Humanitarian Aid Check Blown Before It Arrives

Top Headlines

International

Shoddy Chinese-Made Stock Market Collapses

SHANGHAI—Proving to be just as flimsy and precarious as many observers had previously warned, the Chinese-made Shanghai Composite index completely collapsed Monday, sources confirmed.

Why Westerners Join ISIS

With more than 150 Americans accused of attempting to fight alongside ISIS in Syria and countless young Europeans allegedly joining or supporting the terrorist group, many are left wondering what a population of extremists has to offer Westerners a world away. Here are some reasons these people might want to ally with ISIS

Nicaraguan Diplomat Drops Deadly Spider Onto John Kerry’s Blanket

ISLA GRANDE DEL MAÍZ, NICARAGUA—Creeping stealthily into the bungalow where John Kerry lay sleeping after a trade summit Thursday, Nicaraguan Minister of Foreign Affairs Samuel Santos López, illuminated only by a sliver of moon, reportedly slid open the lid of a small pine box and released a deadly Brazilian wandering spider onto the blanket of his American counterpart.

What’s Next For U.S.-Cuban Relations

After 54 years of closure, the U.S. embassy in Havana and the Cuban embassy in Washington, D.C. each began flying their flags once more this week, a symbol of the restored diplomatic ties between the two nations. Here is what we can expect from the relationship going forward

U.S. Soothes Upset Netanyahu With Shipment Of Ballistic Missiles

WASHINGTON—Following Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s heated objections to the nuclear deal struck between the United States and Iran, American officials announced Tuesday that they were calming the upset head of government by treating him to a nice, big shipment of ballistic missiles.

World Begins Another Day At Mercy Of 19-Year-Old Estonian Hacker

TALLINN, ESTONIA—With the private data of national governments and entire global industries at his fingertips, sources confirmed this morning that yet another day had begun with the whole world helplessly at the mercy of 19-year-old Estonian computer hacker Jüri Pevkur.

FIFA Frantically Announces 2015 Summer World Cup In United States

Global Soccer Tournament To Kick Off In America Later This Afternoon

ZURICH—After the Justice Department indicted numerous executives from world soccer’s governing body on charges of corruption and bribery, frantic and visibly nervous officials from FIFA held an impromptu press conference Wednesday to announce that the United States has been selected to host this summer’s 2015 World Cup.

Items Found In Bin Laden’s Compound

On Wednesday, the U.S. government declassified more than 400 documents and other material seized from Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout during the 2011 raid that resulted in his death. Here are some of the items found in the former al-Qaeda leader’s compound

U.S. Worried About Living Up To Netanyahu Campaign Promises

WASHINGTON—Saying the Likud Party leader had set Israeli citizens’ expectations extremely high in the run up to his reelection Tuesday, top-level sources expressed their worry Wednesday about whether the United States would actually be able to...

A Timeline Of U.S.-Israel Relations

A congressional visit from Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that has reportedly rankled President Obama is the latest issue in what have often been strained diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Mankind Tired Of Having To Remind Itself Of Good In World

PARIS—In the wake of this week’s terrorist attacks on French newspaper Charlie Hebdo and two ensuing armed standoffs that together left over a dozen innocent civilians dead, humankind admitted Friday that it is sick and tired of having ...

Schlubs From U.S., China Meet In Lowest-Level Talks

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA—In an effort to strengthen diplomatic ties between the global superpowers’ most oafish representatives, sources confirmed Thursday that schlubs from the United States and China met in Australia this week for a series of low...

Iranian Team Openly Working On Bomb In Negotiating Room

VIENNA—Asserting the Middle Eastern nation’s right to a safe, peaceful energy program, members of the Iranian diplomatic team attempted to seek more favorable terms of a deal with the P5+1 global powers while openly assembling a nuclear weapon...

Where Is Kim Jong-Un?

North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public since September 3. Here is the latest speculation on his whereabouts

How China Stifles Dissent

Recent clashes with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have refocused international scrutiny on the Chinese government’s efforts to quell social unrest and silence demonstrators.

Nation Admits It Could Probably Be Talked Into Another War

WASHINGTON—While they acknowledged that getting behind such a plan might take a little convincing, the American populace admitted this week that they could, in all likelihood, be talked into another war. Citizens across the nation told reporters tha...

Ugly Custody Battle Over Ian McKellen Narrowly Avoided

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND—Following Scotland’s referendum Thursday rejecting independence from the United Kingdom, sources confirmed that a protracted and ugly custody battle over celebrated actor Sir Ian McKellen had been narrowly avoided.

Tips For Achieving Peace In The Middle East

With the Israeli-Palestinian conflict escalating, sectarian violence boiling over in Iraq, and Syria mired in a civil war that’s now more than three years old, the Middle East continues to be plagued by bloodshed and unrest.

Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away

CONAKRY, GUINEA—With the death toll in West Africa continuing to rise amid a new outbreak of the Ebola virus, leading medical experts announced Wednesday that a vaccine for the deadly disease is still at least 50 white people from being developed.

Who Is Vladimir Putin?

After troops from his country forcibly seized Crimea earlier this year, Russian president Vladimir Putin is back in the news for allegedly arming separatists in eastern Ukraine with the missiles that are believed to have taken down Malaysia Airlines Fl...

Understanding The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Tensions have quickly escalated in Gaza following the recent collapse of peace talks and the subsequent kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teens, with Israeli citizens now threatened by daily rocket fire from Hamas while Gaza residents ...

What Is ISIS?

