Assad’s Favorite Nun To Meet Republican Conservatives

Mother Agnes in Washington, D.C. Rosie Gray/BuzzFeed

WASHINGTON — Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, the Lebanese nun who is one of the most prominent critics of the Syrian opposition, has arrived in Washington to persuade Christian conservatives that their interests are aligned with Syria’s dictator.

“Some senators and some politicians are interested because they are motivated concerning the fate of minorities, especially Christians,” said Mother Agnes, who had a scheduled meeting with Sen. Ted Cruz canceled for the funeral of Nelson Mandela, but who will meet House conservatives. “Yes I am happy to meet them and to address this issue because it is an issue related to human rights.”

Mother Agnes has spent the past six weeks traveling across the United States and speaking at churches and other venues as part of a tour organized by the Syria Solidarity Movement, a U.S.-based group led by a steering committee composed of several activists including International Solidarity Movement activist Paul Larudee and Gaza-based writer Eva Bartlett. On Monday she arrived in Washington, D.C., where she is staying at the Madonna House just a block or two away from Capitol Hill. She is in Washington to meet with “decision-makers,” she said, including Rep. Frank Wolf and Rep. Louie Gohmert.

The Levant’s bitter sectarian divides have long played into American politics, with some of the most strident anti-Muslim voices on the American scene tracing their roots to Lebanon’s scarring 1970s and 1980s civil war.

Mother Agnes, who has no official tie to the Assad regime, has been one of the most outspoken proponents of the theory that rebels, not the regime, carried out an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. She dismissed critics who charge that she is a propagandist for the Syrian regime and advances its chosen narrative as a protector of religious minorities.

“It is to discredit this voice,” Agnes said of the allegations. “I am not Syrian, I am involved in the humanitarian approach of the crisis. I do not accept and I will not accept the false information because the false information about what is really going on threatens the security of innocent Syrian population, so it is important to be able to transmit the other side of the story.”

Mother Agnes, who says she moved to Syria in 1994 to renovate a monastery in Qara, claims that the initial uprising that set off the Syrian conflict was not peaceful and was “infiltrated by a third column that would induce violence or stage violence.”

Agnes said she only deals with the Syrian government as much as any NGO or human rights organization would, in the context of “Musalaha” (“Reconciliation”), the mysterious movement she is a part of and that she says is composed of “many reconciliation committees” and is headed by a “tribal leader” and a Syrian Catholic priest. The government, she said, has created a Ministry of Reconciliation as a response to Musalaha’s growth.

She praised an explosive Seymour Hersh report in the London Review of Books that claimed that the Obama administration knew that a Syrian rebel faction could make sarin gas, the same weapon used in the Aug. 21 chemical attack in Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus.

“I praise, I thank Mr. Hersh to be courageous, to be audacious, to be full of honesty, to be able because he is free and he is powerful, he is a reference so he can speak without fear what maybe others cannot,” Agnes said. “He confirms our doubts. He does not answer all our doubts but he lifts the omerta that was imposed by all the mainstream media that since the beginning of the conflict are always aligned with the politically correct, and not really making a breakthrough to inform the people and at least stay neutral and stay really like the echo of the reality and not the echo of what the politicians want to impose.”

Mother Agnes published a long report after the August attack that concluded that video evidence pointing to the culpability of the Syrian army in the attack was a fabrication. The report was widely rejected by other analysts, including Human Rights Watch, where a top official said that “there’s just no basis for the claims advanced by Mother Agnes.”

On Monday, Agnes stood by the report and said it made no difference that she is not an expert in munitions or video analysis.

“I do not pretend to be an expert and I am not talking out of any expertise,” she said. “I say it’s not out of a military point of view, not medical, not forensic. It’s only to observe. I am a spectator and video is offered to the spectator. We have our right to have a position concerning any items that are offered to our consumption.” She said she will come out with another study after she has finished her tour and returned to Syria.

Apart from her speaking engagements in other cities, Mother Agnes is in D.C. to meet with lawmakers. Christian conservatives like Mike Huckabee, who conducted a sympathetic interview with her on his radio show on Monday, have taken an interest in Agnes because of their concern over the persecution of Christians in Syria.

