Negotiations for Islamic State’s Lebanese hostages turn sour | NOW News

[Published here on August 24, 2014]

After some initial success, negotiations for the release of over 30 Lebanese hostages held by the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra took a turn for the worse this weekend, when the Lebanese religious institution mediating the talks suspended their involvement. Citing challenges in securing the militants’ demands, the Muslim Scholars Committee said it would “make way for other intermediaries” to get involved. But with the militants reportedly refusing to work with anyone but the committee, the hostage negotiations may be in freefall.

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US steps closer to arming vetted Syrian rebels | NOW News

[Published here June 2, 2014]

The American government may be getting closer to a broad train-and-equip program for vetted members of Syria’s armed opposition, according to US officials. The plan would constitute a move from a Title 50 action, run covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency and training a very limited number of rebels, to a Title 10 action run overtly by the Department of Defense that would target more scrutinized groups.

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Syrians in Lebanon cast votes amid traffic, army violence | NOW News

[Published here May 25, 2014]

SYRIAN EMBASSY, Yarzeh — Hundreds of thousands of Syrians today headed to the Syrian embassy in Yarzeh, southeast of Beirut, to cast their vote for Syria’s next president. The Hazmieh highway was clogged with cars as early as 8 a.m.; drivers waved the Syrian flag out of cars plastered with posters of Syrian president and incumbent candidate Bashar al-Assad. But chaos at the embassy and a disorganized voting process complicated many Syrians’ attempts to vote.

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Dekkenet al-Balad opens in Gemmayze | NOW News

[Published here May 15, 2014]

Driving licenses, university diplomas, and votes: everything’s for sale, even your rights. Such is the motto of Dekkenet al-Balad, which translates to “Country Store,” the newly opened storefront on Beirut’s Gemmayze Street. Neatly stacked throughout the small shop are buckets full of forged Lebanese ID cards, binders labeled “List of government positions for Maronites only,” and stacks of counterfeit Lebanese government paperwork. A young employee hurriedly sifts through a cardboard box to find a customer precisely the document she needs – for a fee, of course.

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Syrian Kurds find no solace in Lebanon | NOW News

[Published here on May 13, 2014]

Abdul Samih, his wife Fidan, and his five children live in a small, shabby apartment in the St. Simon neighborhood of southwest Beirut. To reach his tiny home, he weaves through narrow alleyways of Hezbollah flags, martyrdom posters, and burly Lebanese men looking on suspiciously at him. Not only is Abdul Samih a Syrian refugee, but he is ethnically Kurdish – making him double the outsider for many Lebanese.

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Shattered | NOW News

[Published here January 10, 2014]

There is something haunting about young, vibrant laughter in a building cracked by bullets and shellfire. There is something surreal about hundreds of innocent children doodling in a room where, only hours before, sniping had punctured the painted walls. But these are the everyday realities of schools along Tripoli’s sectarian fault lines. From frequent closings and traumatized students to the militarization of buildings meant to be “safe spaces” for children, many of Tripoli’s schools are caught up in the city’s micro-war.

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