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a formerly al-Qaeda–aligned organization known by the acronym ISIS, has been seizing cities in Iraq, carrying out mass killings, and marching toward Baghdad.

Understanding The Situation In Iraq

Violence has escalated in Iraq in recent weeks as the Sunni Islamist militant group ISIS has seized control of numerous cities and continued its advance toward the capital, Baghdad.
End Of Section
  • More News
Up Next
TV Listings
Just Like Everything Else!: Fox 8 p.m. EDT/7 p.m. ABC Pete's wife is still on him about building that darn shed, these kids are going to be the death of Sheila and Dave, and the hot next-door neighbor is up in EVERYBODY'S business! Sunday nights on ABC couldn't be any more familiar!

Special Coverage

Entertainment

  • How Theaters Are Trying To Win Back Moviegoers

    The number of Americans who went to the movies hit a 20-year low in 2014, leaving theaters scrambling to find ways to incentivize the public to see new releases on the big screen rather than watch films at home or on the internet. Here are some methods theaters are using to win back audiences and increase box office sales:

Satisfaction

  • Man’s Body Running Out Of Ideas To Convince Him He Full

    BAYTOWN, TX—Having repeatedly ratcheted up the 34-year-old’s level of discomfort with no noticeable effect on his behavior, the body of local man Kent Dugan confirmed Wednesday that it was starting to run out of ideas to convince him that he was full.

Humanitarian Aid Check Blown Before It Arrives

LILONGWE, MALAWI—A much-needed humanitarian aid check from the United Nations to Malawi was "totally blown" by the beleaguered Southern African nation before the actual payment arrived, government officials admitted Tuesday.

Grain that Malawi never should've bought.

"We've been living so hand-to-mouth lately that, as soon as we received word that aid was coming, we began buying some necessary items," President Bakili Muluzi said when reached by phone at his home office. "We got a little out of control. Then again, we couldn't bear the thought of another dinner of bark."

The $50 million check, a combination of funds from UNICEF, World Food Programme, and other U.N. agencies, was intended to help alleviate disease and famine in Malawi, which has been devastated by recent flooding and the sub-Saharan AIDS pandemic. Although the check wasn't due to arrive until Aug. 11, Malawi officials were promised the money on Aug. 4 and behaved as though the cash was already in their hands.

"When we found out money was on the way, we celebrated by immediately going out and buying 200,000 bushels of maize," Malawi Agricultural Minister Chakufwa Chihana said. "We even said, 'What the heck, let's throw in a little millet.' Big mistake."

Government officials also bought fuel and medical supplies, promising suppliers that a big check was on the way.

"When we flashed the letter from the U.N., our suppliers were more than happy to float us a few imports, just until the check arrived," Muluzi said. "Unfortunately, we didn't keep track of every little crate of AIDS medicine. When we added it all up, it came to, like, 40 million bucks."

A few high-ticket items sneaked onto the list of purchases, among them a new computer system for an agricultural weigh station outside Chilumba.

"We told ourselves we would only get the things we really needed," Muluzi said. "But when we found out that the weigh station needed a new computer, we figured it was now or never."

Giddy with the promise of a large cash deposit, Malawi lent struggling neighbor Mozambique $1 million, under the express agreement that Mozambique was to repay the money Aug. 8, when its own relief check came in.

"Bad move," Muluzi said. "In terms of repaying loans, Mozambique is as bad as Tanzania. On payback day, [Mozambique Prime Minister] Pascoal [Mocumbi] called me and said that we still owed him money for the cashew nuts and sisal twine we imported in February 1996."

One of the many small purchases Malawi officials failed to realize would add up quickly.

On Aug. 6, unanticipated events plunged Malawi further into debt. A mudslide outside Lilongwe devastated a shantytown and displaced hundreds of its residents. The problem was compounded by bandits in northern rural areas who prevented aid trucks from entering the disaster area until large payments of cash and food were made.

"Then, the goddamn fan belt on our newest food-distribution truck broke," Muluzi said. "Fixing it set us back a lot, even though it was less than two years old. What could we do, though? We needed to distribute the maize."

Deep in debt, Malawi officials resorted to tactics employed during past cash crunches. Government employees found their paychecks postdated two weeks. Interest payments to creditors were delayed by the deliberate transposing of addresses on envelopes. Creditors who phoned government offices were thrown off by deceptive outgoing voicemail messages claiming that the government was out of town and would be back Aug. 20.

Such tactics are common among countries receiving assistance, according to Malawi's U.N. humanitarian aid advisor Donna Roush.

"It's obvious what [Finance Minister Friday Jumbe] was trying to do," Roush said. "Malawi has been independent for decades, and he's written enough checks to know that if you owe somebody $74,000, you can't write in $47,000 and have no one notice."

"Although money is often tight right before a large aid check is due, countries must resist the urge to splurge," Roush added. "If you live off money that doesn't exist yet, you have to pay the piper at some point. Resist the temptation. The key is to create a budget for yourself and stick to it. Save money by eating your own crops, instead of imports, and make sure your coal plants are running as efficiently as possible."

Roush's advice provided little comfort to Muluzi.

"The humanitarian aid people always act like recipient countries are irresponsible, but we're trying very hard to keep our spending in check," Muluzi said. "For years, we've had our eye on a brand-new hydroelectric plant for a site outside Blantyre. It would be totally perfect, but we have put the project on hold yet again, because we just don't have the money."

Continued Muluzi: "This whole humanitarian aid thing can be a real bummer. It's our money to keep, but technically, it's not really our money. We have to spend it the second we get it. It feels like we're never going to get ahead. What can I say? Being poor sucks."