Of her aborted meeting with Ted Cruz and planned meetings with Wolf and Gohmert, Agnes said: “I am here to talk with as many decision-makers as possible for the sake of reconciliation and a peaceful settlement in Syria.”

“I do not support the Assad regime with all its cruel actions nor do I support the Islamist terrorist rebels infested with al Qaeda,” Gohmert said through a spokesperson. “There is no good side in this. However, the ruthless persecution of Christians in the area is of very deep concern. The atrocities must come to an end. My meeting with Mother Agnes is to discuss what she knows about the situation.”

“I don’t know her,” said Wolf on Tuesday. “People are bringing her by, people who were on the ground in Iraq who are working for the American government.” Wolf said he didn’t know in what capacity the people were working for the government.

Asked about Mother Agnes’ stance on the August 21 chemical weapons attack, Wolf said “I don’t know anything about that.”

“I think both sides are bad, Assad’s bad and what’s going on with some of the rebels is bad,” Wolf said.

A spokesman for Cruz did not respond to a request for comment.

“As to why Mother Agnes is only meeting with Republicans, that is not our preference for sure,” said Rick Sterling, a member of the Syria Solidarity Movement steering committee. “It’s because the Democrats are ‘loyal.’ Heck, the two California ‘liberal’ senators were both on board for bombing Syria. Mother Agnes is prepared to meet and explain her experience and views to anyone who will listen.”

Mother Agnes has been accused of complicity in the death of Gilles Jacquier, a French journalist for whom she obtained a visa and who was killed in Syria in 2011. Agnes has sued Jacquier’s wife, who wrote a book asserting this claim, for defamation.

“It is a real calumny,” she said. “It is an intimidation to make me shut up because France is very much related to the ongoing uprising and the way they infiltrate the Syrian population with terrorists.”

She said she has been threatened by the Syrian opposition and has even been offered a bribe for her silence by a government, though she wouldn’t say exactly which one beyond specifying that it was a “Gulf state involved in financing all these things.”

She addressed evidence uncovered by journalist Michael Weiss that her role in the evacuations of Damascus suburb Moadamiyah was not as simple as it may have seemed and that she had a role in the arrests of young men who were leaving Moadamiyah. Weiss wrote that the number of young men detained was 300 or higher; Agnes told BuzzFeed that 550 men “surrendered” but only eight were detained.

And she expressed anger with the way journalists Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones threatened to pull out of an antiwar conference in the U.K. where she was also scheduled to speak, leading her to drop out instead of them.

“I am really scandalized that the press, the media they create an accusation, they spread it and it is taken as and becomes the identity of the person,” she said. “We are today in a total dictatorship of the media.”

“I am very happy I withdrew to let them do whatever they want,” Agnes said. “But this has contributed to show me a very huge movement of approval of my actions toward peace in Syria and the people are not fooled by the false rumors and by the false accusations.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why it granted Mother Agnes a visa.

This post has been updated with Wolf’s and Sterling’s comments. An earlier version of this post incompletely described the types of venues where Agnes has been speaking and the article has been updated.

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Inside The Syrian Opposition’s Media War

A Syrian refugee is reflected in a mirror as he watches the Geneva peace conference on a television in Lebanon. Ali Hashisho / Reuters

GENEVA — It was a little past 10 a.m. in Geneva on Saturday, and the Syrian opposition’s media center was a hive of frantic activity as peace talks got underway. Wearing an unassuming navy suit and eyeglasses that hung from a cord around his neck, Monzer Akbik clapped his hands and bellowed at his 30-person staff: “Excuse me please! We are still in a meeting!”

On the floor below, the lobby of the 5-star Intercontinental Hotel had become a magnet for international journalists chatting up diplomats around faux fireplaces. Others packed into the pressroom at the United Nations compound down the street to await word from closed-door meetings. The U.N. had issued more than 1000 press credentials — a record number — for the peace conference, the first time the Syrian regime and opposition were talking amid a spiraling civil war.

