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Kaylyn Mattick

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Cooking in Tripoli

A Lebanese Recipe For Intra-Islamic Reconciliation

A project in Tripoli, Lebanon's second biggest city gives women from the rival Alawite and Sunni communities a chance to work together.

TRIPOLI — Breathing shallowly, our eyes scan the facades of buildings riddled with bullets and gutted by shells and mortar. Broken window panes and electric cords as far as the eye can see reinforce the sensation of chaos and desolation. This is Tripoli, Lebanon's second city.

The Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh neighborhoods, in the outskirts of Tripoli, are fraught with tensions between two communities: One is Alawite, a Shia minority to which the Syrian president Bachar al-Assad belongs; the other Sunni, which supports the opposition in neighboring Syria. These tensions often boiled over into armed violence during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) and, more recently, during the height of the Syrian conflict. The dividing line between the two communities, in fact, is a street called Syria.

The goal of the visit is to meet a group of Alawite and Sunni women who have managed to do the impossible: calm the antagonism and historic animosity between the two communities; ease minds and build bridges; plant the seeds, perhaps, of reconciliation. All this by using a powerful medium — cooking.

We enter a building that seems to have been miraculously spared from the violence. A young Lebanese woman welcomes us. She works for a local NGO supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross and directs a simple project, the goal of which is to provide materials and a neutral and protected space so that women from the two communities to meet, cook and exchange.

The ingredients of success? A modest investment and a unifying concept that overcomes division and mobilizes talent.

Arriving in the kitchen area, the smell of Lebanese dishes prepared with the utmost care makes our mouths water. Six women make chicken sandwiches with spices. The hygiene is impeccable. They put their hearts into the task. Their kitchen had been so successful that the project participants were able to enlarge the business by accepting only large orders. The day of our visit, they are busy completing an order of several hundred sandwiches for an orphanage in a neighboring village.

Financial Independence

The women explain to us that they were trained in cooking, and that they acquired skills that have henceforth given them financial independence. They are proud to be able to meet the needs of their families. Wafa Hazouri, 51, fell into a depression when battles were raging in her neighborhood. Her husband, a taxi driver, was almost unable to work. Their only source of income was on the verge of drying up.

"Working in this kitchen doesn't just allow me to pay the bills," she says. "It also brings me out of isolation and depression. My kids are really happy for me."

Cooking for an NGO in Beirut — Photo: Dan Snyder/ZUMA

The building is located on the front line between the two communities and has two entrances, one on each side allowing women to enter safely. We are told that since the project has existed, when fighting flares, this building is always spared. The fighters respect this as a neutral space, one that is set apart from the historical tensions.

Jabal Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh were systematically forgotten in the development effort — even after the civil war. As such, the communities living there have failed to escape the vicious cycle of poverty, violence and a lack of opportunities.

The kitchen project is important in that regard not just as a link between rival communities, but as a model, perhaps, for constructing a sustainable economy in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The ingredients of success? A modest investment and a unifying concept that overcomes division and mobilizes talent.

"Doing this work allowed me to recover my dignity," one of the women tells us. A beautiful message of resilience for future generations.

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Students walk through the University of Zurich campus.

Hitting The Books in Switzerland's 'Refugee University'

ZURICH — The determined look of Mambo Mhozuyenikono (not his real name) contrasts with the nonchalance of the other students who wander, trays in hand, around the cafeteria at the University of Zurich. For this 23-year-old from Zimbabwe, enrollment here is a privilege rather than an obligation — not something to be taken for granted.

Mhozuyenikono is one of 20 refugees chosen to study at the university for a semester — at no cost. "The moment I learned that I had been selected by the university was the happiest since I arrived in Switzerland seven months ago," he says.

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Advertisements at the marriage market in Shanghai's People's Park

Desperately Seeking A Son-In-Law: Inside A Modern Chinese Singles' Market

In Beijing parks and throughout the rest of China, “singles’ markets” are held, organized by the parents eager to marry off their children.

BEIJING — Several hundred people are gathered in Zhongshan Park, just next to the Forbidden City, in the heart of Beijing. Carefully lined up along pathways framed by high red walls and venerable cypresses, they are surprisingly subdued. Each of them — all adults of a certain age — stands behind a small piece of paper placed on the cement slabs. Several tap their feet to fight against the cutting cold of this winter afternoon.

