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15 June 2016 Last updated at 12:14

How one woman responded to an unwanted penis photo

Samantha Mawdsley

A woman who received an unsolicited picture of a penis from a man she didn't know responded by giving him a dose of his own medicine.

It's a familiar tale for many young women in the digital age. You sign up for internet dating hoping to find a suitable bachelor and, before you know it, you've received a picture of a penis.

In this case, Samantha Mawdsley had done nothing more than post a review of a restaurant in Manchester. Before long, she had a notification from a man - calling himself James - whom she had never met. He had sent her a picture of his genitalia.

In a blog post, she writes: "I've read about these mystical happenings but since I've been in a loving, pre-Tinder, three-year relationship, I never thought I'd witness the horror first hand. My initial thought was to ignore it, as we females are taught from such a young age. But... Nah! I decided to mess with him and call him out on all his ridiculous behaviours and double standards."

Samantha's response was to give him a dose of his own medicine.

She replied back to him with a series of photos of penises embellished with colourful and mocking cartoon-like images. One included a image of a penis she found on the internet of a clenched like fist with the words "mine is bigger".

Unsurprisingly he didn't welcome the images and and one point messaged her, "I just want to puke! Please stop!".

His final message requested that they keep the conversation between themselves, something which Samantha says encouraged her to call him out.

"I wanted guys to know that not every girl is going to be silent; you do run the risk of being exposed; that you can't do this."

The post has already been shared thousands of times on Facebook, despite only being uploaded on Sunday, and being removed intermittently since. The media analysis executive told BBC Trending that she is "overwhelmed" after being "inundated with messages".

"I feel like Beyoncé. I've had messages from all over the world, including Germany, Netherlands and even Aruba. People have been saying 'You're my inspiration' and 'You've won the internet'. I've also had guys also saying sorry on behalf of men. I'm so shocked.

Samantha's Facebook post

"I've never received such a picture outside the context of internet dating, where that kind of thing goes with the territory. It's so prolific and this guy came out of nowhere."

Samantha is not the first to receive so-called "dick pics". This year alone has seen a number of women speak out about the issue. Model Emily Sears revealed she has been alerting girlfriends of the men who send her such images. Blogger and model Stina Sanders flagged up the problem by sharing a naked selfie sent to her by a troll.

It also revived an old memory from her teenage years. "I had an experience when I was 15 where a guy sat next to me in a library and started masturbating. Although I was quiet at the time, it made me want to point and scream."

What impact does Samantha hope her actions will have? "I really think guys are going to think twice. I'd rather that they learnt the lesson it's unacceptable but I'd be happy if it just peters out and doesn't happen any more. It's sexual harassment and shouldn't be allowed."

Samantha Mawdsley and boyfriend Aneil Fatania Samantha with her long-term boyfriend Aneil

Another man has already sent Samantha an inappropriate image since her post gained traction. "I didn't even dignify that with an answer - I'm not playing that game." As for the man on the receiving end of the unexpected publicity, the 30-year-old says she "almost feels bad for him".

"Of all the guys that sent them, he's just the unluckiest one. I know there's a person behind all this, that he's the poster boy for them, but for the greater good and for people everywhere, something just has to change. He can be a martyr for the cause.

"If he tried to contact me, I would be scared but I don't feel like I've done anything wrong, I've just pointed and screamed."

Blog by Harry Low

Watch Samantha's Facebook Live appearance

Next story

Two men kissing at altar

Why men kissed in response to Orlando killings

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Why men kissed in response to Orlando killings

Two men kissing at altar

When author Karl Soehnlein read an interview with the father of Omar Mateen, one section struck him in particular.

"We were in downtown Miami, Bayside, people were playing music. And he saw two men kissing each other in front of his wife and kid, and he got very angry," Seddique Mir Mateen told NBC News. His son Omar, the man behind the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history, killed 49 and injured at least as many at gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando during the early hours of Sunday morning.

"I was horrified by a quote from the gunman's father saying his son was 'very angry' after seeing 'two men kissing'. The idea that an expression of love could lead to such murderous violence was so upsetting to me," Soehnlein told BBC Trending.

Soehnlein then composed the following post for both Facebook and Twitter:

"I want to flood the world with images of men kissing...Fight back with love. ‪#‎TwoMenKissing‬"

And he included this image by photographer Jamiu Hello.

Two men kissing

"My message was simple: In a homophobic culture, visibility is essential. Our love makes us human. Kissing should be celebrated, not feared. Too many people still feel uncomfortable with images of men kissing. This is a message for both my community - a reminder to stand strong together in the face of adversity - as well as to those who fear and hate us: we're not going away," says Soehnlein .

The hashtag #TwoMenKissing was used over 10,000 times with many people sharing their own images.

Two men kissing pic
Two men kissing with Orlando hash tag

Soehnlein told us that he hopes the tag can also be used start a conversation in order to put an "end to homophobic laws, like the bathroom bill in North Carolina and the religious liberty laws in Indiana and elsewhere."

"I also feel strongly about holding politicians accountable. We need to call out Republican lawmakers who offer their 'thoughts and prayers' without acknowledging that the victims were from the LGBT community - silencing us in the midst of our own tragedy," says Soehnlein

Karl Soehnlein (left) with his husband Kevin Clarke Karl Soehnlein (left) with his husband Kevin Clarke

Soehnlein adds that social media was key in connecting with people after Sunday's killings.

"The massacre at the Pulse nightclub felt very far away. Posting an image of love felt like a way for me to support all those suffering in Orlando. And it connects someone like me - who has been out since the 1980s - with gay youth today, who are an inspiration and the future of our movement and community," he says.

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: Searching for life-saving medicines online

Woman suffering from cancer holds a sign in Spanish saying 'accept the help'. Olga Ramos was forced to crowdsource medicines online when she was diagnosed with cancer

Patients in Venezuela are turning to Twitter and Facebook to crowdsource the drugs they can't find elsewhere.READ MORE

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Searching for life-saving medicines online

Woman suffering from cancer holds a sign in Spanish saying 'accept the help'. Olga Ramos was forced to crowdsource medicines online when she was diagnosed with cancer

Patients in Venezuela are being forced to turn to social media to crowdsource potentially life-saving medicines. Around 80% of drugs are currently in short supply in the country, with hospitals and pharmacies struggling to find stocks of HIV and cancer treatments, insulin for diabetics and even basic painkillers.

That's why this week a group of charities started the hashtag #UrgeAyudaEnSalud or Urgent Health Aid, hoping to gain international attention for the current situation. It was soon picked up and used around 14,000 times.

Medical shortages are the result of a long-running financial crisis in the country, partly fuelled by the drop in the price of oil, which forms Venezuela's main export. But over time the situation has escalated. One doctor (who wanted to remain anonymous) working in a major hospital in the capital Caracas, told BBC Trending that last week the only drugs they had to treat patients were two antibiotics. People travel to hospital to "almost wait until they die" she added.

Medical personnel protest Medical personnel demonstrated on the border town of San Cristobal on May 30, 2016 to highlight medicine shortage

If a hospital can't provide the medical care needed, patients are left with two choices. Either they can turn to the black market and potentially pay three or four times the going rate for a treatment, or they can look to online networks.

Olga Ramos has taken the social media route. She was forced to look online for her prescribed medicine when she was diagnosed with cancer. Luckily in her case, Olga had friends outside Venezuela who were able to set up a crowdfunding campaign for her. They managed to raise the funds to buy her treatment in Colombia before sending it to her.

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Others aren't so lucky. In researching this story we found private Facebook and Whatsapp groups or Twitter hashtags like #ElCancerNoEspera (Cancer Does Not Wait) and #donatumedicamento (Donate Your Medicine) where patients are broadcasting the drugs they're searching for. Anyone who has leftover pills from a previous illness can then send them to those in need.

There are issues. Old drugs which are past their expiry date can be ineffective or even harmful. Some organisations told us that they act as middlemen, checking for donated pills' expiry dates and asking for prescriptions from those receiving medicine to ensure it doesn't end up being resold on the black market. But it remains a matter of trust.

Whatever the effectiveness of online support networks, many believe more is needed. The doctor we spoke to said that there are "a lot of hashtags on the internet but I think that's not enough for us. We need help. The help is not coming."

International aid has been offered to Venezuela from countries like Brazil, but it's been rejected by the government, who say they are taking steps to tackle the crisis (including providing medicines where they can through the health service and buying in raw materials to make more drugs). They say they would consider the intervention of aid agencies as an invasion of Venezuelan sovereignty. Time will tell whether that position is reversed.

Blog by Kate Lamble and Gabriela Torres

Next story: Is Facebook doing enough to stop private gun sales?

Generic stock picture of gun

Facebook vowed to clamp down on potentially dangerous private gun sales on its site. But is this happening? READMORE

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Is Facebook doing enough to stop private gun sales?

Generic stock picture of gun

In January 2016, Facebook responded to calls from gun control advocates and vowed to clamp down on potentially dangerous gun sales on its site. Legitimate gun dealers with Federal Firearms Licences - carrying out necessary background checks - are allowed to go about their business. But private sales are prohibited and, in theory, should be taken down immediately. But is this happening?

Not exactly. While Facebook did initially shut down numerous groups dedicated to gun sales, many of those looking to buy and sell armaments simply moved elsewhere on the site.

One such group is FSU Craigslist, a Facebook classifieds created for Florida State University students. While most of the posts advertise mundane everyday items such as furniture, the occasional gun adverts have been posted. According to an investigation by Vocativ, in the space of a week three guns were put up for sale, with two subsequently removed.

BBC Trending carried out a search for guns being sold by private individuals in other Facebook groups, and they were readily available.

Gun for sale on a Florida based gun trading Facebook page. Gun for sale on Florida based gun trading Facebook page

So are private gun sales legal in the US? According to Ladd Everitt, a spokesperson from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, "It varies from state to state, in some states it is legal, and background checks are not required". So those privately selling guns on Facebook are not necessarily breaking the law, only Facebook policy.

