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May 31 & June 3: from Kabul, Afghanistan - Lima, Peru - Florence, Italy - Hong Kong - Mumbai, India

From our correspondents around the world...

The photo that started it. Filmmaker Quincy Perkins saw this picture of two Bomberitos -- kids on their own in the mountains of Peru who make their way to mountain accidents and disasters. Our Dispatches contributor went with him to the Amazon valley as he made a film about them.  (Photo/Stefan Sonntag)

There's no fire department, no auto club between the Andes and the Amazon. Just feral kids in homemade carts. Meet the Bomberitos of Peru.

The threat left behind. NATO troops leave Afghanistan but their unexploded shells will wage a protracted war on civilians. 

Why Hong Kong's superiority complex is turning into an identity crisis, 15 years after its handover to China. 

Italy's doleful demographic.  The birth rate's so low, schools are being turned into old age homes.  

And, inner-city Mumbai might look like a slum, but the land's worth a fortune to the crafty residents waiting for a developer's payday.


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Another generation faces Afghanistan's crippling UXO

A girl walks past her home in Parwan province. The East River Range, which is used as a firing range by U.S. and NATO forces, is seen in the distance. (Photo: Javier Manzano/ For The Washington Post)

In Afghanistan, the East River Firing Range near Bagram airbase is a free-fire freak show.

Combat helicopters pound sand on rocket runs. Troops stay sharp test-firing grenades and other weapons of war on the ground. 

But not everything they fire goes off.  And the duds left behind, or Unexploded Ordnance -- UXO for short -- is a classic post-war nightmare. Especially for those living next to it.

As NATO troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, they'll leave UXO behind where it's been claiming lives and limbs around Bagram.

American journalist Kevin Sieff is The Washington Post's bureau chief in Kabul.

Rick's talk with Kevin 

Kevin's article

Experts, by the way, say there's no surefire way to recover all unexploded ordnance. And one study reports there are nearly two-thousand contaminated firing ranges in the U.S. alone.

Peru's Bomberitos to the rescue

Bomberito means "little fireman" in Spanish and in the Andes Mountains of Peru groups of them use their homemade carretas  to help stranded motorists and truckers along the highway.  The tips they earn help them support their families.   They often help out when there are fires and natural disasters as well. 


Hevert (left) was a bomberito as a kid, helping rescue stranded motorists and victims of disasters.  They get their carretas up the steep highway through the Andes by attaching ropes, or just their hands, to passing transport trucks.  (Photos: Romi Burianova)


More on the film about the Bomberitos, The Little Firemen

It was one of those dinner party stories that sticks in your head. A rumour about kids racing homemade carts high in the Andes, acting as first responders during accidents and disasters.

They have a catchy name. They're said to do dangerous work in a dangerous region.

But are they real?  For Dispatches contributor Lori Chodos and a colleague, the voyage to find out was a story in itself.

 Lori's documentary








Italy's mortal pathology

Italy's fertile imagination has fired world interest for centuries. Its arts and culture remain its biggest draws. CBC correspondent Neil Macdonald sees much to envy, but notes there are fewer Italians to share it.

It seems fertility doesn't extend to the country's shrinking population, despite living in one of the most desirable landscapes on Earth.

Neil's dispatch



Hong Kong gets the blues


A neon-soaked district beloved by Hong Kong film directors, Mong Kok blazes with massage parlors and karaoke joints, conjuring visions of gangster shoot-outs. Triads, the local gangs, stay low profile, specializing in extortion and loan-sharking. (Photo: ©Mark Leong/National Geographic)

In the 15 years since Hong Kong was returned to China, the former colony has seen a dramatic shift in the balance of cultural power.

Residents used to feel superior to their mainland Chinese cousins.

Today, it's quite the reverse. 

Hong Kong is China's playground now.  And that's fostering a deep paranoia, according to Michael Paterniti.

He's an American journalist who writes about life in the former British colony in the latest edition of National Geographic.

Michael's conversation with Rick

Michael Paterniti's piece on Hong Kong appears in the June edition of National Geographic.  

More of Mark Leong's photos from National Geographic. 

Mumbai slum dwellers go for the green

An aerial view of the Dharavi section of Mumbai, often described as India's largest slum. The area is experiencing a surprising boom in real estate prices (photo: Reuters) 

Inner city Mumbai is not much to look at. Some says it's just a huge slum in the middle of India's biggest city. On the other hand, it's got location, location, location.

Which seems a contradiction, I know. But developers are eyeballing the land.  It's already pricey, and would be worth even more if the residents would just disappear -- or sell up.

Instead, they're playing it cagey, and renovating by stealth -- hoping to cash in if and when it goes to market.

Dispatches contributor Edward Birnbaum is heading up the stairs to see it unfold.  

Edward's documentary


From Your Dispatches:

If you'd care to comment on anything you hear on Dispatches or have a dispatch of your own: email dispatches@cbc.ca 

Here's a recent sampling:

John Haraschuk of Mississauga, Ontario heard last week's documentary about the restrictions on married women in Uganda and writes:

It's clear a large majority of Muslim Ugandan women have been indoctrinated into accepting marital disadvantage and abuse....

As an aspiring lawyer, and after hearing this program, I appreciate more than ever, Canadian laws which reflect the dignity of individuality, and protect against abuses founded on religious grounds. It is no wonder that Canada is held in high esteem, as a nation which promotes tolerance and individual freedoms


From another perspective, Navin Parekh of Ottawa writes:

I've been volunteering in (Uganda) since 2010...(resulting) in excellent friendships with some Ugandans. One ...is getting married (in) June.  I attended his marriage introduction ceremony during my last visit. It's a fascinating tradition of ...the Bukonzos.

A man from this tribe must have several million (Ugandan) shillings before he can get married, because he must give his bride's family a dowry.

Yes, a dowry that would definitely include 12 goats, and a long list of other items that the bride's family would ask for.


Also last week, we aired an interview about foreign workers recruited by unscrupulous contractors to work in Dubai, but find themselves contractually-bound in a war zone on an American military base in Iraq.

Nancy Anderson of  Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia heard it and writes

...if the (contractors) are getting so little for providing services, wouldn't that mean...they'd be inclined to deceive, enslave and desert their employees wherever they could get away with it?

"And if catching them at it meant paying more money, wouldn't most present-day governments be more inclined to poke out both eyes, rather than catch their contractors mistreating their employees? Hmm


Sally Winterbon of Elmira, Ontario heard our recent interview about the sudden fall of a powerful Chinese politician, and writes:

whenever I hear the latest newsworthy scandal from China, I think of all the good things ... in safekeeping in my memory (from) 9 years ... teaching English there. 

Here's a real success story just for you.

...a young man brought his lunch tray to sit across from me in the cafeteria....his training did not include any course in conversational English. Could we just have lunch together once or twice a week?

We did just that...Gradually I learned that he handled all kinds of problems in this way.  Acknowledge it, analyze it, do something about it.

After graduation he went to Shanghai to a job envied by many.  But what really drained him was city life.  He is a country village boy...and found something closer to his training in a smaller city.

Yet he missed doing all this in English.  Surely there was work abroad where he had not yet proved himself?....Joe chose a new international company, but (he) didn't take all of 2 months to decide this enterprise was "both new and bad".

Joe's back in (his previous job), happier and wiser.... promoted and given more responsibility in a reputable company on the fringe of the city with a view of the sea, and a forest on the slope behind.

Not bad for not-yet-thirty, eh!

More letters at Your Dispatches.


This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally with technical producers Tim Lorimer and  Brian Dawes, senior producer Alan Guettel and Rick MacInnes-Rae.

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