Promo Box: January 2012 Archives

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Costa Rican government responds to cane-cutter investigation

Sugarcane workers board buses at dawn, to work for labour contractors at the Nicaraguan plantation Ingenio San Antonio. The buses return the workers home a full 12 hours later (photo: Kate Sheehy & Sasha Chavkin/ICIJ)

Recently on Dispatches we found out about a mysterious growth of chronic kidney disease in Central America.

Rick spoke with Sasha Chavkin, an investigative journalist who started looking into why so many young men who cut sugar cane in Central America have fallen ill, and why so many have died. 

And now, since Sasha's piece was published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, the Costa Rican government has announced it's launched a study into the causes of chronic kidney disease in its sugarcane-producing northern region. And, one the country's biggest sugar producers has promised to overhaul its worker health and safety policies.

Sasha reports:

The Costa Rican study will survey some 800 people -- mostly men -- in selected from eight of the hardest hit towns and villages in the country's northernmost province, Guanacaste. This sampling will include both a group that has CKD and a group that does not. Researchers will compare their answers to a survey that measures their exposure to various risk factors. The factors being tested include pesticide exposure, heat stress, overuse of pain medication, and consumption of home-brewed and potentially tainted alcohol known as guaro.

As for the sugarcane company's plans, Sasha writes:

One major Costa Rican plantation, the Ingenio El Viejo, isn't waiting for the government study. Days after ICIJ's investigation was published in Costa Rica's La Nacion newspaper, the plantation adopted a policy of supplying cane workers with a hydrating solution. The company has also started working with doctors from the national health service to develop a complete plan to keep CKD from afflicting its fulltime workers, and provide workers with access to CKD screening.
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Surfing with the crocs in a Borneo river

Boats pull surfers to catch the nearly endless flow of waves on the Batang Lupar River in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. Photo/Maria Bakkalapulo

Malaysian Borneo, nature gets turned on its head once a month.

Fishermen in Sarawak can go down to the river bank and pluck saltwater shrimp from freshwater.

But this unnatural event, has a natural cause. The surging tidal bore of Sarawak sucks them in from the sea.

And for others, surfing it seems the natural thing to do.

Despite the crocodiles. Listen to Maria Bakkalapulo's View From Here.

If you've seen some natural phenomenon during your experience overseas, email a little dispatch about it to dispatches@cbc.ca and I'll see about getting it on the program. 


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Jamaicans say "we should have remained a British colony"

Jamaica celebrates 50  years of independence this year.  But the government says it wants to go further and it's calling for a complete break with Britain.  

Right now, it's a "commonwealth realm," like Canada, with the Queen as its monarch and head of state.

But Jamaica's plans to re-invent itself as a republic, come as surveys show most people aren't enjoying independence, and wish their country had  remained a colony. 

Bit of a patriotic paradox really.  One that's weighing on the anniversary preparations, as Dispatches contributor Nick Davis discovered after dropping in on a musician who's marking it with music.  

Nick's dispatch

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India's surprise link to the heyday of jazz

Carlton Kitto (l) rehearses with fellow musicians in Calcutta, India, where Kitto continues his lifelong career as a Jazz musician. Photo/ courtesy of "Finding Carlton".

India's spicy import

Jazz! Since birth in the early 19-hundreds in the southern U.S., it's gone on to find a home in many other countries.

Soho Blues is thought to be the first jazz ever recorded...in India, way back in 1926 in Calcutta, led by Canadian trumpeter Jimmy Lequime.

It was all a long time ago, but some wonder who were these players?

And how did jazz wind up in India?

Filmmaker Susheel Kurien traced it from the twenties to a man in Calcutta today, one of the few jazz musicians left in India, custodian of a fading culture.

His documentary is called Finding Carlton; the story of jazz in India

Rick's interview with Kurien          Find more on Finding Carlton here 


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Dutch pot cafes take heat

The CBC Radio's trailbreakers series will pre-empt the Dispatches Thursday Radio One broadcast Jan 12-Feb 2. Podcasts and web editions (cbc.ca/dispatches) of the show will still be available, as usual, around midday on Thursdays.The Sunday-evening Radio One broadcast, Sirius, U.S. and other broadcasters will not be affefcted.


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,)

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. 

Now there are plans afoot to restrict where and who can fire up a phatty.

Melanie Sevcenko visits one smokers' haven. 

 Melanie's documentary

The January 5 Dispatches program