Further to this, the rules of The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, engrained in federal law, state: "It is unlawful for either licensed or unlicensed sellers to sell firearms to persons they know or have reasonable cause to believe cannot lawfully possess them." Much of the concern surrounding unlicensed sales of guns on Facebook, is that sellers may know very little about the buyer's background.

Pistol for sale on a Florida based gun trading Facebook page. Pistol for sale on a Florida based gun trading Facebook page

The introduction of Facebook's new rules came after gun safety campaign groups such as "Everytown" and "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense" applied pressure. A spokesperson from "Everytown" referred Trending to instances where unlicensed Facebook sales had led to fatal shootings - including one case in Ohio where convicted felon Brian Harleman used such a weapon to murder his ex-girlfriend's 10-year-old daughter.

Facebook's community standards "prohibit any attempts by unauthorised dealers to purchase, sell or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, firearms or ammunition." The social network currently relies on a reporting system, similar to one used to monitor pornography. But is this enough?

Despite applauding Facebook's initial promises back in January, "Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense" have since asked questions about Facebook's enforcement of the policy change. According to founder Shannon Watts in a recent statement "The next step is enforcing the change. Our supporters are flagging posts and groups that break Facebook's rules against unlicensed gun sales with no questions asked, but it's also critical for the innovators at Facebook to develop the systems necessary to make their new policy a reality."

A Facebook spokesperson told Trending; "We prohibit people from using Facebook to offer and co-ordinate private sales of firearms. Any content that violates this policy will be removed - whether it is in groups, on profiles, or on pages. We rely on our community of 1.6 billion people to help us enforce this policy by making it easy for anyone to report any piece of content including posts, photos, videos, and messages."

Blog by Alex Dackevych

Next story Ghana's 'fat-shamed' bride inspires thousands

Mzznaki Tetteh and fiance Kojo

Nurse says she will now lose weight for health reasons following internet trolling. READ MORE

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Ghana's 'fat-shamed' bride inspires thousands

Mzznaki Tetteh and fiance Kojo

If you're an avid follower of social media you will recognise Mzznaki Tetteh. She is a nurse from Ghana whose engagement photographs went viral on several social media platforms last week after hundreds of people left mean-spirited comments aimed at her figure.

Some left comments like, "HE must have a BIG heart" and "RIP that man's spine", (we won't share the more nasty ones). Tetteh was defiant in her response. She addressed the trolls directly by saying that their "rubbish comments ain't ruining my happiness".

Tetteh's defiant post on Instagram

And let them know that she has far more important things to celebrate.

He holds her up against a wall

However, following the wide sharing of the images, those sentiments have been swallowed by much more supportive comments. She was hailed as an inspiration.

Supportive comment to fat-shaming

Tetteh is now a social media star with over 30,000 Instagram followers and her own media manager. It's not possible to send her a friend request on Facebook - she's that popular. And she's been trending again on Facebook. It's following her first television appearance with Joy News' Israel Laryea.

While the majority of social media users hailed her as an inspiration, some said that the attention she was gaining was inappropriate.

Mzznaki Tetteh

Tetteh, who is preparing for her wedding on 25 June, told BBC Trending that she is trying to lose weight but stressed that it was for her own health reasons and not to appease her trolls.

"Some years ago in Ghana a woman who was plump was considered beautiful," Tetteh says, "In fact many songs have been sung in praise of such women. It was not a big deal to see chubby children and they were not treated differently. But times have changed with the internet and influence of foreign films.

"Slim or slender ladies are seen as more beautiful and gradually plus-size women and even men are body shamed. These current development puts a lot of stress on plump ladies like myself. It eats away your self confidence and your sense of worth to the point where your size becomes a disability."

She says she now looks past the negativity, with the support of her "loving" family and "can't wait" for her wedding.

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: Russian PM: 'No money for pensions, but have a good day!'

Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev

Dmitriy Medvedev comments to pensioner sparks uproar on Internet READ MORE

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Russian PM: 'No money for pensions, but have a good day!'

Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev

Dmitriy Medvedev's comments have once again caused much merriment on Russian social media. (You might also remember comments on his belief in Santa Claus. And that time during the 2014 state of the nation address when he was photographed sleeping as President Putin was talking.)

Once again, the Russian prime minister's remarks caught on camera during a visit to annexed Crimea on 23 May have prompted several sarcastic memes.

During a walkabout, Medvedev was confronted by a pensioner who complained about the government's failure to index pensions. The prime minister replied: "There is no money. But be strong. All the best. Have a good day, and good health," he added. Then he turned round and left.

Since the incident, the video on YouTube has been watched over 3.5m times. The phrase itself immediately went viral, spawning dozens of memes on the Internet.

"As late [Russian oligarch] Boris Berezovsky used to say: There was money. There will be money. But right now there is no money," opposition activist Ilya Yashin reminisced on Twitter.

Popular Russian political cartoonist Sergey Elkin pointed out Medvedev's ability to coin meme phrases often picked up by the online crowd.

Medvedev cartoon "Doc, I have a problem. I keep speaking in memes."

President Vladimir Putin himself came to the defence of Medvedev, saying that "any phrase can be taken out of context", but this did not stop the torrent of memes that followed.

Putin and Medvedev meme And I just told them: "There is no money. But be strong. All the best. Have a good day, and good health."
Memes "Be strong. All the best. Have a good day ... and good health."

It was not only Russian users who made fun of the statement. The deputy governor of Ukraine's largest commercial bank, Privatbank, Oleh Horokhvskyy, suggested on his Facebook page, that the phrase could be used on the screens of the bank's ATMs whenever they run out of cash.

ATM "There is no money. But be strong. All the best. Have a good day, and good health."
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Some thought that the phrase was perfect for all kinds of official paperwork, like this tax declaration.

Tax declaration with the phrase Individual tax declaration: "There is no money. But stay strong."

Or this spoof Russian government declaration in support of poor people of the Russian Federation.

Spoof declaration In line with the Russian constitution, the government declares: "1. There is no money. 2. Stay strong. 3. All the best. Have a good day, and good health."

Even commercial companies in Russia felt the moment was too good to miss it. A mobile communications company sent a message to its competitors.

Ad uses meme "Competitors, be strong. All the best. Have a good day, and good health."

The phrase was also used by a popular Russian comedian Semyon Slepakov in his song "Address to the Nation", which has got four million views in just two days after it was posted on YouTube. In the song, the artist addresses ordinary Russians suffering from the consequences of an economic downturn as the prime minister. "Have a good day, all the best. It's just there's no money," reads the refrain of the song.

Blog by Dmytro Zotsenko, additional reporting by BBC Monitoring

Next story Punctuation protest against far right trolls on Twitter

"Want to raise awareness about anti-Semitism, show solidarity with harassed Jews & mess with the Twitter Nazis? Put ((( ))) around your name.

Twitter users are adding parentheses to protest against anti-Semitic sentiment. READ MORE

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Punctuation protest against far right trolls on Twitter

"Want to raise awareness about anti-Semitism, show solidarity with harassed Jews & mess with the Twitter Nazis? Put ((( ))) around your name.

How controversial can a series of parenthesis marks be?

Over the past few days, Twitter users may have noticed an increase in the number of fellow users who have surrounded their names with ((( ))).

The symbols appear harmless enough but have become controversial after an investigation revealed that they were being used by a small minority of white supremacists to target Jewish writers with anti-Semitic abuse.

The use of ((( ))), also called "an Echo", have now been re-appropriated by the supporters of minority writers to show solidarity. The Anti-Defamation League has also added them to its online database of hate symbols.

Journalists receive abuse

The problem was first brought to the public's attention by the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, in May 2016.

He received the cryptic tweet "Hello (((Weisman)))" after he shared a link to a recent article he had written about the emergence of fascism in the United States.

The Twitter account which sent this original message has since been deleted but there is an archived version of the exchange.

Weisman found himself deluged with anti-Semitic tweets after receiving this "Echo", and he certainly wasn't the only Jewish journalist targeted.

Journalists share tweets which say  "It's weird, they do that same thing to me, the triple parentheses around my name. Is it a Nazi thing?"

Writers such as Jeffrey Goldberg and James Fallows from The Atlantic, Max Fisher from the New York Times, and the Boston Globe's Michael Cohen started to notice these symbols appearing around their names in November 2015.

Columnist Julia Ioffe regularly receives photoshopped images of her head superimposed onto Auschwitz detainees, with her name surrounded by ((( ))).

Far Right echoes

The journalists Cooper Fleishman and Anthony Smith traced the first use of the symbol to a group of right-wing social media users called "the alt-right".

White supremacist and far-right podcast programmes which support this movement, describe the "(((echo)))" as a visual representation of the fact that "All Jewish surnames echo throughout history".

Their investigation claimed that this obscure group of white supremacists were using a Google Chrome extension called "Coincidence Detector", to search social media for Jewish users and then compiling a database of people who they could then target for abuse.

Since the Mic.com investigation was published, Google has removed Coincidence Detector from its app store for breaching its terms and conditions on hate speech. Before it was taken down, the extension reportedly had 2,500 users who had generated a list of 8,800 names.

It wasn't just Jewish journalists who were included on the Coincidence Detector list, the Southern Poverty Law Centre found its name included on the list. It wasn't just Jewish journalists who were on the Coincidence Detector list: the Southern Poverty Law Centre found its name included on the list.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, an American organisation which monitors fascist and far-right groups online, says that the "echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally. Over the past several weeks, the echo symbol has been used by white supremacists and others as part of a pattern of harassment against a group of journalists."

Solidarity and support

Since social media became aware of Coincidence Detector, many Twitter users have changed their name to include parentheses as a way of showing solidarity, and also disrupting to the effectiveness of the Chrome extension.

This call to action was initiated by Yair Rosenberg, a senior writer at the online Jewish magazine the Tablet. "Want to raise awareness about Anti Semitism, harassed Jews and mess with the Twitter Nazis?" he tweeted. "Put ((( ))) around your name". His followers were quick to respond and over the past few days their replies have been shared or liked hundreds of times.

