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September 9 & 12 - from Gudvangen, Norway - Oakland, CA - Chelsetoon, Afghanistan - Mexico City - Oklahoma

The marshes of Southern Iraq (Photo/Nature Iraq)

Heating up the plaza: Journalists in Mexico are being terrorized out of reporting the country's escalating drug wars. 

How an American school menu got "nuggetized" and Oakland, California became a "food desert."

In the garden of Wali Mohammed, small problems are solved.  Perhaps there's a lesson in it about Afghanistan's big ones.

Restoring the Garden of Eden. One man's struggle to bring back the fabled Marshes of southern Iraq.

And, going berserk: a story of modern-day Vikings. 

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Fish by any other name

The next time someone asks you the difference between Canadians and Americans?  Tell them this.

Tell them: catfish.

See, this summer found Dispatches on the lakes of the Canadian Shield -- where catfish is hardly anybody's idea of a shore lunch -- but also in the American South, where catfish is on everybody's menu.

Rick's essay...

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No fat-free lunch

"Feathers or leather?" a flight attendant once asked me, immediately one-upping anything I could have said about the chicken and beef  simmering beneath silver foil. 

But if airplane food is a flyer's eternal dilemma, consider the kids food being served up by the school lunch program in Oakland, California.

Some of it's not so healthy.  The rest of it just looks that way.

Little wonder childhood obesity is such a problem.

California may want the best for its kids. But the kind of food it's pushing seems designed to fail them, as we hear from CBC Correspondent Jennifer Westaway.

Jennifer's dispatch....

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Eden again?

All is not well in the Garden of Eden.

Some biblical scholars believe it was located in the marshlands of southern Iraq.  

There's always been a mystique around those 6000-square miles and the iconic Madan, the Marsh Arabs who live there on floating huts of woven reeds.

But weather and politics are being unkind to the marshes, making them a barometer of human behaviour, underscoring how water is threatened by human whims.

Saddam mined and drained them, to drive out the rebellious Marsh Arabs.  

Since then, drought and upstream dams have reduced the marsh to about a third what it once was.

But the marsh does have its champions, and one of them is Dr Azzam Alwash, a Iraqi hydraulic engineer who moved to the States years ago to study.

He returned after the war in the hope of restoring as much as forty percent of the former marsh. 

He calls it the Eden Again project, and it's daunting. But he calls himself "a glass half-full" kind of guy.

Rick's conversation with Azzam Alwash....

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Dr Azzam Alwash is the Director of Nature Iraq, the country's only environmental organization. He is in Sulaimaniya, Iraq.


Who will solve Afghanistan?

Security fears will keep some polling stations closed in Afghanistan next week, as the country holds elections to its lower Parliament.

Five years ago, candidates were being pulled from their cars and killed by the Taliban. 

This time around, there are 249 seats in play, and more than 2500 candidates contesting them in this latest test of Afghan stability.

But the wider political challenge is how to bring peace to the country.

Afghanistan has always had village mediators to solve local problems. It's less clear who'll solve the big ones, as we hear from Dispatches contributor Naheed Mustafa.

Naheed's essay...

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In the Mexican state of Durango this summer, reporters discovered  a prison warden letting inmates loose at night so they could go on killing sprees.

The reporters were then kidnapped by a drug cartel. And freed only after their TV stations aired a video that made a rival cartel look bad.

Thousands have died in Mexico's escalating drug violence, including 30 journalists. 

Most have given up reporting it. They know better than to stir things up. Tracy Wilkinson calls it "narco-censorship." 

She's an award-winning correspondent with The Los Angeles Times, and she joined Rick from its bureau in Mexico City.

Rick's conversation with Tracy...

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Going "berserk" in Norway

Glima combatants (Photo/Nacha Raman)

Once a year in Norway, people gather to get in touch with their inner Viking.


They don Viking clothes.  Swap Viking stories. Some even arrive ready to rumble, Viking-style. And they don't like to lose. Sound like fun?

Alright, maybe you have to be there. Luckily for us, Nacha Raman is.

Listen to Nacha's documentary...

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See some Glima combatants in action in our photo gallery


 Next week on Dispatches

Two young American-born Muslims have just completed an eye-opening road trip, crossing the U.S. to worship at 30 mosques in 30 states, during the 30 days of Ramadan.  You might remember them from last season, when they did 30 mosques in New York City.

Here's Aman Ali this year -- with what he learned about Islam in Oklahoma....

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Aman and his friend Bassam will be back next week with more tales from their Ramadan road trip.

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.

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