In this media frenzy, Akbik and his team saw their efforts as a crucial counterpart to those at the negotiating table. Both sides wanted to convince the world that they were the ones who should be running Syria — and more importantly, to convince those Syrians watching from afar. “I think most people realize that the Geneva conference will be won and lost in the media,” said Rafif Jouejati, a veteran opposition spokeswoman.

After nearly three years of amateurish press efforts — always mismatched against the regime’s well-oiled propaganda machine — the opposition now seemed to be playing hardball. In the media center, there was a team for newsgathering, a team for mainstream press and a team for social media. Media officers spoke Arabic, English and French, and there were press packets and a special Geneva Twitter feed, plus a small team of international consultants. The team responded right away to new developments and PR offensives from the regime — something Oubai Shabandar, an activist helping with outreach, called “rapid-countering.” As he saw it: “This is revolution 3.0. It is faster, sleeker and more effective on the world stage.”

But there were still growing pains.

“Do you know that our Facebook page was hacked?” Akbik asked the room. He detailed some other problems: the numbers for the press hotlines kept getting mixed up; there was no English-language Facebook page. Journalists were having a hard time setting up interviews with opposition delegates and were starting to get pissed.

“How many followers do we have on Twitter?” Akbik asked.

The new account got 500 followers in just 24 hours, someone said.

“Is that good? Is there a maximum?”

Akbik was told that his personal account had 37.

“I don’t want anyone to follow me,” he said. “What about a star? Jennifer Lopez—how many does she have?”

A successful businessman, Akbik became chief of staff last summer for the opposition-in-exile, the Syrian National Coalition. He had since worked to make its media efforts more effective, bringing on new staff and reaching out to the press, in an effort aided by international advisors brought on at the expense of the British Foreign Office. When Akbik took on the role, the regime’s narrative was ascendant, as it painted its fight in Syria as part of a war on terror — even though much of the opposition blamed it for the Al-Qaeda-linked groups threatening to overtake the rebellion.

The opposition media team in Geneva had been reinforced with new bodies and about 10 Western consultants, mostly Brits. But the bulk of it was made up of Syrians with long histories as media activists, such as Ghassan Yasin, who had often risked his life to gather news from the frontlines in Aleppo. Amid the hectic pace of the conference, some saw their efforts as more akin to chaos than a well-oiled machine.

In the Intercontinental lobby, one British staffer was even overheard to say that she wanted to order “a half a bottle of whiskey in vitro,” to alleviate the stress.

Each day of the conference, however, the opposition was winning on the media front. It pushed the blame for Al-Qaeda on the regime and turned the spotlight on the suffering Bashar al-Assad had inflicted with his brutal military campaign. The regime, meanwhile, seemed only to be flailing. “The opposition has shown much more competence and coherence than expected,” said Steven Heydemann, a veteran Syria watcher and a vice president and director of Syria programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Heydemann said the improved media efforts were part of a wider push from the opposition to present an effective front at Geneva — something its Western backers had been keen to support. The opposition and its allies have brought in international experts to advise it on things like negotiations and putting together a transition plan. “They’re corralling as much support as they can,” Heydemann said. “They’re taking this very seriously.”

In the media center on Saturday morning, Akbik focused the conversation on the day’s messaging. With the two sides entering negotiations for the first time, he warned, some Syrians might think the opposition had betrayed them just for sitting down with the regime. A British consultant put forward an idea: the opposition should say this was the first time in the regime’s history that it was forced to sit and listen to the people’s demands. Akbik liked the idea and moved along.

After the meeting, the consultant approached this reporter and said that the messaging exchange should be off the record. When that was declined, he became angry and stormed off. He worried it might seem that the media team was taking its directions from the outside. But it was clearly the Syrian staff, many of whom had been at their work for years, who were the driving force behind the media team — working 20-hour days, setting the tone and calling the shots. “They give advice, and we Syrians decide if that advice is what we want,” said Jouejati, the opposition spokeswoman, who is a veteran of the Local Coordination Committees, a respected activist group with networks across Syria.

Jouejati pointed out that the work was deadly serious for the Syrians on the team — it was the first real push to bring the bloody conflict to an end, she said, and a chance to save lives.

