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August 4 & 7: from Port-au-Prince, Haiti - the United States - Huntsville, Alabama - Ulvohamm, Sweden

A branch of Fonkoze, Hait's largest microcredit bank (photo/Amber Hildebrandt/CBC)

From Haiti, the story of a remarkable bank that provides literacy along with its loans

Thirty days. Thirty states. Thirty mosques. A Ramadan roadtrip reveals a faith of many faces. 

Is the key to clean energy buried beneath Nevada? We have the story of thorium.

And what a stinky fish dish says about the Swedish national identity.

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The Jamia Masjid in Las Vegas, one of 30 mosques visited by Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq during Ramadan last year (Photo/30mosques.com)

Ramadan Roadtrip USA

For many Muslims, Ramadan -- which begins this week -- means a month of fasting and spiritual reflection at their local mosque.

But for our next contributors, it meant roadtrip!

During last year's month of Ramadan, Aman Ali and Bassam Tariq travelled to 30 mosques in 30 different American states, and learned a few new facts about their faith.

They knew they would. The year before they went to 30 different mosques in New York City.

Here's Aman to start us off with a sampling of tales from their 20,000 km 2010 Ramadan roadtrip.

  Listen to tales from the roadtrip

Listen here to what happened to Aman and Bassam in the Deep South, on the highways of Alabama

Aman and Bassam are taking to the road again this year, to visit the 20 states they missed last time. You can find more in their blog, 30mosques.com


Credit and confidence  

Fonkoze client Mimose Clerjeau, 53, in front of her new home (photo/Amber Hildebrandt/CBC)

Eighteen months since the earthquake, Haiti is still looks like a war zone, and the political landscape seems just as unstable. 

But dig a little deeper and there is pride and progress. 

CBC Correspondent Connie Watson found a case in point: the story of some very determined women, and a small bank, just as determined to help them raise themselves out of poverty and uncertainty.

Listen to Connie's dispatch

Click here for a photo gallery and feature article on Fonkoze .

 Connie's report on the conflicts of land title in Haiti on the June 9 program.


Thorium in a drum

The reactor crisis in Japan this spring prompted a lot of talk, and substantial action, with some countries now shying away from expanding their reactor programs.

Turns out there is a clean nuclear alternative with very little risk of a meltdown. Buried in the Nevada desert are a few hundred drums of a common mineral that could power every state in the U.S.

It's called thorium, mostly used in lightbulbs and welding. But capable of powering nuclear reactors in liquid or solid form. In the '50s, the U.S. looked into it until promoters of uranium reactors muscled it out.

But thorium remains cheaper. And safer. And some say it holds the key to a future of clean and affordable energy. The catch? Billions in startup costs, and not many investors as long as uranium's around.

Which is why the American military dumped -- ah, stored -- all that thorium under Nevada in 2005 after sitting on it for 50 years.

But thorium's defenders live in hope. Kirk Sorensen is one of them. He's a nuclear technology engineer, formerly with NASA -- and a bit of a voice in the American nuclear wilderness, it has to be said. He spoke to Rick from Huntsville, Alabama...

  Rick's interview with Kirk

Kirk Sorensen is a nuclear technology engineer with Teledyne Brown Engineering in Huntsville, Alabama. On his Twitter page he describes himself as a "thorium evangelist."

After that interview originally aired, we received this letter from John Robertson in Deep River, Ontario, who wrote to say he was a scientist with Atomic Energy of Canada back in 1978, and did tests on thorium:

In a CANDU reactor, the present fuel -- uranium oxide -- would be replaced by a similar ceramic -- thorium oxide....tests by AECL before I retired in 1985 demonstrated the performance of the two is very similar. 

The simple reason that thorium is not yet being exploited, is that as long as uranium is at its present price, it produces electricity at a lower cost.

There are more letters in Your Dispatches.

Watch an NDTV report on an experimental thorium reactor in India 

And read about China's new thorium reactor project, with thanks to listener Wayne Liston of Vancouver.


Haiti...Rumours Of Glory here

This week on our Soundtrax feature, another piece of music forever linked to a world event witnessed by a Dispatches listener.

  Tom Ross's musical memory

It may have a smell that can clear a room, quick. But surströmming is much-loved by Swedes. Photo/Zachary Finkelstein

Wider horizons, by way of rotten herring

Here on Dispatches, we strive to bring you stories that soar to near-spiritual planes.

This next one is about a food so foul, it's banned from commercial planes.

It's called surströmming. Which means, rotten herring - with a scent somewhere between rotten eggs and a pig farm.

But it's dear to the Swedish national identity. All the more so, now that this traditional dish might be banned by the EU! And that would be a shame.

Kalli Anderson has the story from Sweden.

Get a taste of Kalli's dispatch

 An update to that story: the Swedish government is going to bat for the traditionalists. It's asking the European Union to extend its special exemption so surstromming can continue to be sold. 

The country's Agriculture Minister says safety concerns over dioxins in the fish can be addressed with improved consumer information, while adding, oddly enough, he himself is not a fan of the fragrant fish.

And since we're ON a Scandanavian roll.

Next week we'll get into a dish from Norway that even grosses out Norwegians. It's called Smalahove, and you know rustic dining till you hunker down in front of a big ol' bowl full of sheep skulls staring at you.

 And that's Dispatches for this week.

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

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