PRI's The World on RADIO IQ with BBC

Weekdays at 4:00 pm on our RADIO IQ With BBC network.

PRI’s The World is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. Launched in 1996, PRI’s The World, a co-production of WGBH/Boston, Public Radio International, and the BBC World Service.

The World's coverage is provided by a global network of international journalists. The program also has access to the 250 BBC correspondents located around the world. Unique in public radio, this network works in concert with the program's multinational team of producers and editors, and brings an exceptional depth of understanding and freshness of perspective to the program content. The result is an award-winning hour of breaking news, in-depth features, hard-hitting commentaries, and thought-provoking interviews found nowhere else in U.S. news coverage.

PRI's The World -- international news for an American audience -- weekdays at 4:00 on our RADIO IQ With BBC News network of signals and streaming live on the web.

Local Host(s): 
Beverly Amsler
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Program Headlines

  • Tuesday, November 25, 2014 12:28pm

    When people talk about ways to turn back climate change, many think about grand solutions like geoengineering and carbon capture. Others, like Stephen Osero, talk about ideas that are a bit grittier.

    "We use human waste [and] turn it into energy,” says Osero, an environmental scientist at Kenyatta University in Kenya.

    Osero and some colleagues crafted a process for turning what’s flushed down the toilet into a green energy source, a gas that can be burned as fuel for stoves or to generate electricity. They already have a prototype up and running near Nairobi, and now they’re ready to expand.

    “Mostly we want to work with places where we have large populations, where you can get high accumulation of those wastes,” Osero says. “We want to replicate that idea in the whole country” of Kenya.

    Osero’s project is just one of several dozen ideas recently showcased at the Climate CoLab conference at MIT. It’s a little like a hackers convention, except that everyone is hacking climate change. All the ideas being discussed grew out of an online community called the Climate CoLab, run out of MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence.

    The idea is to “crowdsource the problem of what to do about global climate change," says Tom Malone, the center's director. "We now have a new way of solving really big, hard, complicated problems at a scale, and with a degree of collaboration that was never possible before.”

    The ideas emerging from the CoLab are locally grown, vetted by virtual peers, and voted on — in this case, by 33,000 people from all over the world. This year's winners included an Indian program giving community groups money to help create "climate-smart cities," and a radio program in Tanzania that shares locals' methods for fighting climate change.

    The ideas are all pretty down-to-earth, but that’s kind of the point: The project is more about solutions that fit local needs than it is about big breakthroughs.

    Many of the winners gathered in Cambridge to meet with other contestant, faculty members at MIT and, perhaps most importantly, possible funders. One goal of the competition and its winners' conference is to help launch ideas on a bigger scale.

    But another goal is to help change how we talk about climate.

    “Given the way that the world is right now, there aren’t a lot of optimistic conversations about climate change,” says Laur Fisher, one of the meeting’s organizers. “We hope that the Climate CoLab can really be a way that people can see there is something that we can do.”

    Shadrack Osero, Stephen’s brother and a member of the Kenyan team working on waste, says he's "made friends from corporations, friends from [the] World Bank and professors from MIT. They’ve shown me more connections to guys who are going to fund my project, to make it into fruition."

    The optimism, both from Osero and other winners, is obvious. “We shall make a change in the world, together,” Osero says. “I feel happy.”

    Many members of the 34 winning teams in this year's Climate CoLab contest, from 17 countries, gathered at the Climate CoLab conference at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

    Dominick Reuter/MIT

    Many members of the 34 winning teams in this year's Climate CoLab contest, from 17 countries, gathered at the Climate CoLab conference at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

  • Thursday, November 20, 2014 12:43pm

    It’s hard enough to resettle in a new country as a refugee, but imagine moving from a warm climate to the frigid northeastern United States.

    That happens to people from places like like Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bhutan and Myanmar, who suddenly find themselves in snowy states like Massachusetts and New Hampshire. 

    “It’s always quite a shock for them,” says Beth Seremet from Ascentria Care Alliance, a faith-based organization that works with such refugees and helps them prepare for cold weather.

    Seremet works with refugees resettling in New Hampshire. “Whether they come in July or January, every individual [gets] a winter coat, a hat, a pair of gloves and a scarf waiting for them in their apartment," she says.

    And then comes the real shock: "They are told what [the clothes are] for. In July, they look at us like we’re crazy," Seremet says. "In January, we’re their best friends.”

    Seremet’s organization works with the Red Cross to provide cold weather orientation: "a real hands-on, intensive winter weather acclimation. And they will send each participant with a safety kit to go home with.”

    New refugees often also get tips from those who have been through their first Northeast winter.

    “The [refugees] who’ve come in previous years are telling [new arrivals] all these snow stories about sledding and skating," Seremet says, "but they have no idea what’s coming for them."

  • Wednesday, November 19, 2014 2:53pm

    There's a new mission to the moon that's just getting off the ground in Britain, but it has a twist: You pay for it.

    The British scientists behind the venture, called Lunar Mission One,  want to raise a million dollars to send a robotic probe to the lunar South Pole, and they're relying on crowdfunding to get there.

