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September 17 & 20: from Kabul - Beijing - Ottawa - New York - Paris - Beirut - Kelabit, Borneo

In Kabul, people are jumpy and guns are getting pricey. What does the Afghan street know that we don't?

China's economic safari in Africa. The author of a new book documents Beijing's colossal ambitions on the continent.

Meanwhile Ottawa's decision to give less aid to Africa could cost Canada a seat on the UN Security Council.

From Borneo, the "wild dreams" of the Kelabit people, struggling to survive like the rainforest.

And from the Can't-Win-for-Losing Department: musicians in Lebanon win acclaim for singing in Arabic. Then lose it. For singing in Arabic.

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Individual items from this week's show are not available. But you can listen to them in Part 1 and Part 2 of the programme (above).

Kabul's testy times

In Kabul, they're hoping for the best, and preparing for the worst.

There's a surging market for assault rifles, as residents await the investigation into the recent Presidential election, which was marred by widespread allegations of fraud.

Despite Western assurances the city is safe, many locals have already made up their minds there's trouble ahead.

Sarah Davison is a Canadian freelance journalist in Kabul, and Rick spoke with her.

Beirut's musical mish-mash

Pop music is fickle. Fickle, fickle, fickle.

Ask Tiffany. Ask Dylan. Or, ask Yasmine Hamdan, because it's the same where she's from, in Lebanon.

Yasmine won praise from her fans for singing in Arabic, back when French and English were the cultural fashion.

But now that she's taking it to the international level, they're turning on her.

Seems the culture wars are alive and well and playing festivals in Lebanon, as we heard from Don Duncan.

Canada's U.N. ambitions

Minority governments like Canada's generally don't hatch huge new foreign policy plans when survival turns on bread-and-butter issues at home.

Especially when they've got Afghanistan and a recession on their plate.

But Ottawa does have one modest foreign policy plum in its sights.

The Harper government is lobbying for one of the 15 seats on the United Nations Security Council.

Along with the prestige comes influence over the course of international peace and security around the planet.

What are the odds of us getting it? Not what they once were, says the CBC's correspondent in New York, David Common.

China's African safari

Six hundred years ago, Chinese explorers reached the coast of Africa, and what a sight they must have been.

Three hundred ships, enormous for their time. Thirty thousand men at arms.

Today, China is funding the search for the ruins of those ships, which shows continuity with the continent's distant past.

But it's also financing mega-projects that will feature heavily in Africa's future: highways, factories and dams.

It's no surprise to Africa hands that China is investing big-time on the continent.

But the pace and point of it may surprise you, as it did the two Swiss journalists who've authored the new book "China Safari: On The Trail of Beijing's Expansion in Africa," published by Nation Books.

Co-author Serge Michel spoke to Rick from Paris.

Keeping progress pristine

Chances are you've never heard of the Kelabit tribe of Borneo.

Until about sixty years ago, nobody had. They lived deep in the rain forest, unknown to the outside world.

But not long after they were discovered, a Kelabit was competing in the Olympics. Another attended Harvard.

Long term though, meeting up with the modern world isn't such a good thing.

There's a struggle between progress and the pristine ranforest and the Kelabit's survival may be at stake as we heard from Dispatches contributor Maria Bakkalopalo.

From the Dispatches mailbox

Doug Hull in Ottawa wrote:

I really enjoyed your program on Uruguay being the first country to provide laptop computers to all its students. As the Director-General responsible for Industry Canada's "SchoolNet" Program, I had the great honour to be invited to join Uruguay's President in launching the country's school connectivity and computerization program in 2001 and sharing some of Canada's experience and know-how.

They chose Canada as their role model because, at the time, we were global leaders in that effort. Unfortunately, while Uruguay has rapidly advanced, we have fallen behind many other countries in better training out teachers and students to use ICT in a productive way in the learning process.
Our coverage of developments in Honduras after the President was ousted at gunpoint this summer prompted William Murray of Ottawa to write:

While I am pleased that CBC has featured the political troubles of Honduras, I am concerned about the one-sided presentation I just heard....The specific action that lead to (President) Zelaya's ouster was Zelaya's attempt to amend the Honduran Constitution to let him run for a second term...The bottom line is that Zelaya's actions were treason, and that he was legally ousted by the Supreme Court and his own party colleagues.

On a similar note, Dan Durst of Peterborough, Ontario wrote:

In August I was in Honduras working for an aid organization which works towards protecting the children of Honduras. During my visit I noted that things in Honduras are as usual and the rule of law is in effect and things for the most part are peaceful and orderly. For international governments to turn their backs on Honduras by cutting aid and refusing to recognize the new president could push Honduras into a lengthy political crisis at a time when stability and support are needed.

Finally, a note from Roz Wilson who heard our interview about India entering the space race and staking its claim to the resources of the moon.

The Globe and Mail recently had an article (saying) 40 per cent of the malnourished kids in the world are in India. A scientist even invented a wonderful peanut food and medicine for infants, and then the government said they must cease distributing it. So backward, yet in the space race!

Thanks for your letters. Keep them coming.

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

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