White Anglo-Saxon ex-Catholic here, but what the hell
Oh man I'm a Muslim this will confuse them
A picture of the Statue of Liberty is surrounded by parentheses.

Blog by Hannah Henderson, UGC and Social News

Next When Muhammad Ali took on Superman

Muhammad Ali and Superman shake hands

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook. All our stories are at bbc.com/trending.


When Muhammad Ali took on Superman

Muhammad Ali and Superman shake hands

The year is 1978 and Muhammad Ali is about to take on the most powerful man on Earth. In the audience is a stellar cast - everyone from The Beatles to Pele to Andy Warhol to Batman. Muhammad Ali is in the boxing ring with Superman.

The iconic cover of Superman vs Muhammad Ali has become one of the most shared images on social media since the death of the boxing legend, but the tale of how it came to be reveals a lot about Muhammad Ali's America.

Muhammad Ali and Superman in boxing ring

"When young comic book artists Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster took their creation Superman, initially drawn as a villain, to DC Comics they had no idea that within three months, the tales of the superhero would sell a million copies. America wanted Superheroes," artist Neal Adams, who drew the iconic cover and co-wrote the story, told BBC Trending.

Cut to few decades later when Julius (Julie) Schwartz, an editor of DC Comics, pitched a new story idea.

"One day at a meeting, Julie said: 'Why don't we have Superman fight Muhammad Ali?'" says Adams. "We all said: 'you're crazy!' but Julie felt that a real-life hero fighting a fantasy hero would be something special."

The comic's plot was that an alien race called the Scrub wanted to pit their champion against the greatest fighter on Earth. If he lost, Earth would be destroyed. Superman was a likely choice but Ali suggested he would be a better representative, as a human rather than an exile from the planet Krypton. So the two entered a qualifying bout. We won't give away the ending, but at one point, this happens:

Superman knocked out To negate Superman's powers the fight took place under a red sun

In the real world, Muhammad Ali's prowess in the ring had been proved many times, (although at the time of publication, in February 1978, Leon Spinks was the world heavyweight champion; Ali went on to regain the title in September of that year). But Ali was not considered a hero by all in America.

Ali had made made clear his stance as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. He had been convicted of draft evasion on 28 June 1967, for refusing induction into the army. In reality, Ali could have been a poster boy for the US Army, and it was unlikely that he would have been made to physically step on to a battlefield. But Ali didn't want a "sweetheart deal". He declared that he "had no quarrel with the Vietcong". The remarks, which were made a year before the first significant anti-Vietnam protests, were especially controversial at the time, considering he had converted to Islam.

And although that was almost a decade earlier than the comic's release, the decision made by DC Comics for Ali to fight the most powerful white superman in myth was still a particularly daring act for the time, says Adams.

Picture from comic - commentator says Superman has copied Ali's style

"DC Comics had a lot of liberal New York young Jewish men working for them at the time, who understood prejudice," says Adams. "And to depict Ali as on par with a white mythical Superman, was a subtle political act," says Adams. "The pen is mightier than the sword."

The process of collaborating with Ali's team over his image came with some challenges. They initially weren't happy with the first cover as drawn by DC's Joe Kubert, finding it too "crude", says Adams. He was drafted in to "soften" Kubert's initial vision. Adams's cover won the approval of Ali's team.

Neal Adams Many have called Neal Adams's cover "the greatest" Superman comic illustration

There have been rumours that Ali insisted that a plot point was included where he learned Superman's true identity (Clark Kent). Adams says that if this conversation happened, he was not privy to it.

However, Ali did make one request. He had fully embraced the religion of Islam, and he wanted the DC Comics team to fly to Chicago to get the seal of approval of his spiritual leader Elijah Muhammad.

When Ali beat Leon Spinks in News Orleans on 15 September 1978 to regain the world heavyweight boxing title, he encouraged the world at his press conference to buy Superman vs Muhammad Ali. They duly obliged. "The comic would be published in every free country in the world," says Adams.

Ali comic

"It meant so much to so many people," Adams says. "To this day, I have African Americans come up to me at comic book conventions with their old weathered copy of Superman vs Muhammad Ali for me to sign. It's still extremely emotional."

Adams told us that that he wasn't close to Ali, although he did hear that the boxer loved the comic and would proudly show his friends his own copy when they visited his home. But the moment that stands out for Adams was the press conference after Ali beat Spinks in New Orleans.

"I fought my way through the crowd to Ali's side for a photograph," Adams says, "I put my hand on his shoulder and it felt like stone. He radiated power and strength."

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story Why women are uber annoyed in Saudi

Woman from Saudi Arabia gets in car

Saudi Arabia's $3.5bn investment in Uber taxi service reignites women's driving rights debate. READ MORE

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Why women are uber annoyed in Saudi

Woman from Saudi Arabia gets in car Uber says 80% of their customers in Saudia Arabia are women

When Saudi Arabia made a hefty investment of $3.5bn (£2.43bn) in the Uber taxi company with an eye to facilitate its expansion in the Middle East, one of the things it probably had in mind was a huge domestic market for female customers. After all, Saudi women are banned from driving in the country, and Uber earlier mentioned that 80% of its Saudi Arabian users are women.

Uber first launched in the Kingdom in 2014, and the introduction of the app, alongside its main local-competitor Careem, seemed to solve the logistical hurdle of how women could mobilise themselves if they couldn't be driven by members of their family or private drivers. The latest investment could only mean more transport available for women and the strengthening of industries other than oil. Win win, right?

Wrong.

Some Saudi women took to social media to bring up a long-debated subject; the fact that they live in the only country in the world where women are not permitted to drive. But the latest Uber mega-deal opened up old wounds of having to rely on others for transport.

Many pointed to fact that as they are not permitted to get behind the wheel themselves, their government and the Silicon Valley transport company were using women as "cash cows, and hence profiting from their lack of rights.

Women say do not want to be "milch cows" "Saudi women are like cash cows for transport companies - this was the point of the head of the company when he said that (preventing women from driving is a blessing for us) so we understand."

After the deal was announced, the hashtag سعوديات_يعلن_مقاطعه_اوبر# ('Saudi women announce Uber boycott') gained popularity in Saudi Arabia, with over 8,500 mentions on Twitter in the last week. Some slammed the move arguing that the Vision 2030 strategy recently outlined by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defence Minister Mohammed bin Salman, which detailed several reforms aimed at diversifying the country's economy and moving it away from its dependence on oil profits, would be at the expense of women. Quite literally.

Saudi women express indignation "Instead of giving more rights to women as part of the Kingdom's 2030 Vision, it seems that this investment is at the expense of women's pockets."
Social matter "The prevention of women from driving is no more a social matter, but it is now an economic benefit of the government. To God we complain"
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Others argued that being alone in the car with (presumably) male drivers did not go well with the Islamic traditions.

Alone with a stranger tweet "According to the Islamic law, being alone with an familiar man is forbidden. We are alone with a stranger[the driver]."

At the end of the day, the conversation boiled back down to Saudi women's desire to be allowed to drive themselves.

Forced to take a taxi "I am not against the company itself, but against the prevention of women from driving in order to force her to take the car!! It is an investment at her expense."

There is no word as yet from the Saudi government but Uber's spokeswoman told The New York Times, "Of course, we think women should be allowed to drive...in the absence of that, we have been able to provide extraordinary mobility that didn't exist before - and we're incredibly proud of that."

Blog by Dmytro Zotsenko and additional reporting by Alma Hassoun

Next story When Saudi women marry foreigners

Saudi woman looking at wedding dress

A marriage between a Saudi woman and a Syrian man sparked a national debate in Saudi Arabia. READ MORE

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When Saudi women marry foreigners

Saudi woman looking at wedding dress

"This is how racism falls". These are the words of a Saudi man who attended the wedding of his relative, a Saudi bride who married a non-Saudi groom.

Perhaps the man did not know that the very short clip he posted on Twitter - supposedly showing part of the wedding celebrations - would spark a nationwide social media debate covering the kingdom's social politics, racism and women's rights.

The clip - whose provenance we could not verify - shows men dancing in a circle, with a traditional Syrian chant heard in the background, apparently marking the union of the Saudi woman and her Syrian beau, supposedly in the Saudi city of Medina. More than 50,000 people have used the hashtag "a woman from the Harb tribe marrying a Syrian man in Medina". The tribe to which the bride belongs, as well as the nationality of the groom were the major points of contention in the virtual debate.

Men dancing at Saudi wedding An unverified video shows Syrian chanting at the Saudi wedding

Some comments on social media were jubilant at the thought of an inter-country marriage: "What happened tonight in Medina is a good example of the Quran verse 'Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you,'" was one message.

Others discussed the consequences of marrying 'foreigners'.

"It is her right to marry whom she chooses, but she can't come later and shout that her husband and children are foreigners and demand that the nationality is given to them. Think well before you take such a decision," wrote one tweeter.

We know very few details about the couple in question, although the video seems to indicate that they had the blessing of those in attendance.

Many congratulated the couple, expressing their support for the marriage as a means of combating racism and promoting equality between Saudi men and women: "The most important thing is that he is a Muslim. Say 'no' to racism. The law should be equal to both man and woman…"

Others pointed to a discrepancy in attitudes towards the different sexes: "It is fine for a Saudi man to get married to a foreign woman, while the opposite case is forbidden. You wouldn't make a fuss if a Saudi man was the one marrying a foreigner"

There are examples of interracial relationships in the Koran. And one tweeter gave examples from the time of Prophet Mohammad to show that intermarriage was accepted.

"Bilal bin-Rabah al-Habashi [a companion of the Prophet, who came from the country that is now known as Ethiopia] married Hala, from the Quraysh tribe [one of the most respected Arab tribes which controlled Mecca]. Islam took away these ignorant and racist traditions and you are resurrecting them," wrote a Saudi architecture student.

A tweet with skulls A tweet demonstrating that all races and sexes are "the same underneath"

Many Saudis were angry that the hashtag was even created to discuss such a personal event. However, many others brought to the fore notions of the superiority of some groups over others. Here are a few of the comments we saw.

