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On The Ground In Homs: VIDEO

Homs
A very brave freelance documentarian has been shooting for weeks in the embattled Syrian city of Homs, where for nearly a month the forces of President Bashar al-Assad have been shelling residential neighborhoods. The documentarian has befriended members of the anti-Assad rebellion, and he records his videos in their midst -- battling government snipers in room-to-room combat, firefighting in the streets, tending to the dead. The video he's compiled and released to CNN represents some of the best and bravest war reporting I've seen in any format.

The video's twelve minutes long, and a lot of it will stick with you. I was especially struck by two things. First: Eight minutes and twenty some-odd seconds into the film, three men greet each other on a Homsian street, hugging and kissing, seemingly on the verge of tears. They look like friends or brothers who didn't expect to see each other alive again. Second: At video's end, a grandmother watches over a brood of children. Some of her own children are dead, but we don't know how many. She may not know either. She's utterly still, too furious and aggrieved even to scream.

Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...

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Obama Calls On Syria's Assad To Step Down

AssadProtest

After waffling on the subject of Bashar Nassad's crackdown on dissidents, President Obama this morning called on the Syrian president to step down.

"The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside," Obama said in his statement.

The commander-in-chief has also ordered financial sanctions against Syria: "I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria."

Obama was sure to note, however, that his executive order and statement should no indicate that the United States government plans on playing a role in Syria's transition: "The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement."

European leaders from France, Germany and the United Kingdom are also calling for Assad to resign.

Read Obama's entire statement, AFTER THE JUMP...

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'Anonymous' Hacks Syrian Ministry of Defense Website

Syria

Hacker group Anonymous took over the website of the Syrian Ministry of Defense website (which is still down as of this posting), replacing text on its front page with a message:

“To the Syrian people: The world stands with you against the brutal regime of Bashar Al-Assad. Know that time and history are on your side - tyrants use violence because they have nothing else, and the mor violent they are, the more fragile they become. We salute your determination to be non-violent in the face fo the regime's brutality, and admire your willingness to purse justice, not mere revene. All tyrants will fall, and thanks to your bravery Bashar Al-Assad is next. … To the Syrian military: You are responsible for protecting the Syrian people, and anyone who orders you to kill women, children, and the elderly deserves to be tried for treason. No outside enemy could do as much damage to Syria as Bashar Al-Assad has done. Defend your country — rise up against the regime!”


Jon Stewart on NY Marriage Equality and Fake Lesbian Bloggers: VIDEO

Whwqguti

Jon Stewart takes a look at marriage equality in NY, noting that the passage of the bill could ride on the vote of a single legislator, highlighting Andrew Lanza of Staten Island. Stewart also looks at the Syrian lesbian blogger hoax 'Gay Girl in Damascus'.

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

The Senator call list is HERE folks. Do it now!

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'Gay Girl in Damascus' Hoaxer Tom MacMaster Speaks to the 'Guardian': VIDEO

Macmaster

Tom MacMaster, the American from Georgia now living in Scotland, and the hoaxer behind the fake 'Gay Girl in Damascus' blog, speaks to the Guardian about the reasons he deceived people.

MacMaster compares it to writing a novel, and said it allowed him to tell the story of the Syrian uprising without someone asking him, "Why do you hate America?" He says he chose a lesbian identity because it was "a challenge" and says he was expecting to get only 20 hits.

Adds MacMaster: "I also have to say that I Like the light, and my own vanity is, if you want to compliment me, tell me you like my writing, and that's something that certainly, you know, the fact that I had people say 'you're an incredible writer'...that's how to make me happy."

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

Previously...
Hoax: True Identity of Lesbian Syrian Blogger Revealed [tr]

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Hoax: True Identity Of Lesbian Syrian Blogger Revealed

Skeptics had recently become suspicious of the “A Gay Girl in Damascus” blog and the existence of its author, allegedly a 35-year-old lesbian living in Syria. Today it was revealed that the whole thing is indeed a big hoax.

The site is written a by 40-year-old man from Georgia currently living in Scotland. The man, Tom MacMaster, published a new blog post today titled "Apology to readers":

Tom I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone -- I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.

The Washington Post had questioned MacMaster about the identity of the Syrian girl (the pseudonym he came up with was Amina Arraf) as early as four days ago. The Post reports:

In telephone interviews and e-mail exchanges with The Post over the past three days, MacMaster initially denied any connection to Amina. He insisted he had never heard of her before the news of the arrest and that he had been unaware of the blog. “Look, if I was the genius who had pulled this off, I would say, ‘Yeah,’ and write a book.”

MacMaster responded to a question from "Electronic Intifada" saying that he will soon further explain his actions with members of the media: "Yes. We will be doing a first interview with a journalist of our choice in 12-24 hours. After that, we may consider other media."

The blog Lez Get Real had posted entries created by MacMaster to their site over the last few months, the whole time believing they had indeed been written by a lesbian named Amina Arraf. Lez Get Real's staff issued an angry response directed at MacMaster for intentionally deceiving them:

"And you have the unmitigated arrogance to think you can issue an apology to YOUR readers and not to us. You have put us through a week of hell – calling in favors to rescue someone who doesn’t exist and losing us the support of people who were working with us for American rights. You have damaged your own cause, with people all over the world fighting over which fanatics you represent. What you did was stupid, irresponsible and unworthy of the people you claim to care about."


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