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May 27 & 30: from Harare - Kabul - New York - Nanjing

Get rich or die trying," says the man in Zimbabwe with illegal diamonds to sell. Our correspondent hears there's more death to go 'round than dollars.

What's wrong with Hamid Karzai, and can the Afghan president be fixed? Some answers from a soldier and a former diplomat who've seen his work up close.

For cocaine possession Amir Amma went away for 25-to-life, a sentence more fit for a murderer. But times are changing in New York, and so is he.

And, the suicide-catcher of Nanjing. Why does a man devote his life to stopping people trying to end theirs? Maybe he's saving his own.

Diamonds in a rough neighbourhood

    The discovery of diamonds in Zimbabwe back in 2006 could have been a cause for celebration in a country in such collapse.

But like the farmlands seized by President Robert Mugabe, it's becoming another opportunity lost.

His minister of mines claims this is like the so-called "blood" or "conflict diamonds" trafficked in other parts of Africa. But there are dissenting voices within Zimbabwe's coalition government.

Touring the region where they're mined, Canadian journalist Laura Lynch heard disturbing evidence that trafficking the gems is costing lives.

Laura's documentary

De/re-constructing Karzai

   Can Afghanistan's president transform himself from a "reputed weakling to overbearing strongman" in time to make a difference in the war against the Taliban?

(Farzana Wahidy/Associated Press)

The question's gained new currency since Hamid Karzai's recent odd comment that he might join the Taliban.

A former U.N. envoy quickly implied he must be on drugs, and called for new limits on the president's power.

While some think Karzai's credibility is shredding, others think he may yet be able to claim new political authority.

Scott Taylor is a Canadian soldier, author and publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine, with extensive experience in Afghanistan.

Gerard Russell is a former British diplomat in Afghanistan and Iraq, and is now with Harvard's Carr Centre For Human Rights Policy.

Scott Taylor in Ottawa; Gerard Russell in London, England

De-Draconizing New York's drug laws

    New York in the '70s was at war with heroin. The drug laws it passed back in the day were brutual, but stayed on the books for decades.

Possession of even small amounts of any drug incarcerated city kids in cells with sentences akin to convicted killers.

But now, nearly 40 years later, that's beginning to change. American journalist Maria Scarvalone tracks one remarkable example: a man keen to catch up after a generation in jail.

Maria's documentary

And a footnote to that story: Amir got to his son Tyrique's graduation after all. A friend rented a car, and since they were on a tight budget, it was eating turkey-and-cheese sandwiches the whole way.

Mr. Chen and the Yangtze Bridge jumpers

    Suicide is hard for most of us to comprehend, and in China, even harder to prevent.

As many as 200,000 Chinese take their own lives every year. Some of them jump from the Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, a city of six million in eastern China.

It's a conduit for cars, trains and pedestrians soaring 30 metres above the oily water. And it's an obsession for a local legend known simply as Mr. Chen.

He's a self-appointed suicide preventor. In six years patrolling the bridge with his binoculars and moped, he's stopped 174 people from killing themselves.

But he pays a price for it.

And so did American journalist Michael Paterniti, who spent time in Mr. Chen's dark world and profiles him in this month's GQ Magazine. 

Michael, from Portland, Maine

Letters

Some comments here, about our recent interview with Richard Gizbert, a TV host on the English service of Al-Jazeera, which began broadcasting in Canada this month.

Ron Neufeld of Estevan, Saskatchewan writes:

Unlike many of your listeners in Canada, your guest's...show...and other selected AJE programming has been a news consumption (of mine) for well over a year now.

This has been accomplished through the techno-miracle called podcasting... Fortunately for me, the CRTC's approval is neither required -- nor desired -- before subscribing to any podcast.

Despite my long term exposure to the so-called "Terror TV," I can assure your listeners that I still do not have the slightest interest in becoming a suicide bomber.

However, I do feel that I have a far greater understanding as to what motivates other's (to) do so.

 

That's from Ron Neufeld in Estevan, Saskatchewan.

And from a listener in Toronto who's asked his name not be used:

Mr. Gizbert's explanation, that Al-Jazeera did not want to include the word 'Defense' -- which is part of the Israeli army's official English name, the Israel Defense Forces -- should its use leave the impression that Israel was acting defensively while fighting against Hamas -- is outrageous -- and indicates its inherent bias. Would the CBC ever consider referring to the Liberal Party of Canada as the "centrist party" should their reporters judge it as not being very liberal?
Your thoughts; our thanks.

Coming up...

A word about one of those art-imitating-life stories our contributor David McDougall will bring us next week.

In the Nairobi slum of Kibera, site of post-election violence just three years ago, some of the victims are now actors in a film called Togetherness Supreme, about those deadly days. The place, though, isn't a lot safer now.

Listen to the promo

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

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