"Marriage is a whole life; so it is a big mistake for a Saudi girl to marry a foreigner, a 'Syrian' specifically."

"I wish that she becomes the last Saudi woman who marries a foreigner."

Another Twitter user wrote: "This is not racism. If you have an authentic and noble steed, would you throw her onto a mule? [No], you would maintain her lineage."

Saudi laws do not prohibit men and women from marrying outside their nationality, but those who choose to do so have to adhere to certain regulations. Similarly, the process of seeking official approval is often lengthy and drawn out.

Dr Hatoon al-Fasi, a Saudi academic, told BBC Trending that one of her female relatives married a non-Saudi and the process took around 18 months as the groom went through "a long check list."

She also added that if the couple have children they will not have Saudi citizenship. Dr Al-Fasi said: "Only sons have the right to apply for the Saudi citizenship when they turn 18". However, the children of Saudi women and foreign fathers get similar treatment to Saudi children in education and other sectors in the country, she added. However every year thousands of Saudi women marry non-Saudis from both Arab and non-Arab origins.

Dr Al-Fasi added that tribal divides within the country were an "increasing phenomenon in the Saudi kingdom". She said that although the Justice Ministry dropped "incompatibility in lineage" as a legitimate reason for divorce, judges are still divorcing Saudi women from their non-Saudi husbands, in absentia, on these grounds.

Due to a system of guardianship of women in Saudi Arabia, relatives, including uncles, are able to get a woman divorced on the grounds that they have have married "outside their lineage". Last April, a woman claimed in a video that she was forcibly divorced from her Saudi husband on that basis. Although the Saudi authorities later denied this, saying that incompatibility in lineage is not enough reason to grant a divorce.

Blog by: Alma Hassoun and Lamia Estatie, BBC Monitoring's Middle East team

Next story: The curious case of the Turkish President's degree

Turkey's President Erdogan getting an honorary degree

Turkey's President Erdogan faces calls to prove that his university degree is genuine.READ MORE

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Challenging Africa's albino stereotypes

Tweeted photo of albino and black-skinned Africans "We may not have it all together, but together we have it all," was the caption tweeted with this photo.

The superstitions about albinos in Africa are plentiful and dangerous.

In Tanzania last year, a 6-year-old boy had this arm chopped off by witch doctors who believe potions and charms made from the body parts of albinos are guaranteed to bring success.

"There is also a belief that having sex with a person living with Albinism can cure HIV; a superstition that has increased cases of rape and infection among Albinos," says Kenyan student Peter Kiprop Koima. He is responsible for the creation of the #AlbinismIsJustAColour hashtag, which trended in Kenya this week.

Koima, who lives in Nairobi, told BBC Trending that he first became interested in the issue of albinism when he heard of a woman in a village outside the capital who "gave birth to an albino kid. She felt like she had been 'bewitched' and she didn't want to keep the kid. She was contemplating for murder." But he and a group of his friends approached her to give her support, "that made her she think about the child positively. But we still have the challenge to make sure the child is integrated with other kids who don't understand albinism."

Albinism Is Just A Colour campaigners Peter Kiprop Koima (right) and his friends are helping a local school for albino children with their Albinism Is Just A Colour campaign

So he created the #AlbinismIsJustAColour hashtag because "I want our community to appreciate the beauty in albinism." Many used the hashtag to do just that.

Albino model
Albino model posing on beach

Around one in 20,000 people around the world are born with oculocutaneous albinism, which is caused by a lack of the pigment melanin, that gives hair, skin and eyes their colour. And some who used the hashtag wanted to stress that albinism is just a skin condition (Although it is important to note that there are health implications too; albinism in Africa brings with it an increased chance of developing fatal skin cancer, and the lack of pigment to protect eyes against the bright sun can cause sight problems).

Albinism is lack of melanin
Just a skin condition tweet

However, there are more serious issues to contemplate. Celestine Mutinda, who has shared the hashtag and also has albinism, told BBC Trending "some of us are scared of walking along the streets of Nairobi. Sometimes while walking some people do say 'this is money'. They believe that albinos can be sold. Some albinos end up isolating themselves because of discrimination."

A study by albinism awareness group Under the Sun found that there were a total of 448 reported attacks on Albinos in 2015, across 25 African countries. The group said that the attacks constituted "mutilations, violence, rape, attempted abductions," and that the "actual number of attacks & killings of Albinos are likely much higher than indicated since many are never reported or documented."

The situation is particularly dire in Malawi. Last year a United Nations human rights expert warned that albinos in the risk what she described as "systematic extinction". Ikponwosa Ero, herself an albino, said the country's 10,000 albinos were becoming "endangered" because so many of them were being killed. This coming week, Amnesty International will be releasing a report concentrating on the violence against albinos in Malawi.

And these are some of the reasons that Peter Koima and his friends decided to create this hashtag. They will also be organising events at a local school for albino children in the Rift Valley valley called the Illula Albinism Centre. "Our main aim is to make sure they have equal opportunities when growing up, competing for jobs, everything," he told BBC Trending.

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: The curious case of the Turkish President's degree

Turkey's President Erdogan getting an honorary degree

Turkey's President Erdogan faces calls to prove that his university degree is genuine.READ MORE

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The pill that cures Islamophobia

A spoof video about a fictitious drug that cures Islamophobia has raised questions about the use of humour to tackle such a serious issue.

The video made by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been viewed more than 125,000 times.

It pokes fun at stereotypes and promotes a make believe pill called "Islamophobin".

CAIR responded to criticism by saying "Islamophobin is funny, Islamophobia is not."

Video journalist: Nathan Carr. Journalist: Emma Wilson.

Next story: The curious case of the Turkish President's degree

Turkey's President Erdogan getting an honorary degree

The curious case of the Turkish President's degree

Turkey's President Erdogan getting an honorary degree President Erdogan (right) receiving an honorary doctorate degree from Al-Quds University in 2012. But some Turks doubt he ever studied for a proper diploma.

A President and a certificate that could, in theory, disqualify him from office.

No, we're not talking about President Obama and that birthplace issue. Now it's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who finds himself in hot water on social media, this time not for attacks on his critics, but doubts about the authenticity of his university degree.

President Erdogan's official biography states that he graduated from Maramara University's Economic and Commercial Sciences Faculty in 1981.

But in recent days Turks have taken to Twitter under the hashtag #YaDiplomaYaİstifa - which means Either Your Diploma Or You Resign - accusing the president of lying. Tens of thousands of tweets have used the hashtag and there's even a music video which calls on the president to produce evidence of his higher education.

YouTube video asking 'Where is the diploma?' 'Where is the diploma?'

The President isn't helped in the matter by the official website of Marmara University, which states that the aforementioned faculty never existed, but that the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences was formed in 1982.

Doubts about the authenticity of Erdogan's degree were first made by an opposition MP before his election as President in 2014, with claims that the archives of Marmara University was closed during the Presidential election of 2014. And in the past few days the conversation has resurfaced as a result of the re-sharing of old reports saying that the Marmara University archives have since been reopened, and the President's degree can not be found.

Erdogan's opponents have been particularly vocal as having a four-year degree is officially a prerequisite for becoming president - though it's not clear if he could be disbarred from office if his degree was ruled to not be genuine.

This tweet reads: "Don't bow down to a phony, my Turkey!"

Tweet asking where Erdogan's degree is

Many of the other critical tweets focussed on the lack of an official response from President Erdogan to the accusations.

Tweet doubting his "Erdogan is unable to prove his diploma."

The tweet below has Erdogan saying "You don't have a diploma as well, right?" To which President Obama replies, "Dude I'm a Harvard graduate ;)"

Erodgan and Obama

Erdogan is the holder of a number of honorary degrees. And ironically was awarded one in Uganda this week on his tour of East Africa just as the controversy was raging at home. His supporters have defended him, saying he is more than capable of handling the naysayers.

Erdogan defence tweet A tweet defending Erdogan. "Be angry, continue to bark, dogs. But don't anger the chief, he knows how to silence barking dogs well."

Discussion of the President's eligibility has extended beyond social media. The former chairman of the Association of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu has appealed to the Supreme Election Board (YSK) of Turkey to annul Erdogan's presidency. He submitted a 29 page document in support of his appeal, claiming that a necessary review of his eligibility was not carried out prior to his election as President. He also called for the Ankara's Chief Public Prosecutor to begin an investigation into Erdogan's alleged "use of forged official documents".

President Erdogan has yet to respond to the allegations.

Blog by Tural Ahmedzade, BBC Monitoring

Next story: Standing up for hate

Image showing media turning head of man Many who used the hashtag believe mainstream media is misleading the public.

Why some on the internet are loudly declaring their opposition to a curb on "hate speech." READ MORE

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook. All our stories are at bbc.com/trending.


Standing up for hate

Tweet suggesting mainstream media is censoring the news. Many who used the hashtag believe mainstream media is censoring the news.

"You cannot confront hate speech until you've experienced it. You need to hear every side of the issue instead of just one" the novelist Jane Elliott wrote. But the debate over the limits of self expression has been brought into sharp focus in the last couple of days as tens of thousands of people have publically declared that they 'stand with hate speech' in opposition to what they regard as unwarranted and pernicious censorship.

On Tuesday four big tech giants, Microsoft, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook announced that they had agreed on a code of conduct with the European Commission to take down "hate speech" within 24 hours of it being posted on social media. And social media has reacted. Strongly.

The aim of the guidelines, said the press statement, was to remove content that is "genuine and serious incitement to violence and hatred". Vĕra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality, who spearheaded the creation of the code, also specifically name-checked the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.

"The recent terror attacks have reminded us of the urgent need to address illegal online hate speech," she said, "social media is unfortunately one of the tools that terrorist groups use to radicalise young people and racist use to spread violence and hatred."

EC panel discussing hate speech

However where some see sensible new safeguards others see the stifling of free speech and debate. And #IStandWithHateSpeech - which is not an entirely new hashtag - has been trending in the United States - which will not be covered by the new EU initiative - and other countries which will be. It's been tweeted more than 80,000 times in the last couple of days. Some have used it to have a wider discussion on political correctness, saying that social media provides information where the media often won't, and that it also sometimes creates the conditions that foster the sort of attacks that the code was aiming to prevent.

