.

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Black & White -- and dead all over

Surging drug violence brought Mexico together with the U.S. and Canada this week to talk about military co-operation to contain it.

But it took the Pope's visit to cause a temporary halt. Prior to his recent arrival in the country, one cartel hung out signs welcoming Benedict and pledging not to attack rival gangs while he's in the country.

With his departure, the killing that's claimed more than 47,000 lives so far has resumed. And with it, the debate over how best to treat it in the Mexican press -- that ranges from black-and-white, to red all over.

Canadian journalist Myles Estey has been watching it at work in one of the most dangerous cities in the world.

General view of Kings Romans, the casino in Laos along the Thai Mekong river opposite Sop Ruak in the Golden Triangle region bordering Thailand, Laos and Myanmar.(Photo: REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang)

Laos Vegas -- gambling in the jungle

There's a Chinese businessman in Southeast Asia taking big liberties with the line: "If you build it, they will come."

Zhao Wei has built a casino in Laos. On an isolated riverbank in the jungle.

And not just any jungle.

It's in the notorious, Golden Triangle, where druglords are used to running the show. But now there's Zhao, and his Kings Romans Casino.

Hard to miss. Big gold crown on the roof.  But Lauren Hilgers has been to see Zhao's big gamble. 

Lauren Hilgers' view from Shanghai

Lauren Hilgers is an American writer in Shanghai, and her story on Zhao's big gamble in in the latest online edition of Good magazine. She's also written for Harper's and Newsweek.

Mae Azango is a journalist in Liberia. She's in hiding fearing for her safety after breaking a national taboo and writing a story about a secret sect that practices female genital mutilation. (Photo/Glenna Gordon)

More from a Liberian journalist in hiding

On March 30 it was reported that traditional tribal leaders have agreed to a deal with the Liberian government to stop the practice of sexual mutilation of young girls.  This follows a brave expose by a Liberian journalist who went into hiding because of death threats for reporting the practice continues in secret. (link to Mae's follow-up piece below)


Last week on the program, we heard from Mae Azango, a Liberian journalist forced into hiding after receiving death threats for a story she wrote about the tradition of female genital mutiliation.

As she told us, some Liberians believe it deters adultery.

Since then, the Liberian government has cautioned journalists to be careful reporting the story but urged tolerance for her.

It also says it sent out letters to those who perform the procedure four months ago, asking them to end it.

Mae's reaction?

For the record, this is the first time the Liberian government has said it wants to stop female genital mutilation.

But the Minister of Gender and Development - Julia Duncan Cassell - admits there's a big difference between asking traditional leaders to stop it, and getting them to actually stop it.

Her comment

Mae's follow-up piece:

Your comment


38-year-old Yuriko Tanaka and her 5-year-old daughter Haruna pose for the camera at an evacuation centre in Iwaki, Fukushima, Japan.

Japan's challenge: re-build trust in state

Canada's Prime Minister looked at the debris in a tsunami-damaged school in Japan this week, and praised the resilient spirit of the Japanese people.

But he couldn't know the kind of damage done to that spirit since last year's earthquake and flooding. Especially in areas at risk of radioactivity from leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

If the first victims of the Japanese tsunami were human lives, the latest casualty is public trust.

The CBC's Kimberley Gale has returned to a landscape she used to know well, but is no longer familiar.

Kimberly's documentary

The site of a new processing plant in Kuatan, Malaysia being built by Lynas, the Australian mining company. It will ship rare earths minerals to be extracted here, creating radioactive chemical waste that locals say will threaten their health. (Photo/Kiera Butler)

Malaysia facing Rare Earth Disaster II?

Malaysia has the dubious honor of hosting one of Asia's biggest radioactive sites, the legacy of a refinery that once processed the metals known as rare earth.

So, some are wondering why the country has gone and licenced yet another one.

And sweetened the deal with tax breaks for a company that'll ship the raw material from Australia 4,000 kilometres away, to a refinery now under construction in the Malaysian port of Kuantan.

For Malaysia, it holds the promise of a billion-dollar export industry.

But what's it learned from the mistakes of the past? Journalist Kiera Butler went looking for the answer to that question and her findings appear in a story she wrote for a recent edition of Mother Jones magazine.

Kiera, from San Francisco, California.

Her article

The Christians of Istanbul

Here's a word about a story we'll bring you on a future edition of Dispatches -- about on a little triumph for religious diversity.

The tiny Greek population of Istanbul recently revived a once-banned Christian festival.

It's a small breakthrough for multiculturalism in a mostly-Muslim city that hasn't always welcomed that sort of thing, as Meghan MacIver discovered.

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This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally with technical producers Nima Shams and Gary Francis, senior producer Alan Guettel and Rick MacInnes-Rae.

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