They left everything to save their lives. Now these Syrians are rebuilding. Again.

A refugee camp is not a home. Except when it has to be.

It was March 2011, the middle of the Arab Spring, when 15 teenage boys were arrested in the Syrian city of Daraa for spray-painting anti-government graffiti on walls.

Public outrage followed. Then protests. Then a military crackdown by the government succeeded, inevitably, by unending civil war.


Destroyed tanks in the Syrian city of Azaz. Image by Christiaan Triebert/Flickr.

Since the fighting began, an estimated 470,000 people have lost their lives. Millions more have fled. By current numbers, an estimated 4.8 million citizens have already left Syria, many with little more than the clothes on their backs.

On July 28, 2012, the Jordanian government opened a Syrian refugee camp a few miles east of the city of Mafraq.

It was never supposed to be permanent.


The Za'atari refugee camp is the second largest of its kind in the world and, if it were an official city, it would at present be in the top 10 for largest population in Jordan.

Image by UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr.

The site is three miles wide, separated into 12 districts housing an estimated 79,000 residents. It includes at least 30,000 shelters, three hospitals, nine schools, some mosques, a theater, and a sports center. There's an outdoor market of 3,000 shops and stalls where people can buy groceries, home goods and provisions. Residents called the market the "Champs Elysees," a cheeky reference to Paris' famously tony shopping district. Za'atari even has its own Twitter account, showing mostly cheerful vignettes of daily life.


Within the barbed wire-topped fences surrounding the camp, there is water, power, humanitarian aid, and (relative) safety.

But is it — and could it ever be — a home?

That's what the filmmakers of "After Spring," a documentary showing at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival, wanted to find out.

Raghad and Ibahim, two refugee brothers featured in the documentary. Image via "After Spring."

This new film follows two refugee families living in Za'atari along with an aid worker trying to keep the camp running smoothly as they collectively grapple with war, displacement, and figuring out "the story of what happens next." The Hollywood Reporter describes the film's main characters:

"The film focuses on several of the camp's residents, including Abu Ibrahim, a former construction worker, and his two teenage children, Raghad, age 13, and Ibahim, age 14, who must somehow find a way to live normal teenage lives in their artificial environment. Then there's Mohammed, who deeply misses his native country; he and his wife Amani have five young children, two of them born in the camp, with a sixth on the way. We're also introduced to Kilian Kleinschmidt, the camp's indomitable manager who clearly takes a hands-on approach to overseeing his charges and who laments that many of the younger residents are foregoing an education and heading down a troubled path."

Since this documentary was filmed, the Syrian civil war entered its sixth year. There is no end in sight.

Meanwhile, millions of other refugees have fled violence or poverty in their home countries, settling in temporary camps not unlike Za'atari. The Calais "Jungle" in northeastern France is home to 5,400 refugees, including 137 Syrian households. Ethiopia's five Dadaab refugee camps house more than 328,000 Somali people.

Children in Za'atari carry empty jugs for water. Image by UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Flickr.

In each of these camps are people who've fled homes that were no longer safe. They're all looking for an answer to what happens next. But as friendly borders close, political tensions rise, and refugee numbers continue to grow, it's harder than ever to know what that might be.

Watch the trailer for "After Spring" here:

"After Spring" is being shown at the Tribeca Film Festival as part of its Viewpoints section. Films in Viewpoints take on social issues, zooming in on topics that sometimes feel a little far away from some people but are incredibly close to others.

Thumbnail image by Matthias Somm/Flickr.

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Should a man lose his home because the grass in his yard grew higher than 10 inches? The city of Dunedin, Florida seems to think so.

According to the Institute of Justice, which is representing Jim Ficken, he had a very good reason for not mowing his lawn – and tried to rectify the situation as best he could.

In 2014, Jim's mom became ill and he visited her often in South Carolina to help her out. When he was away, his grass grew too long and he was cited by a code office; he cut the grass and wasn't fined.

France has started forcing supermarkets to donate food instead of throwing it away.

But several years later, this one infraction would come back to haunt him after he left to take care of him's mom's affairs after she died. The arrangements he made to have his grass cut fell through (his friend who he asked to help him out passed away unexpectedly) and that set off a chain reaction that may result in him losing his home.

The 69-year-old retiree now faces a $29,833.50 fine plus interest. Watch the video to find out just what Jim is having to deal with.

Mow Your Lawn or Lose Your House! www.youtube.com

Cities

The world officially loves Michelle Obama.

The former first lady has overtaken the number one spot in a poll of the world's most admired women. Conducted by online research firm YouGov, the study uses international polling tools to survey people in countries around the world about who they most admire.

In the men's category, Bill Gates took the top spot, followed by Barack Obama and Jackie Chan.

In the women's category, Michelle Obama came first, followed by Oprah Winfrey and Angelina Jolie. Obama pushed Jolie out of the number one spot she claimed last year.

Unsurprising, really, because what's not to love about Michelle Obama? She is smart, kind, funny, accomplished, a great dancer, a devoted wife and mother, and an all-around, genuinely good person.

She has remained dignified and strong in the face of rabid masses of so-called Americans who spent eight years and beyond insisting that she's a man disguised as a woman. She's endured non-stop racist memes and terrifying threats to her family. She has received far more than her fair share of cruelty, and always takes the high road. She's the one who coined, "When they go low, we go high," after all.

She came from humble beginnings and remains down to earth despite becoming a familiar face around the world. She's not much older than me, but I still want to be like Michelle Obama when I grow up.

Her memoir, Becoming, may end up being the best-selling memoir of all time, having already sold 10 million copies—a clear sign that people can't get enough Michelle, because there's no such thing as too much Michelle.

Don't like Michelle Obama? Don't care. Those of us who love her will fly our MO flags high and without apology, paying no mind to folks with cold, dead hearts who don't know a gem of a human being when they see one. There is nothing any hater can say or do to make us admire this undeniably admirable woman any less.

When it seems like the world has lost its mind—which is how it feels most days these days—I'm just going to keep coming back to this study as evidence that hope for humanity is not lost.

Here. Enjoy some real-life Michelle on Jimmy Kimmel. (GAH. WHY IS SHE SO CUTE AND AWESOME. I can't even handle it.)

Michelle & Barack Obama are Boring Now www.youtube.com

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

Planet

The world is dark and full of terrors, but every once in a while it graces us with something to warm our icy-cold hearts. And that is what we have today, with a single dad who went viral on Twitter after his daughter posted the photos he sent her when trying to pick out and outfit for his date. You love to see it.




After seeing these heartwarming pics, people on Twitter started suggesting this adorable man date their moms. It was essentially a mom and date matchmaking frenzy.

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