San Bernadino could have been prevented tweet

Some referenced the Cologne sex attacks last year, where authorities and media outlets were accused of covering up key information about the assaults to avoid fanning anti-immigrant sentiments.

Media too scared of racism tweet

In fact, the start of the #IStandWithHateSpeech tag was reported by the Inquistr to have started around the same time as the Cologne attacks.

But that was a specific corner of the argument. Many were also concerend with the wider question of the parameters of "hate speech", and who gets to decide what they are.

What is hate speech tweet

The 'c' word cropped up in several tweets.

Hate speech is sensorship

Others saw the whittling away of hard won rights to free speech.

Twitter post

Digital rights activists expressed suspicion. Lobby groups like the EDRi and Access Now said that what constitutes "hate speech" has been too vaguely defined. EDRi executive director Joe McNamee told Arstechnica that the pledge "creates serious risks for freedom of expression, as legal, but controversial content may well be deleted."

However, many used the tag to express their upset that "hate speech" was being defended at all. This was the much re-tweeted comment of one famous American actor and musician.

John Lurie tweet on hating the hate speech tag

And this author felt the fear of censorship was unfounded.

There's no censorship tweet

Although this is the first attempt to codify a list of internet rules across the European Union, many of the policies outlined by the EC are already in place. Twitter has taken down around 125,000 terror-related accounts in less than a year. And Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg has previously said that the social network is committed cracking down on hate speech, particularly against against migrants in Europe.

However, this was not going to lead to a policed digital state, was the promise.

Karen White, Twitter's head of public policy for Europe, said: "We remain committed to letting the Tweets flow. However, there is a clear distinction between freedom of expression and conduct that incites violence and hate."

Next story: Twitter restores Putin parody account

President Putin

A popular account that pokes fun at the Russian president goes back online after an outcry from the real Estonian president and others.READ MORE


Twitter restores Putin parody account

President Putin The comedy account of "the 146% legitimate President of Russia" has now been restored.

Twitter has been accused of a sense-of-humour failure after it temporarily suspended a popular parody account that pokes fun at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia watchers have been dismayed in recent days to find themselves denied the satirical delights offered to his 50,000-plus followers by @DarthPutinKGB.

They also found themselves briefly bereft of four other Russian-themed parody accounts, including @SovietSergey, a lampoon of Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and @AmbYakovenkoNot, which mocks the Russian ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko.

All of the suspended accounts, including @SovietSergey, have now been reinstated. But DarthPutinKGB's suspension in particular provoked much indignation from Twitter users, and also plenty of humour.

Well-wishers tweeted their support for the suspended Darth and criticism of Twitter using the hashtag, #NoGulagforDarthPutinKGB.

Brian Whitmore, Russia Analyst for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty - which is funded by the US government - even penned a mock obituary of the parody president, featuring a selection of his bons mots.

They included:

"Don't believe anything the Kremlin doesn't first deny";

And "Russia has cut defence spending. Attack spending remains unchanged."

Some Twitter users posted screenshots of one of Darth's final quips before he was suspended - about the Russian president's recent visit to Greece. This was the Opinion Editor of the Moscow Times:

Retweet of DarthPutinKGB's tweets

Among Darth's high-profile supporters were the real Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Estonian President: "why in the world have you suspended one of the funniest parody acc'ts"

And former world chess champion and Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov, who accused Twitter of "taking lessons on censorship from the Kremlin".

Garry Kasparov, tweet accusing Twitter of "taking lessons on censorship from the Kremlin"

Russian officials and pro-Kremlin media have spawned a host of Twitter parodies in recent years, and several of them rallied to the side of their fallen colleague. A lampoon of the Kremlin's international TV channel RT (formerly Russian Today) was one of a number of users who added "DarthPutinKGB" to their handles as a mark of solidarity. It also tweeted a mock declaration of independence by "Russian Twitterians" in protest at Darth's suspension.

Russia Today parody tweet

So what lay behind the disappearance of DarthPutinKGB?

Contacted by journalists over Darth's suspension, Twitter refused to comment on the individual case and referred them to its rules on parody accounts. These state that accounts should "indicate that the user is not affiliated with the account subject by stating a word such as 'parody', 'fake', 'fan', or 'commentary', and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience".

On Tuesday a blog linked to the Darth account summoned all its reserves of mock-indignation to brand the suspension a "Russophobic stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists". But by Wednesday the blog was reporting: "Appeals against this kangaroo court and travesty of justice have begun and the USA's lickspittles have indicated that a compromise is possible."

Later in the day the account was indeed restored and Darth's first tweet back seemed to jokingly promise reprisals on those who had not shown sufficient loyalty while he was exiled to his cyber dacha.

Darth Putin threatens reprisals on those who didn't support him

But Darth's bio on the restored account remained the same as it was before the suspension: "146% of Russians didn't elect me. You don't visit Russia, I visit you. I serve tea to those that call this parody. Tweets made topless signed vvp."

During the account's suspension a person, claiming to be behind Darth and other parody accounts, gave an interview Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in which he said that "no sensible person could read my bio and think it is really the president of Russia".

He also linked the current spate of suspensions to a recent incident in which the France-based Euronews TV channel mistakenly quoted a tweet by @SovietSergey as if it was from the Russian foreign minister himself.

Writing on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Euronews of "disinformation". A screenshot of the erroneous tweet has since been removed from the Euronews site.

This is by no means the only time that Russian-themed Twitter parodies have been mistaken for the real thing.

Back in December 2015, a parody account of the Sputnik news agency was suspended after catching out numerous users. It has since reappeared in a different guise, which makes its parody status more explicit. Soviet Sergey had to make a similar amendment to his account.

But some claim that one of the causes for the confusion is the eccentric behaviour of the targets of satire themselves.

Last October, Ambassador Yakovenko posted a tweet about jihadist terrorists illustrated with a photo of US actor Kal Penn in the comedy film Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

Ambassador's tweet with film pic

"I can't stop laughing," Penn tweeted in response.

Blog by Stephen Ennis, BBC Monitoring

Next story: The mysterious novel in the cat video comments

Cat

Who is behind the anonymous episodic story which is cropping up in odd places online? READ MORE

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Disney Pixar's first lesbian couple?

The trailer for Disney Pixar's Finding Dory has thousands of people wondering if the film has set a precedent by featuring a lesbian couple.

The two minute teaser of the sequel to Finding Nemo has divided opinion. Some have reacted positively to what they see as increased LGBT representation in an animated feature. Others have vowed to boycott the movie. Disney Pixar has not commented.

Video journalist: Nathan Carr. Journalist: Emma Wilson.

Next story: The mysterious novel in the cat video comments

Michael Jackson

The mysterious novel in the cat video comments

Michael Jackson Conspiracy theories about Michael Jackson's death play a part in the mysterious online work

The plot ranges across the CIA, hallucinogenic drugs, humpback whales, Nazis and the death of Michael Jackson. But just as mysterious and intriguing is the way in which what is being dubbed 'The Interface Series' is emerging into the world.

If you watched the TV-series Lost, you'll probably be familiar with that feeling of confused anticipation as you hope for several threads of narrative to tie together. Over the course of this month, a new kind of mystery, for a new kind of audience, has been unfolding on Reddit - the online bulletin board where people post articles and comments on threads about a bewildering range of subjects.

It all began about a month ago when anonymous Redditor _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 began commenting on seemingly random Reddit posts with elaborate, even creepy, descriptive posts.

Reddit user commenting on thread

The posts appeared in threads about a bizarre range of seemingly unconnected topics including: a debate about whether pirates really did have parrots, the responses to somebody seeking advice about how to help a relative with a drugs problem and the comments under a video of a cat sliding down stairs.

Still from cat video

But these weren't just random nonsensical rants. There is a theme that ties them all together; 'The Flesh Interfaces' which seem to be "portals of some kind, made of thousands of dead bodies, which transport biological matter to some unknown place and returns it inside a fleshy sack, heavily dosed with LSD."

The Flesh Interface

So who is the author behind all this?

Trending contacted _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 and he agreed to be interviewed via email. He told us he is male, in his thirties, lives in the United States, works as a freelance translator and was once a heavy user of LSD.

And what is 'The Interface Series' about? "At the distinct risk of sounding like a grandiose crackpot, I would sum up my story as a warning to humanity. I believe we are rushing headlong toward a focal point at which the future of our species will be decided," he replied.

But it's a warning that seems to be peppered with references to popular culture.

Michael Jackson post

Some readers also thought that in another post the author was referencing 'Becky with the good hair', a much-quoted phrase from Beyonce's recent album Lemonade.

Jesus with the good hair

The writer told us: "I don't know exactly where the story is going, but I do know the information I want to convey, which guides the story."

As for the unorthodox way in which the story is appearing, _9MOTHER9HORSE9EYES9 clearly feels Reddit is the perfect platform for his narrative.

"I realized that on the internet, and especially on Reddit, it is possible to intrude on people's realities in a very unexpected way. If you have a bit of a knack for storytelling, you can redirect the thread of a conversation in any direction. With a single, strategically designed comment, a simple debate about cookware can become Klingon erotica. A discussion on urban planning can morph into an Edwardian romance with gay seagulls. The sky is the limit, really."

The story is certainly distinctive and has already gathered thousands of followers. It is now easier to track down as one admirer has collected all the posts in one place in chronological order in a subreddit page called r/9M9H9E9.

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: Why I wrote about my wife's miscarriage

Dan Majesky and wife Leah

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Hospitality on hold as Damascus prepares for Ramadan

Meme complaining about high cost of lemons "A kilo of lemons for 1000 Syrian Pounds. Did you pick it from the White House garden?"

A video showing peaceful scenes at a food market in Damascus has proved to be compulsive viewing for many Syrians ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Although the clip lasts less than a minute and has no commentary or speech it was watched more than 200,000 times in the four days after it was posted on social media.