If the opposition was winning the media narrative, she said, it was also because of the facts on the ground — the suffering inflicted by the regime’s constant bombardment of civilian areas and starvation campaigns. (The regime’s performance at the conference, meanwhile, had been surprisingly poor.) “Our job is to show Assad’s crimes to the world by leveraging this political process,” she said.

The campaign to win the narrative in the international press, she added, was secondary to the efforts to reach regular Syrians. There, she claimed, support for the Geneva conference had received a “huge upswing” since it got underway.

One of Jouejati’s colleagues, Ahmed Fakoury, said it was important to keep in mind what they were up against inside Syria. He’d once been a key player on the other side, as one of the most popular evening news anchors on Syrian state television. Regime-friendly TV and radio stations dominated Syria’s airwaves. “They are a lobby — and they are well-organized and very good,” he said. It was the opposition’s job to make their message heard anyway. “We have a very good narrative: We are the Syrian people,” he said.

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Story Of Sisi’s Millions Not Allowed On Front Page Of Egyptian Newspaper

Amr Dalsh / Reuters

A report claiming that Egyptian Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has amassed a fortune of over LE30 million (U.S. $4.2 million) was pulled from one of Egypt’s largest newspapers over the weekend at the request of its owner.

The Al-Watan newspaper had already printed its Friday edition, with an exclusive report documenting Sisi’s private funds, when its owner Magdy El-Galad ordered his editors to remove the story on Sisi from the front page.

“The editor of the newspaper called us and gave the order that the subject be removed immediately, before it the newspaper was published,” said one correspondent at Al-Watan, who spoke to BuzzFeed on condition of anonymity to protect his job. “The editor was very nervous while giving us the orders.”

He could not say what had spooked the owner, or if there had been an explicit request by the Egyptian military to remove the story. Al-Watan often takes a pro-military stance, and has long-standing ties to Egypt’s security establishment.

An original version of the story viewed by BuzzFeed and included below cites a source from within Sisi’s family who disclose that he inherited the funds from his family, who own a stall in Cairo’s famed Khan el-Khalili market.

The article also claimed that Sisi intends to officially throw his hat in the ring for the upcoming presidential elections on Feb. 11, the day marking the third anniversary of former President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.

Egyptian media embraced Sisi’s expected presidential run months ago, although the defense minister has yet to make a public announcement confirming his candidacy. Earlier this month, Egypt’s army announced that they were endorsing Sisi to run for president, adding that it was his duty to lead Egypt.

A slew of stories have appeared in the Egyptian press backing Sisi and touting the benefits of strong military leadership. Over the weekend, Mohamed Amin, owner of the Egyptian CBC television network defended a police officer who assaulted one of his reporters by saying that “in these times of terrorism” it was important to stand behind the Egyptian army and police.

“I am sorry for the reporter and the violence he experienced… but he must take into account the circumstances and we all have to be supportive of the Ministry of Interior in these times,” said Amin.

The reporter had arrived at the scene of a bombing on Cairo’s Giza bridge, when a police officer “kicked and slapped” him, according to an account he gave on air.

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WikiLeaks Party Members Visited Top Syrian Regime Officials

WASHINGTON — A delegation from Australia’s WikiLeaks Party visited with top Syrian officials in Damascus last week as part of a “solidarity delegation” to oppose Western intervention in the civil war.

“The WikiLeaks Party will participate in a solidarity delegation to Syria to promote peace and reconciliation,” read a post on the party’s website from Dec. 22. The delegation “consists of representatives from The Wikieaks [sic] Party, academics and activists on Syrian issues.”

“The WikiLeaks Party was the first party in Australia to warn of the deadly consequences of any Western military intervention in Syria,” the post continues. “It went further by questioning the credibility of the excuses of such intervention based on unsubstantiated reports of the Syrian Army’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians. Such claims that reminded us the same excuses used to invade Iraq. Such claims that turned out to be no more than fabrications and lies.”

A Syrian TV report (above) shows members meeting with top regime officials like the prime minister, the deputy foreign minister, and the health minister. In an interview at 3:45 in the segment, WikiLeaks Party chairman and Julian Assange’s father John Shipton says, “We’ll continue to expose the truth to the Australian people and to our international audience, and next year we will set up an office in Damascus.”

