Palestinian refugees feel sting of U.S. funding cuts to United Nations program

Earlier this month, the United Nations Relief and Works agency for Palestinian refugees in the near-east (UNRWA) warned that it’d have no choice but to make deep cuts to its programs, due to a funding freeze enacted by the United States Government. Last week, in light of a 217 million dollar funding shortfall, UNRWA lowered the boom: employees for a number of vital programs, including housing assistance, medical and mental health support, education and employment programs have either been given drastic pay cuts or told that they no longer have jobs. According to The Washington Post, UNRWA dismissed 154 of its employees, 125 of which are located in Gaza, and downgraded another 580 to contract workers. The head of UNRWA’s Palestinian employees union, Amir al-Miss’hal stated that in addition to this, UNRWA has also canceled an additional 1,000 jobs by ordering a hiring freeze of employees destined to fill in for UNRWA workers approaching retirement.

Unsurprisingly, shit is now going down: hundreds of UNRWA declared a sit-in, this past Monday, with threats from the UNRWA employee’s union of a strike that could throw Gaza into chaos. One UNRWA was so unhinged by losing his to job that he attempted to set himself on fire, this past Wednesday.

From The Washington Post:

Earlier this year, the U.S. cut around $300 million in funding to UNRWA, resulting in a $217 million budget shortfall. U.N. officials say the cuts are “the largest ever reduction in funding UNRWA has faced.”

Of the five areas in which the agency operates, Gaza is the most vulnerable given its dire living conditions and devastated economy after more than a decade under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.

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Apple rejects game about Palestine because political messages disqualify games from consideration

Liyla and the Shadows of War (Google Play link) is a game about a child's struggles living in the Gaza strip, and Apple says it is ineligible for consideration for inclusion in the Ios App Store because it would be "more appropriate to categorize your app in News or Reference for example." Read the rest

Smoke, Slingshots, and Spongebob: the Middle East crisis in photos

Startling shots from Gaza, Israel, and elsewhere depict despair and outrage at a seemingly-intractable crisis.

Mitt Romney does not understand how one creates a "dirty bomb"

Mother Jones today published a second part of the video secretly recorded at a Mitt Romney fundraiser in Boca Raton. The first bombshell will forever be known as "47 percent," but the portion getting attention today focuses on a response the Republican presidential candidate gave to a question about the Israel/Palestine peace process. The tl;dr there: he doesn't believe it'll happen, and intends to "kick the ball down the road" and let the next administration deal with it, or something like that.

But here's a derpworthy moment in the video that may be of interest to science fans, and people who have actually done some reporting on how so-called "dirty bombs" work.

Here's a transcript for the relevant portion of the video: Read the rest