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October 1 & 4: from Kandahar - Mostar, Bosnia - Damascus

This week...Some Afghans who help the troops are being offered a fast-track into Canada. So why the skepticism about Ottawa's intentions?

Crisis in Fair Trade coffee. The worker-priest who helped create the industry disses corporate bigshots and the movement's own leadership.

The country of broken shapes. An interview with the correspondent who puts the horror back into war reporting.

From Bosnia, a school where ethnic factions get together in peace. Too bad the bus doesn't dare stop there.

And, Ladies Hour in Syria's ancient Bath of Roses, where they dip like the Romans did. It's a scream. Literally.

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Individual items from this week's show are not available. But you can listen to them in Part 1 and Part 2 of the programme (above).

Interpreting trust

In Afghanistan, helping Canada can get you killed.

Local interpreters and others working with Canadian soldiers and federal agencies are viewed as traitors by the Taliban.

And despite the disguises and dissembling they do to stay safe, some have been assassinated for it.

That's why Ottawa recently announced it will soon make it easier for a few hundred of them to emigrate to Canada, a promise welcomed by some of the interpreters -- "terps" as they're known.

But the CBC's James Murray in Kandahar finds others are skeptical, as you might expect in a country where trust is hard to come by.

Crisis brews in Fair Trade

Francisco Van der Hoff, as his name implies, is a man who lives in different worlds.

He's a Dutch professor. And a Mexican farmer.

He works on a coffee co-op he co-founded in the 1980s, the first ever certified to sell its product under a banner of Fair Trade.

Following his lead, thousands of producers in the developing world now skip the middleman and export directly to foreign markets, fetching premium prices for commodities that meet social and environmental standards.

Worldwide, it's a $4-billion industry. But it's in crisis, according to Van Der Hoff, a celebrated figure in the Fair Trade movement.

But then, he's a blunt-talking guy, as Rick discovered when Van der Hoff stopped over for a symposium at Toronto's York University.

They sat down in a grad student cafe, proudly serving Fair Trade coffee, according to the sign out front.

Weathered and white-haired, sporting worn jeans and a windbreaker, Francisco Van der Hoff looked every bit the worker-priest he set out to become.

Bosnia by bus

The hobgoblin of nationalism is again stirring in Bosnia.

While Iraq and Afghanistan command more attention, the Obama administration recently warned Bosnia against resuming "old patterns and ancient animosities."

The progress and the pitfalls are both on display, as our colleague Francis Plourde of Radio-Canada went on a journey into Bosnia on a suitably wayward bus.

The secret life of war

It's hard to say whether the horrors of Bosnia and so many other places would have been different if the outside press had been a little more brutally realistic in its coverage -- if the world had better known what Peter Beaumont calls, "the secret life of war."

He's a print correspondent who can't say enough about it:

In his book The Secret Life Of War, Beaumont calls war "a country of broken shapes."

But it's the human wreckage caused by bullets and bombs that informs Peter Beaumont's vivid journalism for Britain's Observer newspaper, where he's now the foreign affairs editor.

He says conflict distorts people and societies in less obvious ways too, often so rarely reported these can seem like secrets.

The Secret Life Of War: Journey's Through Modern Conflict is published by Doubleday in Canada.

You write...we read

Iain Clayre wrote after hearing our recent piece on the struggles of the Kelabit people of Borneo.

I know them well... and worked for years as a missionary in a related tribe.

My son, a Cambridge-trained anthropologist, spends a great deal of his time there, and has been in some trouble with the Malaysian government when he joined the nomadic Penan people in a road-block to stop the bulldozers....

(Their) habitat is even more at risk from the logging interests, as they have no (permanent settlements) but wander the forests in search of wild sago...and boar, deer or even python to go with it.

Dr. Iain F. Clayre, formerly of Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities, now lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

After our recent interview about explorer Percy Fawcett, who vanished in the Amazon while searching for the lost city of Z, we heard from Margaret Taylor, on Gabriola Island in B.C. She has her own memories of some of the same ground.

I was a member of a Royal Geographical society expedition in 1967... to the Mato Grosso (in Brazil)... to investigate the soils and human inhabitants of virgin wilderness before it was exploited.

We were in the region of the headwaters of the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon.

Forty-four British and twenty Brazilian scientists took part, spread over the two years. I was at base camp for three months.

Mosquitoes, ticks, spiders were a nuisance, and ants sometimes invaded the entymology lab to "remove" our insect specimens. Bird-eating spiders only invaded camp once whilst I was there.

The larger animals were around the fringes of camp -- medium and large cats. We had to be wary of the small, deadly snakes. The anaconda moved out.

Thanks for your email.

Bathing in history

    In the Syrian capital of Damascus, a bathing complex built by the Romans is still steaming away all these centuries later.

Ironically enough, this monument of the past, frees women from some cultural restrictions of the present.

It's also a field day for mothers who go wife-spotting on behalf of their bachelor sons, as we heard from Canadian journalist Oussayma Canbarieh, at the door to delight.

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