A photo posted to Twitter appears to show the delegation meeting with Bashar al-Assad. According to state news agency SANA, the delegation also met with the speaker of Syria’s assembly.

The delegation included Tim Anderson, a professor at the University of Sydney who was convicted in 1989 on charges relating to the 1978 Sydney Hilton Hotel bombing, though he was later acquitted.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange ran as a WikiLeaks Party candidate for an Australian senate seat this year and vowed to run again with the party after he lost.

Representative for WikiLeaks and the WikiLeaks Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Anderson was convicted but failed to say that he was later acquitted.

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The “Creative Process” Explained By Comics

3. A good take on the worst buzz-phrase in the history of business.

4. We all know this asshole.

7. Exactly why “creativity” sucks right now.

8. Yes. But also, write it down.

9. Finding the right partner is key.

10. Just relax, but keep pushing the idea.

11. If you “Think Different” as the old Apple ads put it, you will be rejected.

13. “Yes, but…” has killed a kajillion great ideas.

15. They all suck, but the Blender and Crammer are the WORST.

More here:

See 15 more comics about creativity here @ Stock Logos.

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Man Gets 22 Years For Raping Black Lesbian In South Africa

South African lesbian activist Funeka Soldaat. BuzzFeed/J. Lester Feder

A South African court sentenced a man to 22 years in prison on Tuesday for the 2010 torture and rape of a black lesbian from a township outside Cape Town.

The sentencing of Andile Ngcoza for brutalizing Millicent Gaika over the course of five hours in the Gugalethu township was heralded by a leading activist as a sign that the justice system is getting more serious about crimes targeting black lesbians.

Black lesbians are frequently targeted for what is sometimes called “corrective rape” — sexual assault under the pretense that it will “cure” lesbians of same-sex attraction.

While there are no reliable statistics on how frequently these hate crimes occur, a recent study found that almost one in three lesbian or bisexual women in South Africa reported being the victims of “forced sex.” South African women as a whole are at greater risk of rape than women almost anywhere in the world. More than 54,000 cases are reported to police each year in a country with a population of less than 50 million, and many more likely go unreported, especially among lesbians who risk ridicule or further harassment from police and health workers when they report an assault.

Even when cases are reported — and get serious media attention — men who attack lesbians are often able to escape justice. Ngcoza, who was sentenced on Tuesday, almost escaped sentencing in the assault on Gaika, absconding after being convicted in 2011 before being re-arrested earlier this year.

Funeka Soldaat, a leading activist who founded the group Free Gender and has been organizing black lesbians in Cape Town’s townships for more than 20 years, told BuzzFeed that the conviction “really gives hope to our organization in terms of doing our work effectively, and i think it’s going to give to other lesbians whose cases are still in court.”

There have been no arrests in the 2011 death of 24 year-old Noxolo Nogwaza, for example, whose head was crushed in a township near Johannesburg with a piece of pavement after she was raped. Nor has anyone been brought to justice for the death of 36-year-old Patricia Mashigo, who appeared to have been stoned to death in the township of Daveyton. The man who reportedly broke into the house of 21-year-old Phumeza Nkolonzi in Cape Town’s Nyaga township and shot her repeatedly in front of her grandmother and six-year-old niece also has never been arrested.

In February, four men were for given 14 year sentences for beating to death 19-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana, but the handling of the case undermined the message the ultimate verdict could have sent. The case was postponed 40 times, thanks in part to incompetence on the part of the police and prosecutors.

Failures on the law enforcement side have been matched by a seeming lack of interest in South Africa’s government to act aggressively to address this widespread violence.

It created a task force to address the issue two years ago, but it took no official action for most of that time.

It has recently come out of dormancy, thanks in part to an especially horrific killing that took place on June 30 of this year. Duduzile Zozo was found half-naked in the township of Ekurhuleni, outside Johannesburg, with a toilet brush shoved in her vagina.

A suspect in the case had an initial hearing before a judge in October.