What has gripped and horrified Syrians are the close-up shots of the prices of fruit, vegetables, and other produce, provoking a flood of sad face reactions and angry comments under the video.

Still from market video with food prices A clip of footage of food prices in a Damascus market has been viewed more than 200,000 times online.

This is not the only example of social media anguish over the skyrocketing food prices.

A popular pro-government Facebook page - called The Diary of a Mortar Shell in Damascus - posted a chart that compared current food prices with those at the time of Ramadan last year.

The table - which has been widely discussed and shared - shows that the price of some vegetables is now five times more. For example, one kilo of lemons cost 125 Syrian Pounds (SYP) last June and has since shot up to 700 SYP (around $1.2).

To put that in some context the salary of a civil servant is around $45 a month after the latest dramatic currency devaluation earlier this month.

But at least in Damascus food - expensive as it may be - is more plentiful than in some rebel-held areas blockaded by the Assad regime. Aid organisations have on occasion reported that civilians have died of starvation in areas besieged by the government.

However, for people living in government-held Damascus the increases in food prices are of particular concern as Ramadan approaches.

During the month of Ramadan the majority of Muslims fast during the day and have their first meal at sunset. Traditionally, this religious occasion also has a social dimension as families and friends exchange visits and prepare numerous dishes to share with guests.

However, BBC Trending has heard anecdotal evidence from several Damascus residents that the stratospheric cost of living is leading to a tacit unspoken agreement to suspend the usual rules of hospitality.

"Usually we would put a box of sweets on the table and keep offering guests to have more," one woman told us. "But now you just offer a plate with one or two sweets, that's if we manage to buy the box in the first place."

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Join the conversation on this and other stories here.

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So who do Syrians blame for this new hardship in the sixth year of the conflict?

In the comments under the price comparison chart many people blamed traders for taking advantage of the devaluation and the ongoing conflict.

"Enough traders, you have no fear of God," one Facebook user wrote. "Stop compiling money, Ramadan is approaching so be merciful to people, they have enough troubles".

This sentiment also found voice in a Facebook page called "Boycotters" which was set up by consumers who wanted to protest against alleged profiteering by food sellers. The page's aim was to encourage shoppers to not buy imported goods for one week earlier this month. Although 35,000 people claimed to have participated in the boycott it's not clear what success, if any the protest had.

Syrians have also blamed the government for not limiting the price increases in the markets. One social media user wrote: "The performance of the Syrian government is genuinely embarrassing, the dollar is about to reach 1,000 SYP and prices are sky high, salaries are still the same … Any government that does not feel with citizens is dirty and corrupt and it has to step down".

Boycotters Facebook page logo A Facebook page was set up to try to organise a consumer boycott against alleged profiteering.

Trending spoke to several people to see how they were coping with the price increases.

One retired woman who lives in Damascus with her husband, told us that she was still buying basic food items but with some austerity measures. She buys smaller amounts, chooses cheaper kinds of vegetables and has dropped many fruit and vegetables from her diet.

The couple's combined pensions are not enough to get by on so they have found part time jobs. The woman is worried now about the potential increase in robbery and crimes because people "need to get food for their families".

A younger mother from Damascus told us some of her neighbours had not had meat for a long time. "Even the traditional dish of beans, which is called 'the poor's meat', is becoming unaffordable for many after it was a regular dish", she said.

Although the majority of Damascene people appear to be feeling the pinch, there are different levels of hardship. In Damascus, very diverse groups with remarkably different economic capacities live side-by-side; internally displaced people staying in shelters or in rented places, retired people, civil servants, jobless, self-employed and a limited number of UN and NGOs staff.

Some see a grim future for those who have little. "… But there are also many people who are unemployed. What shall they do; in my opinion it is better for them to die [rather than living under such conditions]," a Facebook user commented.

And another commentator made a gloomy forecast heavy with sarcasm: "We should be happy because these [food] prices are many times better than the ones of Ramadan 2017."

Reporting by BBC Monitoring

Next story: How Spain was dragged into Nigeria's 'tomato emergency'

Man in tomatoes

The mayor who hosts Spain's famous tomato throwing festival urges tomato-deprived Nigerians not to see red. READ MORE

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The jailed rapist looking for love online

Prisoner

"I am six feet tall and my hazel eyes reflect my olive skin... I seek to connect with women who are romantics at heart… that are open to the possibility of true love".

These are lines from the online dating profile of Robert Torres - a man who is serving four concurrent life sentences for aggravated sexual assault, including the rape of Texas nurse Lori Williams at knifepoint 20 years ago, while her two daughters slept in a room nearby. His other victims included a 63-year-old woman and her 16-year-old granddaughter. The advert contains no mention of any of these crimes.

Lori became aware of Torres' profile as the result of an internet search. She told BBC Trending, "I keep up with his whereabouts. I know he is serving multiple concurrent life sentences, but it brings me peace to know where he is and keep tabs on him. When I googled his name I found a prison pen pal site where he had posted an online profile."

She said that she immediately asked the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) to take it down, but much to her surprise they were unable to act, given that the advert was posted to a third party website called friendonline.org.

Lori then discovered that - although inmates don't have access to the internet - they can post online adverts by sending a physical letter to a prisoner pen pal website. Further correspondence is carried out by mail. These services are advertised inside prisons.

"I felt like I had been gut punched, because although convicted and in prison, he still has access to reach other women, groom, manipulate and cause harm." Lori told Trending. "He is a violent sexual predator who does not see himself as such."

The profile of a prison inmate seeking a romantic pen pal Robert Torres' advert on friendonline.org

Lori felt she had to do something. She launched a change.org petition calling for the state of Texas to ban violent felons and perpetrators of sex crimes from using written communication to post online profiles with a view to soliciting pen pals. Similar laws are already in place in Florida and Indiana. The petition's target is 150,000 signatures and among the intended recipients are Texas Governor Greg Abbot and the Chairman of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice.

An online petition Lori Williams' petition on change.org has been signed 116,000 times

"People have signed from all over the world" said Lori. "There have been many victims and survivors who have expressed gratitude that this is being pursued, and encouraging me to continue progress on this issue," she added.

Change.org comment
Change.org comment

Lori explained to Trending what motivated her to go public. There is a "humiliation and embarrassment" in revealing something "very personal" she said. But feeling let down by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, she felt compelled to take action. Torres reportedly said in an interview that he didn't post the ad and has no pen pals.

So what steps are being taken by the state of Texas?

Texas State Representative Matt Shaheen pledged to bring forward legislation to prevent perpetrators of sex crimes from using written communication to post profiles on websites, with a view toward soliciting pen pals. And in April 2016, the TDCJ updated its criminal handbook to prohibit prisoners from having personal pages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram being run on their behalf.

Facebook comments Facebook comments in response to Williams' petition

Despite launching the petition, Lori doesn't believe there should be a blanket ban on prisoners' external communications.

"I am not against prisoners communicating and writing to family, friends, attorneys, or maintaining and establishing relationships with individuals who seek to mentor or minister to this population. Advertising and solicitation is another matter."

So is there a case for prisoners seeking pen pals in the outside world?

According to Charlotte Barlow, a criminologist from the University of Birmingham "Prisoners corresponding with the public can be a useful rehabilitation tool, reduce re-offending and can enhance prisoners mental health and well-being." But in reference to Torres, Barlow added "Prolific sex offenders such as this are often seeking to gain power and control over their victims and are often very manipulative, therefore the fact that he is able to actively seek a romantic relationship is concerning when considering his offending history."

Robert Torres

Speaking specifically about the rights of prisoners in the UK: "Anything that is sent to prisoners is supposed to go through a screening process and prisoners are supposed to have limited access to social media and the internet. Furthermore, if an inmate is convicted of domestic and sexual violence, all letters they receive and send should be checked. However, perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence can often be very manipulative, so there may be things that 'fall through the cracks' and are missed." said Barlow.

Former Tennessee prison officer, Judith A Yates knows first-hand how manipulative prisoners can be, even from behind bars "I saw a lot of manipulation. I saw a lot of lies. They wouldn't be honest about why they were incarcerated, and they took advantage of a lot of people." She added that "Inmates can request people to send nude or lewd photographs...then they'll just trade them around and such like baseball cards. It's just amazing what these people can trick people or manipulate people into doing."

But David Fathi, director of the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union is resolute that any prisoner, even violent, should not be denied their First Amendment right to free speech.

"His [Torres'] punishment is incarceration...even people who commit terrible crimes, of which this certainly is one, don't forfeit all their rights as a result. It's a fundamental principle of freedom of expression as it's enshrined in the US constitution that the fact that someone doesn't like speech, even if it's painful to hear, doesn't license the government to suppress it," said Fathi.

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So who might seek romance with a violent inmate?

Sheila Isenberg, the New York based Author of Women who Love Men who Kill, interviewed 36 women that had fallen in love with prisoners on death row. Isenberg concluded from her research that the appeal was in the fact the men were incarcerated for life. All of the women she spoke to had some previous history of abuse, either physical, sexual or psychological. "These were relationships [with prisoners] where they [the women] felt they had the upper hand". Isenberg also concluded that the prisoners were generally manipulative, "They would lie to them, write romantic poetry, but would often be pursuing many women at the same time."

But how about Robert Torres? Well, according to the Texas Tribune he hasn't received any pen letters just yet.

For Lori the long-term goal of this petition is to give forgotten rights back to survivors and victims of violent criminals and sexual predators - and to offer them a voice and means for self and public protection.

"This should take precedence over any rights of convicted felons. Many had to stand and provide witness against these perpetrators in a public court of law in order to have them convicted. To see them continue to have access to the public while they are incarcerated further victimizes and puts the rights of the convicted over those of the victims whose lives they altered forever."

"Because they are behind prison walls and in a cell there is an ultra focus on prisoners and their rights...there's not really anyone standing up for survivors, and it's wrong."