    "Although it's been started in the UK, it's a global mission. It doesn't belong to NASA or the European Space Agency, it belongs to everybody," says Monica Grady, a planetary scientist at Britain's Open University and an advisor to the project. "People have an opportunity to be part of their very own lunar mission."


    Lunar Mission One

    Robotic lunar problem landing simulation

    Public taxes and government funding usually support space missions and other scientific investigations, but Grady says there are good reasons for citizens to take the initiative. One is to push the technology forward for future missions, no matter who funds them.

    "We're going to drill up to 100 meters down into the lunar South Pole," she says. "We're going to be looking at water and how much ice is there, which is necessary if you're going to build a lunar base on the moon — and that is a when, not an if." 

    Grady says a low-gravity lunar base is essential for human exploration of the solar system — a mission to Mars, for example.

    But most importantly, she says, human exploration needs inspiration: "Inspiration for the next generation of scientists and engineers. The moon connects children all over the world. Kids in Japan can look at the moon, kids in Australia can see the moon."

    There are some added incentives for people who donate to the mission. Grady says donors will be able to place their own text messages, photos or videos on memory discs that will someday be buried as "digital memory boxes" beneath the lunar surface.

    Big givers may even have the chance to send a strand of their hair on the mission, meaning their unique DNA will reside on the Moon forever. So what would Grady like to send to the moon herself? "I would send images of the things that are most dear to me," she says. "So obviously I'd send a picture of my son, my husband — and, of course, my three cats!"

    What photo or text message would you like to send to the Moon? We want to hear from you! Tell us your ideas in the comments below.

  • Tuesday, November 18, 2014 4:26pm

    Ernest Hemingway called "The Old Man and The Sea," his simple tale of a Cuban fisherman's battle with a giant marlin, "the best I can write ever for all of my life." But that story would be much more complicated today thanks to the American embargo of Cuba.

    That's why one of the author's grandsons, John Hemingway, went to Washington on Tuesday, urging lawmakers to ease the half-century-old economic restrictions. He's hoping the move would allow scientists from the two countries to cooperate on conserving the now-endangered marlin and other marine life in the 90-mile-wide Straits of Florida.

    The marlin is in "serious trouble” due to overfishing and pollution in its spawning grounds, Hemingway says.

    But when it comes to protecting them, he says “we can’t do it alone. We need Cuba. Cuba has a lot of scientists who are getting information on this, and they need to be able to talk to their American counterparts without the kind of travel restrictions [and] trade restrictions” the US has long imposed on Cuba.

    Hemingway believes the cooperation is vital for other issues as well, such as "efforts to make sure that any future drilling efforts do not end in another disaster similar to what happened in the Deepwater Horizon,” the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

    Cuba has big oil reserves in the deep water off its northwestern coast, which can be risky to exploit. “Unfortunately, because of the trade restrictions, they are unable to get certain equipment from American companies, or companies that deal with American companies from abroad," Hemingway explains.

    He says Cuban officials "want to make sure that there aren’t any marine disasters, which could impact not only Cuba but also southern Florida.”

    So why would a divided Congress care about the work and name of Ernest Hemingway when it comes to big political issues? “He is a figure that cuts across the political divide,” his grandson says. “He appeals to an incredibly broad spectrum."

    That's why he's optimistic that it may finally be time to lift the embargo. “I think it’s definitely possible," Hemingways says. "It’s certainly something that I hope happens, because Cuba is not just another country on the other side of the world, it is our neighbor."

    And those neighbors still share a love of his grandfather with Americans. “This is what I discovered when I went there [this fall]," he says. "I had no idea. They love him, they think of him as one of their own. His epic tale of the old man there is something that touches them still, deeply.”

  • Tuesday, November 18, 2014 10:21am

    The Canadian city of Whitehorse has a message for its birds: Don't drink and fly.

    Whitehorse is the capital of Candada's Yukon territory, where the local environmental agency is warning that Bohemian waxwings in the territory have been stuffing themselves with mountain ash berries to prepare for the long winter ahead.

    The problem is that the berries are fermented, so the birds eating them are getting tipsy and then attempting to fly.

    “We haven’t actually confirmed that the birds we’ve had in have been intoxicated, because we don’t really have a Breathalyzer test or anything like that," says Meghan Larivee of the Environment Yukon's animal health unit, "[but] it is a possibility that we consider when we are treating birds that have flown into an object or are acting a bit strange.”

    Larivee says the problem is compounded when the birds fill their expandable esophagi with even more berries, where the fruit can continue to ferment. Even though the birds have larger livers, which gives them a higher tolerance for alcohol, Larivee says enough fermented berries can have the same impact on birds as alcohol does on people.

    Just like humans, birds' navigation systems go a little haywire under the effects of alcohol, and they can end up flying erratically. So members of the public are encouraged to contact Environment Yukon if they find drunken Bohemian waxwings. 

    To prepare for any birds that need to sleep it off, the agency has turned a plastic hamster cage into an avian drunk tank.

    “We just make sure that they’re comfortable and quiet, and then hopefully they get to be released,” Larivee says — but not before they do the bird equivalent of walking a straight line. “We do little test runs to make sure that they can coordinate themselves before we release them."