Phindi Malaza, of the Johannesburg-based organization Forum for the Empowerment of Women, reacted cautiously to the news of the sentence issued Tuesday.

“If it’s a sentence that has an element of motivation on the basis of sexual orientation, that would have a wider community impact,” said Malaza, who had not yet had time to review the verdict.

But this problem is so entrenched, she said, that she was waiting to see more evidence of a turnaround. “I guess it’s too early to feel really positive about this,” Malaza said.

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Meet Shamate, China’s Most Hated Subculture

1. Oppa Shamate style.

2. A Shamate “family portrait.”

3. Examples of Shamate make-up.

Shamate is a Chinese transliteration of the word ‘smart’. Online, it’s also the name of a vibrant QQ video chatroom subculture of blue-collared kids who dress in exaggerated goth, glam, anime, and visual kei fashion. To each other, they’re family. To the rest of China, they’re failed arrivistes in the wealthier cities.

Chinese and English media profiles paint them mostly as dropouts from schools in the countryside, moving away from their families to work low-skill jobs at big city factories, street-side vendors and hair salons. They take elaborate selfies of their vampire makeups, live in cramped basements, speak in farmland accents, and listen to bad dance music. Like Juggalos, they meet their ‘family’ online. Like Juggalos, everyone else is simultaneously fascinated and repulsed by them.

Shamate is almost always considered the opposite of a xiaoqingxing — a well-travelled, educated, privileged youth of fine tastes.

The difference between China’s shamate and xiaoqingxing “will never be bridged, no matter how many of their kidneys they sell,” says an article in the South Reviews.

The article’s not unsympathetic to the shamate’s urban alienation. Most other online commenters, however, are not so kind.

8. A dating sim game called “Noble Shamate Academy: The Romance Of Shamate,” which you can play here.

One glance at Chinese social networks makes it clear how alien they seem to their more well-heeled peers. Video parodies of their blue-collar glamor are very popular. On Weibo, “idiot shamate” is a catch-all insult for anything gaudy and outre, and on Sina, there’s a slideshow of Totally Gross Photos Of Your Favorite Celebs As Shamate.

But there are also some efforts to understand. In 2012, a blogger called BlueWindmill claimed to have spent a summer ‘risking his life to go undercover’ in the community. His humorous diary of the encounter was read by over 2 million people. The shamate kids apparently did not mind his descriptions of them, either.

11. From BlueWindmill’s ‘White Collar Among Shamate’ diaries:

A comment left on BlueWindmill’s post:

He also penned a follow-up post called “Shamate: China’s Only True Nobility” to thank the community for their kindness and support.

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28 Heartwarming Photos Of Indians Being #GayForADay To Protest The Ban On Same-Sex Intercourse

Facebook user Tanmay Sahay created a “Gay For A Day” event asking people to change their profile pictures to ones in which they are kissing someone from their own gender to protest against India’s Supreme Court ruling criminalizing homosexuality.

1. Several Indians responded to the Facebook event, changing their profile pictures with the hashtag #GayForADay. Tanmay Sahay posted this picture on his Facebook page.

18. Indians also uploaded #gayforaday pictures on Instagram and Twitter.

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Caption: Supporting #gayforaday


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Caption: Soulmate love #picoftheday #home#gayforaday#sec377# human rights#soulmate#instaframe#love#kiss#couple#samesex#gayrights#sexualfreedom# identity


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Caption: I didn’t know that I’m so gay! And look at me, I’m not even complaining. *dance* #gay #girls #love #kiss #support #gayforaday #mumbai #india #377


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Caption: Protesting against the ludicrous SC ruling. #gayforaday


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Caption: Protesting against SC ruling section 377 … #gayforaday


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Caption: “Love is a human emotion, not a political decision/statement. Indians everywhere are ashamed; ashamed of our Supreme Court’s ruling against Gay sex. However, we are also proud… SO PROUD of the fighting masses! Send in your support for #gayforaday. We celebrate love, we celebrate life and most importantly, we celebrate equality. #freedom #chooseyourlove #LGBT #support #india #SC


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Caption: #gayforaday

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7 Delicious Bowls Of Authentic Middle Eastern Hummus

Over the last few years, American demand for hummus has skyrocketed.