Blog by Alex Dackevych and additional reporting by Sam Judah

Next story: Woman dons male disguise to get into Iranian soccer stadium

Iranian woman in Tehran football stadium

An Iranian woman, disguised as a man, snuck into a Tehran football stadium to watch her favourite team. READ MORE

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'My most hated man joining my favourite club'

Jose Mourinho

A manager from Portugal has taken charge of a club in the north-west of England. You may have heard about it.

Manchester United are already the most mentioned team in the world on Twitter. So when they finally confirmed that Jose Mourinho - arguably (and oh, how he argues) the most famous manager on the planet - was taking charge there, it was always going to create a bit of fuss.

The development was hardly unexpected. Mourinho has been linked with the Old Trafford hot seat from the moment he was sacked by Chelsea in December 2015.

And when Louis van Gaal was also elbowed out on Monday, it was immediately clear who would be taking his place - once some week-long wrangling over image rights were sorted out.

Chelsea might have had the rights to Mourinho's signature on their lingerie, but Manchester United had it where they wanted - on his three-year contract (which Mourinho himself helpfully Instagrammed):

Jose Mourinho Instagram of Man U contract

In the excitement of the moment, both board and manager are as united as the club's name. The PR team at Old Trafford put out their delight using #WelcomeJose - and that has become the hashtag of choice for the team's global fanbase.

Many in Manchester United's enormous global fanbase were absolutely thrilled.

Mourinho is renowned for his success. Every time a club has appointed him - from Porto onwards - he has won a league title with them.

That is something that Manchester United have been unable to do since Sir Alex Ferguson left, first under David Moyes and then van Gaal. So it is fair to say there was quite some excitement:

Welcome Jose tweet from Man U fan
Excited for Jose tweet

Mourinho said he "always enjoyed a rapport with the United fans," but not all of the club's fans are as enthusiastic the same way:

Not happy on Man U move tweet

Van Gaal, after all, was sacked because of his side's poor style of play - but Mourinho's teams are not themselves known for their dynamic thrust:

Blame the ball tweet

And then of course there was the reaction from west London, from fans of the club that is - for now - still the one most identified with Mourinho, where he won three league titles in two spells, and where the reaction to his sacking was to angrily blame the players for letting down their special one.

So just how do Chelsea fans feel?

Chelsea fan reacts
Chelsea fan tweet

Blog by Ben Sutherland, Sports Editor, BBC World Service Languages

Next story: A tale of two homecomings

Savchenko greeted

Prisoners swapped by Russia and Ukraine were welcomed home in strikingly different ways. READ MORE

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A tale of two homecomings

Savchenko greeted Savchenko was awarded the title of Hero of Ukraine.

The prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia this week received coverage in both conventional and social media in both countries concerned and globally. But what really stood out was the difference in the homecoming reception given to Nadiya Savchenko in Ukraine and to Aleksandr Aleksandrov and Yevgeniy Yerofeyev in Russia.

Savchenko, a Ukrainian officer of the volunteer Aydar battalion, was reportedly abducted in Ukraine by pro-Russian militants, taken to Russia and sentenced there for being an accessory in the murder of two Russian journalists in Ukraine's Donbass, a claim she vehemently denied. During her detention, many Ukrainians came to see her as a symbol of resistance to Russian aggression. Support campaigns were organised to raise international awareness of her situation. The hashtag #freesavchenko has been regularly trending in Ukraine since June 2014, when the flier was captured during a military operation near Ukraine's Luhansk.

On the other hand, even on the day of the exchange, the names of Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev, believed to be commandos of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), who were captured in Ukraine by the government troops in May 2015, did not get that much prominence. The names trended briefly in Russian Twitter on the day of the exchange, but never climbed above Savchenko's name mentions in Russia.

A possible explanation for the muted response to the two men's return is that the Russian government has always denied sending troops to eastern Ukraine. Moscow has always said that the two men were volunteers who had left active service. But then again, shortly after the annexation of Crimea, President Putin also denied Russian troops' involvement, but then admitted it on TV little more than a month later.

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In Ukraine Savchenko was welcomed back as a returning national hero. Family members, officials, and a swarm of journalists waited to greet at her at the airport. President Petro Poroshenko sent his motorcade to collect the servicewoman and bring her straight to his office where he awarded her the title of Hero of Ukraine. The homecoming was broadcast live on national TV and was also streamed on YouTube where it has received more than 800,000 views.

The welcome the two Russian citizens received was apparently much more modest. Upon their return, they were greeted only by their wives and a handful of representatives of Russian TV channels.

According to BBC Monitoring, the reporting of Savchenko's release was to all appearances a tricky assignment for Russian state TV which has previously portrayed her her as the woman accused and then convicted of abetting the murder of two of its correspondents.

But a split-screen video posted by the pro-opposition Dozh TV Russian channel on Facebook, contrasted the first moments of the prisoners' arrivals to their respective countries with the caption "Historic video. Left - Savchenko greeted in Boryspil; right - Aleksandrov and Yerofeyev greeted in Vnukovo". It received more than 400,000 views and over 5000 shares.

Russian TV channel shows arrival of both parties Split screen was used by one Russian channel to contrast the very different receptions given to the swapped prisoners.

According to BBC Monitoring, much of the online discussion in Russia was more concerned with the fact that Savchenko was released, than by the return home of two Russian citizens. Russian opposition activist Ilya Yashin wrote in a Facebook post that was liked 5,000 times: "Savchenko is going home with her head raised proudly. Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov return keeping their eyes to the ground… Ukraine fights for the release of its heroes. For Putin, the heroes in this war are those, who have not been caught and fulfilled their tasks without revealing evidence of our army's participation in this conflict."

Russian Opposition MP Dmitry Gudkov said on Facebook: "What a giant difference. The open welcome for Savchenko, the president, the prime-minister, parliamentary leaders, crowds of people, her press conference, the flowers, the live broadcast (which was also watched in Russia, by the way). And our silence, an embarrassed look behind, two guards preventing journalists from entering the airport. Where are Yerofeyev and Aleksandrov now? What happens to them? This is how motherland welcomes not its heroes but citizens who went and fulfilled superiors' orders."

Pro-government voices were also apparently more keen to discuss Savchenko's release rather than the return of two Russian citizens from a Ukrainian jail.

Oleg Lurye blog Russian blogger Oleg Lurye said the British Queen would be unlikely to get as large a welcome as Savchenko received.

In a lengthy post, prominent pro-Kremlin blogger Oleg Lurye poured scorn on the hero's welcome given to Savchenko. "The lady, who was brought to Kiev by the president's aircraft, had a highest-standard welcome - a presidential motorcade, top officials, flowers from Yuliya Tymoshenko, and journalists from global media. Everybody was kissing her hands. Should the British Queen ever decide to visit Ukraine, she would definitely not get such a welcome. But for Savchenko..no problem."

Popular pro-Kremlin pundit Igor Korotchenko produced a series of sarcastic, and, at times derogatory, tweets about Savchenko's return to Ukraine. "Savchenko is a time bomb planted under Poroshenko" he wrote in one and also "Savchenko will become a powerful destabilizing factor of the social and political situation" in Ukraine, and, "shame on Ukraine for jubilant greeting of military criminal, murderer Savchenko". He added: "Of course, it was necessary to free our guys from Ukrainian imprisonment. But it is a pity that Savchenko will not spend the 23 years she has been sentenced to behind bars."

Pro-Kremlin pundit Igor Korotchenko described Savchenko as a "military criminal" Pro-Kremlin pundit Igor Korotchenko described Savchenko as a "military criminal"

The general Russian reaction to the swap was summed up by a pro-Kremlin TV anchor Vladimir Solovyev, whose tweet "All this hysteria over Savchenko made us forget that two our citizens have returned to motherland" got over 280 shares and over 350 likes.

But it was not all that straightforward in Ukraine as well. Savchenko's return stirred uproar of jubilance on social media. But many people on social media also pointed out that Savchenko, who was elected a Ukrainian MP while in Russian jail, now faces a lot of challenges in Ukraine, where political bickering has become routine. "There is no show more disgusting than the one the whole world will see today. Crowds of ecstatic elderly politicians and would-be saviours of the nation, elbowing each other aside and with false tears in their eyes, running with embroidered towels and armfuls of flowers to Nadiya Savchenko on the gangway, and then they will be worming themselves onto TV channels, shouting about their special role in her release," pundit Taras Berezovets wrote on Facebook, which was liked by 8,000 people.

Other popular topic of discussion were the several dozen Ukrainians imprisoned in Russian jails and the calls for them to also be brought home as soon as possible. It's not known how many Russian prisoners may still be held by Ukraine. Some Ukrainians voiced concern that the swap for Savchenko was not really equal and that Ukraine should have got several people in exchange for the two Russians.

Ukrainian prisoners in Russia Ukrainian film maker Oleh Sentsov, who is currently imprisoned in Russia, is captioned saying "Ladies first!" in this meme that calls for the return of other prisoners.

Oleksiy Byk, spokesman of ultra-right Right Sector movement, said on Facebook: "Savchenko must remember to whom she really owes her freedom. It is neither [President Petro] Poroshenko, nor [Fatherland party leader Yuliya] Tymoshenko, nor anyone from the pack that showed up at Boryspil airport, but the mothers of our lads who were killed by the two Russian looters for whom she was exchanged. All of you who are having an unutterable orgasm after hearing news about the release of another goddess, do not forget about [Mykola] Karpyuk, [Oleh] Sentsov and other fellow citizens."

Blog by Dmytro Zotsenko

Reporting by BBC Monitoring

Next story Why I wrote about my wife's miscarriage

Dan Majesky and wife Leah Dan Majesky and his wife Leah are now expecting their first child in November.

A husband's online account about the heartbreak involved with starting a family has struck a chord with many couples. READ MORE

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Why I wrote about my wife's miscarriage

Dan Majesky and wife Leah Dan Majesky and his wife Leah are now expecting their first child in November.

Couples of a certain age, and at a certain stage in their relationship, can expect to be asked if or when they plan on having children. Last year, writer Emily Bingham urged her Facebook friends in a viral post to stop with the intrusive line of questioning. "You don't know who is struggling with infertility or grieving a miscarriage or dealing with health issues," she wrote. But Dan Majesky, who works at the University of Cincinnati, took a different approach.

