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October 22 & 25: from Kandahar - Accra - Berlin - Molokai, Hawaii

The CBC's Afghanistan correspondent on covering the conflict, the dangers of a runoff election, and the soldiers of Generation Facebook.

Then, the country that became interesting for all the wrong reasons. How Iceland went from cool, to the cleaners.

So you think you know hula? You don't know hula. Now "Pops" Pilippo, he knows hula. And he teaches how to dance it with integrity.

And soldiers spread the virus that causes AIDS. So why won't the U.N. test its peacekeepers? We look at the polemic and military policy in Africa.

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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).

Our man in Kandahar: unembedded

The prospect of another election in Afghanistan next month promises a new round of unspecified peril to Canadians and other NATO forces patrolling its roads and fields.

The CBC's James Murray is more than familiar with it, having just spent four months in the country, much of it embedded with the Canadian troops.

Right now though he's out on a break that's included a trip to Vegas and an NBA game in Boston. And kindly took a moment of down time to join Rick in our studio, with hair askew and a big blue tattoo, and eager to talk about the experience.

African Peacekeepers arrive with AIDS

Poster at U.N. office in Monrovia. (Photo/Judith Pyke)

In just a few months, Africa plans to create an army of its own. The African Standby Force. Available to deal with emerging crises anywhere in the continent, or the world.

But before it does, it hopes to come up with some kind of policy on HIV/AIDS.

Fact is, soldiers contribute to the spread of the virus, as the UN well knows from its experience with peacekeepers.

But even the UN refuses to test soldiers before sending them into the field.

If it did, some African countries might be disqualified completely, losing out on the 50 dollars a day its peacekeepers are paid.

AIDS policy is a controversial challenge to future of military peacekeeping, as we heard from Judith Pyke, heading for the UN Mission in the African state of Liberia.

Judith also attended a conference the Centre for Conflict Resolution held in Accra, Ghana to produce the handbook she mentioned.

Condoms on offer at the U.N. headquarters in Monrovia. (Photo/Judith Pyke)


Iceland on the rocks

For awhile there it was hip to be Iceland.

The New Vikings, as they were known, were creating the New Cool. Buying up global businesses and knocking down shots of vodka filtered through Icelandic lava fields.Icelanders stopped eating puffin and started flying to London for lunch.

Bubbie Morthens - (Photo/CBC)
Some called it "a hedge fund with icebergs." All this in a country with fewer people than Halifax or Victoria.

But that was before the crash. Iceland now, as everybody knows, is a basket case. The first state bankrupted by the global recession.

Journalist Roger Boyes has a long affection for the place and just wrote a new book about how a people lost all sense of themselves, and very nearly lost their country in the process.

Rick interviewed Roger about that, and how he sees Iceland drifting from the West to closer ties with Russia... 

Hula: saving Hawaii's spiritual soul

By the time the missionaries and Hollywood had their way with the Hawaiian Islands, hula dancing was little more than high camp and low art.

But in its true form, hula was actually a kind of cultural semaphore. Hidden signals and motions that tell a story and connect a culture to the cosmos.

And its secrets are still known to a select few. Dispatches contributor Hadani Ditmars was there to hear them.

Citizen Dispatches: Your letters

Markus Eymann of Edmonton, Alberta wrote after hearing our recent story on the burglar baboons of Cape Town, who are breaking into houses searching for food.

You may be interested to learn that the problem of baboons that you described on your show is part of a pattern that has been observed around the world.

As people eliminate large predators, smaller ones become more numerous and bold. You get rid of wolves and end up with coyotes, you get rid of sharks and you get rays, you get rid of lions and you end up with baboons.

The medium-sized predator often become a much bigger problem than the large predators were....more numerous (and) they eat a wider variety of foods.

I. Young of Montreal writes to take us to task for our bit on baboons:

I heard the story...after another about the deaths of five members of the Kennedy Road squatter settlement in Durban...and forced displacement of some one thousand persons...

Odd serendipity? Both stories depict a complex African nation in great social flux.

I do hope future dispatches reflect that other reality.

Our documentary on the punitive laws afflicting organic vegetable farmers in California drew this response from Darcy Maude who farms in Marysville, Ontario.

We need to ask ourselves why organic farmers in California are being scrutinized to such an extent, and forced to implement such stingent protocols when trying to grow food in a natural way; working with the environment, not against it.

...Lobbying efforts have led to new initiatives that work in favor of large corporate farms, and against small organic growers.

Would you rather eat lettuce that rabbits and deer nibbled or walked on, or lettuce that was grown on soil sprayed with Round-Up? We may not have a choice in the near future.

Our interview about the anthropologists embedded with American troops in Afghanistan caught the attention of Mary-Sue Haliburton of Ottawa.

This reminds me of the book, "Three Cups of Tea," which describes the personal gesture by Greg Mortenson who set out to build a school for an isolated village in the mountains of Pakistan....

He could not retain the trust of the people in the mountains and villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan, if he appeared to be acting as an agent for the U.S. military.

So the role of peacemaker and anthropologist is contradictory to that of war-fighter. You have to separate the two if you want to be able to build a workable peace.

Sharon on Vancouver Island heard Claude Adams' recent essay on Haiti, where the minimum wage is two dollars a day and employers want to keep it that way. One Canadian executive advised him to look at it in a "holisitic" way.

It is time for all Canadians to understand the black eye we are getting because of Canadian predator corporations in other countries - not only are these companies getting huge profits, but their income taxes have been decreased in Canada. 'Holistic' my foot!

Your letters. Our thanks.

This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally. With technical producers Greg Fleet and Victor Johnston, and senior producer Alan Guettel.
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