The pieces of paper (small posters really) are protected by laminated pockets and pinned to the ground by stones. They contain inscriptions, either printed or handwritten. Some are decorated with photos of young people. The gathering is a market of sorts. Only the items on offer, it turns out, are people — single people, to be precise.

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Deadly Landslide In Colombia, Rising Toll

Brought on by relentless rain and an overflowing river, a devastating landslide over the weekend has left at least 250 dead in Mocoa, Colombia. The front-page headline Monday of La Opinión declares that the tragedy could have been predicted. Situated in the Andes mountains in southwestern Colombia, the region is particularly prone to natural disasters. The landslide struck in the early hours Saturday when many were sleeping. Officials say dozens of children are among those killed. Read more from BBC

Yes, really.

Bye-Bye Britain: Brexit Signature Makes Front-Page News Across Europe

British Prime Minister Theresa May signed a letter giving official notice of the UK's intention to leave the EU. The letter, which will be delivered later today to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, marks the official start of the two-year leaving process. Here's how Europe and the UK reacted:

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Time Magazine Cover On Truth And Trump

It's a looming question for any reader of the news and follower of current events:Time magazine's "Is Truth Dead?" cover this week does well to capture the zeitgeist of public discourse in the early months of Donald Trump's presidency. The central article travels through the place of truth in American public life, all the way back to the beloved fable of a young George Washington confessing to cutting down a cherry tree, up to the unbelievable tweets coming out of the White House.

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A Not-So-Goode German Newspaper Ode To Chuck Berry

Monday's edition of Die Tageszeitung features a front page that, at best, we can call overly creative. The Berlin daily's editors unlikely photoshopped mash-up is a blend of two big stories from over the weekend : the death Saturday of rock'n'roll legend Chuck Berry at the age of 90, and the unanimous selection Sunday of Martin Schulz to head the Social Democratic Party of Germany, ahead of September's election where he will challenge three-term incumbent Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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With only about 11,000 residents, Hambantota has the quality of a ghost town
Sri Lanka

A President’s Downfall, Nepotism And A Ghost Town In Sri Lanka

Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was credited with defeating Tamil guerillas, lost his bid for reelection in 2015. Now, his local fiefdom is suffering.

HAMBANTOTA — This city in southern Sri Lanka has a port, a cricket stadium, and an airport. But with only about 11,000 residents, Hambantota feels like a ghost town. There is also a conference center built in 2013 with capacity to hold up to 1,500 people. It's named after Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was president of Sri Lanka from 2005 to 2015, and is a native of the Hambantota district.Rajapaksa's military defeated the Tamil rebel group LTTE in 2009 after a long civil war, but went on to lose the 2015 presidential election.

Hambantota's conference center has not been used in four years. The center's roughly 50 employees, including 25 security guards, kill time as best they can. They show us the vast rooms that stay desperately empty.

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An idle moment waiting for the train resolved with phones

Real-Life Dangers Of Our Digital Distraction Age


PARIS — How could something like this happen? Some of us have spent the past week trying to find out the facts (and comprehend the enormity) of Sunday night's Academy Awards mega-gaffe, when La La Land was incorrectly announced as Best Picture.

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Incroyables comestibles Albi

A French Town Aims For Total Food Self-Sufficiency By 2020

ALBI — During a walk through the heart of the cathedral city of Albi, fruits and vegetables seem to be planted everywhere. And for good reason. A year ago, the city was given the objective of attaining food self-sufficiency by 2020.

In concrete terms, the goal is to allow the 52,000 residents to feed themselves with food produced within a radius of 60 kilometers (37 miles). "We all share the same priorities today," says Jean-Michel Bouat, deputy mayor for sustainable development, urban agriculture, water and biodiversity. "Changing the mentality of consumers and working on distribution circuits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Producing locally guarantees healthy food for all."

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What are the most absurd taxes?

Beards, Windows, Chinese Migrants: A History Of Bizarre Taxes

Hipsters beware: beards have been on the list of unusual taxes.

GENEVA — Governments rarely have an imagination except in one area: taxes. There was even an Emperor Vespasian who created a tax on urine, a resource that was employed at the time to treat fabric and laundry, and was even used in medicine. History is littered with such examples. Here's a glimpse at some of the most absurd ones.


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