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Mariana van Zeller ...
 Correspondent / ... (11 episodes, 2008-2011)
Christof Putzel ...
 Correspondent (8 episodes, 2011-2013)
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19 April 2006 (USA)  »

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"Beach of Death," "Sex, Lies and Cigarettes"
25 November 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Beach of Death"

I had not heard recently about the chaotic country of Somalia, except for piracy, but this program powerfully depicts a crisis taking place on its shores -- the treacherous exodus of tens of thousands of refugees each year across the Gulf of Aden.

Packed into overcrowded fishing boats, many die of hunger or thirst on the three-day trip to Yemen, where officials automatically grant Somalis refugee status yet forbid them to land on shore -- so many are forced by their venal smugglers to jump overboard far from the beach into pitch-black waters.

Yemen, poor itself, has little to offer these refugees who have been psychologically scarred by their trip. So the humanitarian group Doctors without Borders offers first aid. The clandestine journey leaves the survivors at a U.N. reception center where they can get a little more assistance.

Meanwhile, documentarian Kaj Larsen and his crew are shown returning to the beach of arrival to find bodies of the missing that have since washed ashore, including that of a teenage boy -- a terrible end for people who'd bet everything on the hope of a better future.

Along the way in this program, we also happen upon a boatload of economic migrants from Ethiopia. In contrast, they do not automatically receive official refugee status and must be careful not to get arrested and deported. We watch this tattered group set out on a 130-mile foot journey through the desert in hopes of getting to Saudi Arabia alive.

Note to Vanguard: Why not do another program on the Ethiopian refugees? According to Wikipedia, they far outnumber the fleeing Somalis and with a desert journey thrown into their ordeal, they seem to have a harder time.

------------------------------------------------ "Sex, Lies and Cigarettes"-----------------------------------------

Here is an excellent documentary on efforts by the cigarette industry to target Third World minors and poor people who don't yet understand or care that smoking can kill them.

With cigarettes costing $12 a pack in New York City, Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man retired footnotes of advertising history, and smoking rates in the United States on the decline, companies like Philip Morris have targeted places like Indonesia, whose government promulgates no warnings about nicotine and where there is no age restriction for buying cigarettes.

That's the country where Aldi, a chubby 2-year-old, recently became world-famous, via Youtube, for puffing on his smokes like a pro. Documentarian Cristof Putzel does an excellent job of challenging politicians and industry executives about "the only consumer product which, when used as intended, will kill half of its longterm consumers." Putzel gets a female member of Parliament to say that cigarettes are good for the economy. Using an undercover camera, Putzel speaks with a Western trade-show attendee who admits he gave up the habit -- but as long as people smoke he'd prefer they suck on his company's brand.

This is a depressing and discouraging story, but, as one Indonesian activist points out, smoking is like a smelly fish...the stink is bound to make itself known and one day even places like Indonesia will reclaim their right to healthy lungs.


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