You could be forgiven for thinking that Manuella Guiragossian is reading from the pages of a crime thriller when she recounts some of her tales from the world of art authentication.

Over the past decade or so, while working for the foundation that preserves and promotes the work of her late father, the famous Armenian-Lebanese artist Paul Guiragossian, Manuella, along with other family members, has encountered more than a hundred fakes, uncovered genuine works that were stolen during the Lebanese Civil War, and even hunted down a thief who had stolen a Guiragossian painting—before negotiating its safe return. The latter was arranged without the help of the Lebanese police, something that Manuella made sure to tell the police chief afterward. “I was like a detective you know, like CSI,” she laughs.

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For Ali Khalifa, it’s like having the “mark of the beast.” The 41-year-old Algerian is not warning against worship of the antichrist, fretting over biblical sea monsters, or debating the meaning of the number 666. He suggests that the modern-day sign of the devil may be both very real, and far unlike any described in the Book of Revelation. These days, it’s administered via needle by doctors and aid workers—the foot soldiers, as some believe, of an evil global elite.

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As Lebanon entered the eighth month of 2020, its people were suffering from the worst economic crisis in their country’s modern history. Decades of corruption and economic mismanagement had led to a situation where unemployment was higher than 30 percent, the lira had lost more than 80 percent of its value since October and access to food had become so dire a problem that experts were sounding the alarm about impending deaths from starvation—and even a possible famine.

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