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March 11 & 14: from Nairobi - Gikongoro, Rwanda - Kabul - London

One of the Crisis Commons volunteers using Ushahidi on February 27, 2010.(Ann McDonald/toronto365.ca)
Saving lives online. How the calls of trapped victims in Haiti were tracked halfway round the world, translated and relayed to rescuers on the ground.

The disappearing bluefin tuna. It's been called the cheetah of the seas, but its survival depends on this week's vote to ban fishing it.

Landmines, kings and castles. Just some of the surprises in store for the Afghans born in the west-and gone searching for their roots.

From Rwanda, scarred bones tell the story of the dead, as a new generation of survivors grapples with the legacy of genocide.
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Who's Ushahidi? 

When rescuers in Chile and Haiti were searching the rubble for survivors, they were getting directions from a website in Africa.
The tweets and calls of frantic relatives were relayed to an online disaster website, which helped pinpoint where the need was greatest. It's known as Ushahidi, and it was originally created to track the post-election violence in Kenya, two years ago.
And now it's going global.
It's being used as a watchdog on mobile phone companies in the Philippines. And monitors human traffiking around the world. It even tracked blocked roads during Washington's "Snowmageddon."
Erik Hersman is a web consultant and volunteer with Ushahidi, in Nairobi, Kenya.

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Crisis Commons volunteers in Toronto on February 27, 2010 use Ushahidi and other online tools to help victims of the earthquake that hit Chile earlier that day. Left to right: Elise  Ondet, Steve Kalaydjian, Kate Jongbloed and Melanie Gorka.(Daniel Schwartz/CBC)


 Growing up Rwandan

    Paulina Mukakabanda lives in Rwanda, with something no 16-year-old should have to live with. Survivor guilt.
As an infant, she somehow escaped the slaughter going on in the room all around her.
More than 800,000 Rwandans did not, most of them from the Tutsi tribe, killed mostly by people from the Hutu tribe.
And its horrors are now being felt by a new generation, as Rwandan journalist Prudent Nsengiyumva discovered when he met a young girl coming of age in a fractured country.

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Halfghans meet the Afghans
    It's our nature to want to know where we came from. But knowing it, and living it -- that calls for quite a different nature, as Ariel Nasr is finding out.
Ariel is a Canadian filmmaker, born in Halifax, where his parents settled after fleeing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as many wealthy Afghans did back then. He's private-school educated. A degree in classical literature. And like some of his generation, he feels the call of unanswered questions from faraway central Asia.
He's among those who've packed their western suitcases, and moved their westernized selves to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, land of the kings and castles of family lore.
At the moment though, Ariel Nasr's just trying to keep warm in Kabul.
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Ariel Nasr was born to an Afghan father and an American mother. He's currently working on The Boxing Girls Of Kabul, a film about the Afghan National Women's Boxing Team.
Slaughtered for sushi
    Sushi is probably the second-worst thing that ever happened to the bluefin tuna.
We are the first. Our taste for this disappearing fish is driving it to extinction. A few weeks ago in Japan, just one of these magnificent creatures sold for $182,000.
The reason it's so expensive? There aren't many left.
Once there were millions. Now there are thousands. At the rate we're fishing it, there'll be none in just a few years.
There's a move to change that this month, as 175 nations gather in Doha, Qatar to consider a global ban on fishing the bluefin.
Frank Pope will be watching. He's with the Times Of London, and describes himself as the world's first ocean correspondent.
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Frank Pope is a marine archaeologist and the author of Dragon Sea.

And the CITES conference -- the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species -- is scheduled to begin debate on the tuna ban on March 17th, in Doha, Qatar.
By the way, the largest tuna ever caught? A bluefin landed in Nova Scotia weighing 1,496 pounds. (679 kilograms). But that was in 1979. There's been nothing like it since.

Your letters

A couple of weeks ago, we heard about Miss Ware and Miss Williams, a pair of elderly neighbours in Watts who've spent their lives raising money for underprivileged kids making their way through college.

Not a lot of money. Just enough to help out with a few books or a bus pass.  But it changed a lot of lives, for the better. All these two retired teachers ask in return is a thank-you note, and heaven help you if you get the grammar wrong.

Onni Milne of Vancouver heard that documentary and writes:

Thank you for the wonderful, uplifting report by Jennifer Westaway about two African-American seniors who have helped -- and are continuing to help -- to make a difference in a low-income L.A. neighbourhood.
We usually are presented with stories about the worst of humanity.  It is important to hear there are humans who are doing things differently and better.
That from Onni Milne in Vancouver.
Our interview about dodgy governance in Tajikistan, with international development specialist Don Bowser, prompted this note from Gail Berg in Windermere, B.C. She spent three months there last year.

The power shortages are ridiculous. If you don't live within a ten-block radius of the president's house, you ... only get electricity for two hours in the morning, and two in the evening. Pretty chilly in those old houses.

They are a highly-educated population who have no meaningful work, or if they do, they can't survive on the wage. My landlady is a doctor. She made 50 dollars U.S. per month. She just quit her job, and went to Moscow to work in a restaurant.
A very sad situation, but lovely people who are making the best of the mess they are in.
Last month, we aired an interview with Drew Sullivan on the perils of "libel tourism." That's where litigants from other countries use Britain as a court of convenience to sue publications on the internet. 
And I mentioned his research was funded by the Center for International Media Assistance, which is a project of the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington.

Then we heard from a listener --  Fred Richardson, in the San Juan Islands off Washington State, who writes:
I was listening with great interest right up to the end, when you announced his affiliation with the... NED. That rang my alarm bells!

NED...is well-known for both its documented, and its suspected, work as a front for the CIA. It has been called a "surrogate" for the CIA. Of course, I immediately wondered what secret agenda was behind the report.

 If you read some of the stuff written online about the National Endowment, you might get the same impression.

As Drew Sullivan himself told us "The NED/CIA connection is a long rumour but I haven't seen any proof. But let me ask NED, because it's not my job to defend them."

So here's what NED is telling him, and us:

Please assure your listeners that, contrary to the assertions of Mr. Richardson, the National Endowment for Democracy is an incredibly open and transparent organization, which has earned a global reputation as the world's leading democracy promotion foundation.

Over its 25-year history, NED has worked to support the efforts of grass-roots democrats, in every corner of the world, who seek to build democratic systems of government, that protect basic rights and freedoms.

Your listeners can be assured that NED and our grantees are hard at work, trying to ensure that people everywhere enjoy the same rights as Mr. Richardson - to speak freely - even when they are wrong.

That, from Jane Riley Jacobsen, director of public affairs at the National Endowment For Democracy, in Washington, D.C.

Your letters. Our thanks. Keep them coming to dispatches@cbc.ca
This program is the work of producers Dawna Dingwall, Alison Masemann and Steve McNally with technical producers Gary Francis and Mark Thibodeau, senior producer Alan Guettel and Rick MacInnes-Rae.
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