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January 14 & 17: from Sana'a, Yemen - Beirut - Freetown, Sierra Leone - Montreal

We go inside Yemen to see why it's been such a good fit for the forces of al-Qaeda.

A look at the land-grab industry. Agribusiness sees a global market for arable land, but the developing world might be selling off its future food security.

And, a story of lust from Lebanon. How Hezbollah is using sex as a means of recruitment and control. 

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What, Yemen worry?

Yemen's reputation as a haven for extremists has been burnished of late by reports suggesting it's the place the Christmas Day bomber got his explosives.

But its association with Islamic militants like al-Qaeda had galvanised the global intelligence community at least ten years ago, after an American destroyer was attacked in a Yemen port.

For the rest of us scrambling to understand it, Yemen is a very intriguing place.

The first democratic country in the Arab world. And one of the world's most corrupt, presided over by the same President for 30 years.

It's beset by poverty, but on the receiving end of cash from Saudi Arabia -- and billions from the Brits and Americans as well.

If they expect Yemen to help eliminate al-Qaeda, it'll be maneuvering for even more -- as we hear from Dispatches contributor Yolande Knell, attending a show of Yemen's strength.

Yolande's dispatch...

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Yemen's motives and stability are suddenly a matter of global concern. Under longtime President Ali Abdallah Salih, it's been a democracy pretty much in name only.

And now, with its natural resources in drastic decline, the prospect of a failed state on a key shipping lane smack in the middle of the oil-rich middle East keeps them working late in Whitehall and Langley, Virginia.

Yemen's behavior came in for debate recently at a gathering of correspondents at London, England's The Frontline Club, a journalists' forum in London, England.

Here's an excerpt, featuring journalists Abdallah Homouda, and Ginny Hill. And it begins with Victoria Clark, author of the book Yemen: Dancing On The Heads Of Snakes.

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Hezbollah's Wife for a Night!

Hezbollah is a banned terrorist organisation in Canada. But in Lebanon, it's a thriving paramilitary and political force that offers its members health care, education, and now, sex.

As Shi'ite Muslims, Hezbollah seems to be reviving the old practice of mutaa.

For a price, a dowry, they can have sex within a temporary marriage that can last an hour, or a year.

Journalist Hanin Ghaddar was once approached for a temporary marriage. And declined.

But says the practice is growing among the country's million-strong Shia community, and much faster since 2006.

She wrote about it recently in Foreign Policy magazine, noting, for Hezbollah, it's also a means of control and recruitment. She's a journalist with the online publication Lebanon NOW.

Hanin Ghaddar in Beirut...

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The great African land grab

In Sierra Leone, up on the bulge of northwest Africa, prosperity is measured in rice.

They even have a saying: if you haven't eaten rice today, you haven't eaten.

The slave-traders who went there centuries ago called it "The Rice Coast," and people from Sierra Leone, known as the Gulas, developed the rice plantations in the Carolinas in the colonies.

Back home, rice is grown mostly on small family farms.

Before the civil war that decimated Sierra Leone from 1991 until 2002, it produced enough rice to feed itself and to export some.

Now, foreign corporations are taking over vast tracts of farm land. Rice is being replaced by sugar cane.

To be converted to ethanol for foreign industries and cars.

Any chance these big land deals might hurt Sierra Leone's struggling ability to feed itself again?

Well, not to worry.

It's all been arranged, apparently. Even if there are some big questions as to how, as we hear from Canadian journalist Joan Baxter.

Joan's documentary...

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Joan describes one case of land in transition. Devlin Kuyek presents a more global picture.

He's a researcher with the non-profit organisation known as GRAIN, Genetic Resources Action International.

Delvin in Montreal...

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To learn about Grain go to their website ...and land-acquisition activist website

Portfolios Of The Poor

Many of Africa's family farmers get by on about two-dollars a day...

So do nearly three-billion others around the world.

It takes a lot of effort to survive on so little.

To understand what that means, researchers spent a year interviewing the poor of Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. They found remarkable stories, behind the story.

It's all in a book called Portfolios Of The Poor.

Here's co-author Jonathan Murdoch, with the story of a South African grandmother who manages to save money despite next-to-no income.

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We'll have more about Portfolios Of The Poor, next week on Dispatches.

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

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