Instagram / Via

Last year’s nationwide sales totaled more than $500 million, up 11% from a year earlier and a 25% jump over 2010, according to market-research firm Information Resources Inc, reports the Wall Street Journal.

The result is that we now have some truly strange hummus variations, thanks to food companies attempting to appeal to American palates and increase market share.

And Asian fusion garden hummus? WHY.

But people in the Middle East have spent centuries perfecting diverse ways to eat hummus. And they do it better.

Anny Gaul / Via

Hummus has been a staple of Middle Eastern cooking for centuries. It figures then, that some people take it really seriously, and even argue over who invented it. In 2008, for example, an association of Lebanese manufacturers threatened legal action to prevent Israel from selling hummus under the hummus name, which means chickpea in Arabic. (On a lighter note, the two countries traded rounds in a hummus war in 2010, battling to see who could make the biggest bowl. Lebanon won. For a great cookbook on food politics in the region, check out Jerusalem, co-written by an Israeli and Palestinian.)

But putting the debate over who invented hummus aside (perhaps Iraq wins because of the fertile crescent?), it is indisputable that the Middle East is home to wide-range of delicious recipes that embody the area’s regional and culinary diversity. Palestinians and Jordanians eat the dish for breakfast, while Israelis are more likely to eat it in a hummusia for lunch. Many consider Syrian and Lebanese hummus the best in the world (anything Syrian and Lebanese, for that matter, is stereotypically bound to be delicious); Egypt’s version is lackluster (no disrespect to the “mother of the world,” but much of the country’s cuisine isn’t as tasty). Hummus is often garnished with Middle Eastern staples like fried pine nuts, lemon juice, chili pepper, na’na (mint), olive oil, chopped onions or, the Syrian favorite, pomegranate seeds.

For your eating pleasure, here are seven traditional Middle Eastern hummus recipes that everyone can enjoy.

1. Some Hummus basics

In Arabic the word hummus is pronounced with a hard h from deep down in the throat, and in Hebrew it’s pronounced with a sharp chummus, like Chanukah. In English we just don’t care for these strange h sounds.

The secret to hummus? It’s a controversial question, but there’s a general consensus that removing the chickpea skins first is the best method.

Recipe here with chickpea skins and without.

2. Hummus With Tahini

Hummus with tahini, or sesame paste, is a classic wherever you go. Add a little olive oil, parsley, or pine nuts on top for extra zest, and pair it with some perfectly shaped pita chips, as shown.

Recipe here.

3. Hummus With Garlic

Also called hummus beiruti, this traditional lebanese version adds an overload of garlic to create a slightly spicier (and arguably more delicious) hummus. Just take your favorite basic hummus recipe, and add as many garlic gloves as you can stomach. Eat it with other delicious Mediterranean spreads like mutable, babaganoush (babaganoug in Egypt), and fatoush salad, and you’re in for quite the culinary party, Beirut style.

Recipe here.

4. Hummus With Meat

Hummus with meat takes the vegetarian out of hummus, but makes for a real protein packed dish. The meat spicing varies by region, but it’s an all around favorite for those who dismiss hummus as just dip.

Recipe here with warm lamb or beef or sausage.

5. Hummus With Ful

Ful, a fava bean dish that hails from Egypt, can be served on top of hummus, either warm or cold, for breakfast or lunch (or dinner, go crazy). Ful varies by region: for example, Syrian’s tend to use larger fava beans and keep them whole, while many Egyptians blend the beans instead.

Recipe here.

6. Hummus Msabaha

This is another delicious hummus speciality popular around the region, often referring to a mix of blended and whole chickpeas. (The distinctions between dishes can sometimes be hazy; for example, some Syrians refer to hummus just as msabaha.) Hummus with msabaha is a little more involved of a recipe, but add some garnish, take a big bite, and you’ll understand.

Recipe here.

7. And for some not-quite-as-traditional fun, try hummus with pomegranate molasses.

Anny Gaul / Via

Because pomegranates are like, whoa.

Recipe here.

Still hungry? Check out these other delicious ways to eat hummus.

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