The identity of the allegedly abducted Syrian-American blogger Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, whose name is associated with the popular protest blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, has been called into question in light of revelations that none of her supposed acquaintances have ever met her in person or spoken with her on the phone.
Every interview conducted with Araf was done so via e-mail, and a blogger who looked up Araf’s IP address was directed to a server in Edinburgh. (Araf told the blogger, Paula Brooks, that she frequently used proxies to hide her location.)
Perhaps more curious is her blog’s use of photos pulled from the Facebook account of a Croatian-born Londoner named Jelena Lecic. “I pray that Amina is safely returned to her family but I want to make it quite clear that I am not her despite my photographs being attached to this story,” Lecic said through a representative.
None of the major media outlets that reported on Araf’s abduction have been able independently verify any information found on her blog — some entries appear to have been copied from a previous blog that mixed fact and fiction — and attempts to reach relatives both in Syria and in the state of Virginia have come up empty.
Angela Williams, a spokeswoman for the US embassy in Damascus told The Guardian they were unable to confirm that Araf was an American citizen and, in fact, there were no records of anyone by that name living in the city. “We and our colleagues in Washington are continuing to attempt to ascertain more information about Ms Araf, including confirmation of her citizenship,” Williams said.
It’s important to remember that Araf’s high-profile blogging would have required her to be discreet in her actions, and her identity would likely have been at least partially fabricated for the sake of her safety. As The Guardiannotes, some 750 activists have been killed by Syrian security forces since the start of the uprising, and blogger was recently sentenced to five years in prison.
NPR writer Andy Carvin, who was the first to express doubts concerning the veracity of Amina’s blog, wrote on Twitter that despite all his questions “I am deeply worried that this discussion about her identity could distract people from the possibility that should might be being brutalized in detention, and in dire need of support from friends and strangers alike.
Whoever she is, wherever she is, I hope she is well and with us again online soon.”
Alice Pyne has terminal cancer.
The 15-year-old from Ulverston has been battling the disease for nearly four years, but her recent scan suggests her cancer has spread beyond the point of hope. “Now I know that the cancer is gaining on me,” she writes in her blog profile, “and it doesn’t look like I’m going to win this one.”
Though she may not be long for this world, there are still many things Alice hopes to accomplish while she’s around. On her mother’s advice, Alice createdAlice’s Bucket List — “a blog to document this precious time with my family and friends, doing the things I want to do.”
Among the things Alice would like to do: Swim with sharks; meet Take That; go to Kenya; and make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor.
“Some are possible,” she says. “Some will remain a dream.”
Recent numbers released from the UK based Safer Medicines Trust estimate that adverse reactions to drugs which tested safe on animals put over 1 million people into the hospital every year.
The Safer Medicines Trust tells the Guardian UK that 1-in-15 hospital admissions, or over one million a year, are due to adverse reactions to drugs proven safe in animal testing. Ninety-two percent of all drugs that pass animal testing fail the clinical trail phase after they prove ineffective or dangerous to human subjects. The arthritis drug Vioxx proved safe after extensive testing on monkeys but is responsible for over 200,000 human deaths. These figures alone signal the need for better testing methods that use human biology and not that of animals in labs.
With 1 out of every 15 hospital admissions caused by dangerous and poorly tested drugs, it’s amazing we haven’t moved furtherfrom the clearly ineffective animal testing methods. Next time someone defends expensive and cruel animal testing, gently inform them that if a drug proves safe on animals there’s an 8% chance of it working on a human.
Indiana Jones was real, sort of! And his name was Hiram Bingham III.
The two met in 2005 on the set of the music video for The White Stripes’ “Blue Orchid,” and were married shortly thereafter.
During a recent live performance for the French TV show Taratata, Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am was forced to whip out his cellphone in order to recite the lyrics to “Don’t Stop The Party,”which he apparently forgot. (Starts around the one-minute mark.)
Hey, will.i.am — here’s a protip: If this happens again, just sing the same line over and over until the music stops. Trust me: No one will know the difference.