The UN's World Food Program is the aid agency of last resort for displaced families. It rushes in when war or natural disaster drives people from their homes. The long Syrian conflict, though, is breaking its budget.
The UN agency says the budget shortfall means some 1.7 million Syrian refugees — in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon — will no longer receive food vouchers to purchase food from local shops. These vouchers help refugees eat and provide an economic boost for local communities that bear the brunt of the refugee influx. The World Food Program says it needs more than $60 million immediately to fully fund the relief for Syrian refugees through December.
The problem has arisen because governments around the world have failed to follow through on their promises of Syrian refugee assistance, according to the The New York Times. The US recently contributed about $125 million, though more than half of that went to fund operations in November. The UN food program as a whole is in danger of running out of money in February.
PRI's The World recently reported on how the after-Thanksgiving Black Friday discounts in the US have gone global. Now, the counterweight to consumerism, Giving Tuesday — which celebrates generosity and spurs people to give to non-profit causes — has spread from the US to nine other countries.
The Non Profit Times estimates that Giving Tuesday generated more than $30 million of donations in the US alone last year. There's still time for you to get into the giving spree, using the hashtag #GivingTuesday. Support PRI, the non-profit that brings you the daily Global Scan.
An Austrian woman threw another log into her wood stove recently to perk it up a bit — and, boy, did it. After the log caught fire, it literally exploded. Police who responded to the explosion were confused, because there seemed to be nothing but firewood in the stove.
Turns out, though, the tree had grown around a World War II-era grenade that had been thrown, had never exploded and had gotten stuck in the tree. The grenade was covered when the tree was cut down. The AP reports that the woman's heavy-duty cast iron stove managed to contain the blast and prevent damage to her and her home.
Mexico has one of the world's highest obesity rates, competitive with the US. Public health experts blame a lot of that problem on the country's affinity for sugary sodas. In the last year, though, soda purchases have dropped and public health officials say the reason is simple: a new tax on sodas aimed at curbing their popularity.
PRI's The World reports that soda consumption declined 10 percent compared to last year, while bottled water purchases rose 13 percent. The tax is one peso a liter, or about 7 US cents. But not so fast, say soda companies. They attribute the decline in soda sales to the country's weak economy.
Defense contractors, utilities, airlines and energy companies have all seen their computer systems infiltrated in recent years — the victims of a massive, and previously unexposed, hack attributed to the Iranian government. The Jerusalem Post reports that the attack, which is linked to the same Tehran-based group that attacked a US Navy network, could eventually lead to physical damage.
A California-based company, Cylance, uncovered the breach, which they say affects at least 50 companies and organizations in 16 countries, including the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, France, England and even China. Iran has invested heavily in cyber-warfare capabilities in the wake of the Stuxnet attack, which was believed to be a joint US-Israeli effort to slow down the country's nuclear program.
When someone dies, families and friends often turn to long-observed rituals to help say goodbye. Whether it's an Irish wake or a Hindu funeral pyre, the culture and customs of death are distinct and — usually — comforting to the ones left behind. Photographers Bastienne Schmidt and Philippe Cheng, her husband, caught many of those customs on camera.
As part of a special series on death and dying from PRI's To The Best of Our Knowledge, Schmidt and Cheng shared their photos with us. They offer a heart-felt look at the different ways Americans say goodbye.
Australia just finished a record stretch of warm weather, with 13 consecutive days above 40 degrees Celsius, or 104 degrees Fahrenheit. That made the most recent spring the warmest in Australia since record-keeping began in 1910. It supplanted last year's spring, which was the previous warmest, according to the BBC. The heat has also been dry, with some areas of the country reporting rainfall 34 percent below normal.
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