In a vividly detailed Facebook post, Majesky not only announced wife Leah's pregnancy but detailed the pain the couple experienced with infertility and miscarriage.

"It was initially supposed to be a private post letting our friends know that we are expecting a child," Majesky told BBC Trending, "but then we felt we had to acknowledge our miscarriage. We didn't want it to be a secret."

"We're in our thirties," Majesky wrote. "Things are probably a little bit dusty, and a little bit rusty. So, three years ago, we started using apps and calendars to track this and that. Ovulation test sticks. Old wives' tales of positions and timing. We got some late periods. And some periods that never came! But we didn't get pregnant."

He went on to talk about his wife's miscarriage. Some parts revealed the stark shock of the day; "I was so stunned when it happened that I texted my boss that I wouldn't be back that day, but that I'd be back the next, which really cracks me up now."

Other sections described the raw pain of the ordeal; "I don't think it was until around the New Year that I went a day without crying about it."

The Facebook post, which ran to more than 3,000 words, also had moments of humour.

"My job was to try and not say anything dumb, because she also needed to be calm," he went on to explain, "I tried to avoid triggering phrases like 'Hey,' or 'Good morning,' or 'I love you'".

The post, which has been liked more than 40,000 times, clearly struck a digital chord.

Thanks comment

"It's not often that we hear about miscarriage and infertility. But I love that you can be so honest," commented one woman, who then went on to tell her own story of infertility. Many noted how testimonies of infertility are not often shared with a male perspective.

Comment thanking Dan for his openness

"I wrote the piece in one sitting," Majesky told us, "We decided to make the post public when our friends told us that they wanted to share it on their own Facebook walls."

As part of the Facebook post, the couple included a 15-week scan of the baby due to be born in November.

Scan of baby

"Although we are so very touched by the support we've received, we do still feel anxious about the pregnancy," Majesky said.

And do they have any advice for people who ask a couple if they're expecting a baby?

"Maybe ask the couple if having children is something they want. Not 'when are you having children'."

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: Woman dons male disguise to get into Iranian soccer stadium

Iranian woman in Tehran football stadium

An Iranian woman, disguised as a man, snuck into a Tehran football stadium to watch her favourite team. READ MORE

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Woman dons male disguise to get into Iranian soccer stadium

An Iranian woman managed to sneak into a football stadium in Tehran by dressing up as a man. She filmed the experience and shared it on social media where the video has divided opinion. Although there's no official ban on women going to sporting events in Iran, it is rare for them to attend as they're often refused entry.

Video editor: Nathan Carr. Producer: Emma Wilson. Camera: Anne-Marie Tomchak.

Next story How Spain was dragged into Nigeria's 'tomato emergency'


How Spain was dragged into Nigeria's 'tomato emergency'

Man in tomatoes Photos of Spain's annual tomato fight have irked Nigerians who have seen prices rocket as crops fail.

The streets of the eastern Spanish town of Bunol turn red and gooey every year on the last Wednesday of August, as tens of thousands of people gather to celebrate La Tomatina. It's not an event that has caused much of a stir on social media outside the country, but in the past few days Nigerians have been been distracting themselves from their own tomato crop crisis by making good-humoured jabs aimed at the European festival.

The topic of tomatoes - a staple of the Nigerian diet - is currently not a laughing matter outside the digital realm in Nigeria. A state of emergency has been declared in the tomato sector in Kaduna state, in the north of the country and farmers are said to have lost up to 80% of their tomato crop.

The culprit is a moth called Tuta Absoluta. The agriculture commissioner in Kaduna state said the price of a punnet has risen from $1.20USD to more than $40. Some reports said that in three local government areas, about 200 farmers lost 1 billion naira ($5.1 million) worth of their tomatoes.

Nigeria's Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, told local media that his office had commissioned experts to look at the issue as "ordinary pesticides cannot tackle the disease because the tomato moth multiplies so fast."

The situation is so bad that it was dubbed 'Tomato Ebola' and the term trended on Twitter for hours on Wednesday.

But what's all this got to do with Spain and La Tomatina?

Well, if you've not heard of the festival, tens of thousands of people from all over the world gather in Spain to take part in an enormous tomato fight. Some estimates say that more than 100 tonnes of tomatoes are thrown during the event. And this has not been lost on Nigerian social media.

Nigerians share humour tomato memes following destruction of crop
Nigerian host shares pics of Tomatino festival High profile Nigerian broadcaster Reno Omokri couldn't help compare Bunol's tomato excess
Nigerians share humour tomato memes following destruction of crop

One Nigerian news site even posted an article entitled "Five tomato photos that will make Nigerians cry" which featured shots of revellers mucking about in the red gold at La Tomatina.

But what does Bunol think of this reaction? The town's mayor told BBC Trending that the festival "should not be blamed" for Nigeria's tomato crop crisis and that he is "open to (see) how we can help, but the problem is very big and we are very small."

Rafa Pérez Gil told us that he was aware that Nigerians had taken to Twitter and Instagram recently to lament (albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek manner) the waste of tomatoes in La Tomatina, but he wanted to assure them that most of the tomatoes used in the August food fight were past their sell-by-date and on the verge of rotting.

"Their problem would exist whether our festival happened or not," the mayor said. He added that he would be open to talking about the issue with Nigerians but was unsure what they as a town could do about it. He conceded that food wastage was an issue that merited a wider discussion. "If you look at the garbage bins in Spain, there is more waste thrown away every day than tomatoes used at La Tomatina."

We are not certain whether this information will comfort Nigerians or make more of them see red.

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: Internet not much help finding Chechen leader's missing cat

Kadyrov holding cat

A controversial ally of Russia's President Putin is not amused by online mocking of his search for lost pet. READ MORE

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Internet not much help finding Chechen leader's missing cat

Kadyrov holding cat Kadyrov wrote that his family were missing their unnamed pet.

In many ways it was very much like any other missing cat appeal you might find pasted up by a distraught owner seeking their neighbours' help to find a beloved pet.

"Our cat has vanished," it began. "Ten days ago, it disappeared. We all thought that it would turn up soon, since it is very much attached to the children, it loves to play with them... But now we are seriously worried. Perhaps it is staying with somebody in the neighbourhood...Therefore we would be grateful for the information if anybody knows anything. Thanks in advance."

However, in this instance the person wanting to be reunited with his cat was the authoritarian leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov - a man whom human rights organisations have in the past associated with a different kind of unexplained disappearance.

Kadyrov made the appeal to the 1.8 million followers of his Instagram account with a photo of him affectionately cradling the unnamed cat. His post received more than 30,000 likes but has yet to achieve the desired effect of locating the missing moggie.

However, it got an unexpected spin, when British comedian John Oliver took a rip at Kadyrov on his US TV show Last Week Tonight.

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Along with ridiculing the photos Kadyrov posts on his Instagram and his affection for t-shirts with the image of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Oliver recalled a an incident when Kadyrov reportedly misplaced his phone during a wedding in Chechnya.

According to the presenter, hundreds of guests who attended the wedding ceremony were questioned in connection with the incident. And this is exactly why he urged the viewers to help Kadyrov find his cat as quickly as possible - so as not to irritate a man with a record of alleged human rights abuses.

Oliver mockingly urged viewers to share any information using #FindKadyrovsCat. The hashtag has been used more than 8000 times. Though few of the tweets are likely to lead to a happy reunion any time soon.

Some used the hashtag to post memes about kittens, Kadyrov and Putin (sometimes in bizarre combinations), others just posed with their beloved pets.

Twitter meme with Putin
Twitter meme with Trump
Twitter meme with Game of Thrones

Somebody even seemed to have started a Twitter account for the missing cat.

Twitter account for Kadyrov's cat

While somebody else claimed the cat was not that willing to come back after all.

Cat says not coming back

All this attention did not go unnoticed by Kadyrov. He posted a response, in which Oliver was pictured wearing a Putin t-shirt with the caption: "I'm tired of jokes. I want to care for cats in Chechnya. By the way Putin is our leader."

Kadyrov responds

By the standards of Kadyrov's past record the comedian may have got off lightly. Earlier this year the Chechen leader posted a video of Putin prominent critic Mikhail Kasyanov in what looked like sniper rifle sights.

And a human rights group from the Czech Republic has used the opportunity afforded by the missing cat to highlight some less light-hearted issues. The Eastern European wing of People in Need used the hashtag to post a whole series of tweets about allegations about human rights problems in Chechnya, like this interview with a Chechen man, whose house was reportedly burned down by Kadyrov masked attackers after he complained to Putin about corrupt local officials, and to an article about thousands of persons who are still missing in Chechnya after two wars with Moscow.

Human rights group post
Human rights group post
Human rights group post

Kadyrov has also been linked in the past to the murder of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, a claim he rejected on his Instagram account as "nothing but drivel".

Next story The men who are taking a stand against 'dude fests'

all male panel A Tumblr page has been set up documenting all male panels in recent months (credit Saara Särmä)

DiYou might have heard the term "mansplaining", but how much thought have you given to all-male panels of experts expressing their opinions on one subject or another? READ MORE

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A shared tragedy in Syria

Tartous bomb site

When it comes to the ongoing war in Syria, the media spotlight has generally focused on action in key cities, notably Damascus, Raqqa, Aleppo and Homs. On Monday, a series of bombings in the western Syrian coastal cities of Tartous and Jebleh, killed more than 100 people. The targets included a bus station and a hospital.

Eyewitnesses said they were 'shocked' because this particular part of Syria had not previously experienced the kind of violence and instability plaguing much of the country.

The areas, where members of President Assad's Alawite sect traditionally lived, were described by many media headlines as 'Syrian regime stronghold' and the ' Assad Heartland' including the BBC. Some Syrians have taken to social media to criticise these depictions for being simplistic and for militarising civilian targets.

Tweets criticising the term 'stronghold'

While it is true that the roots of the Alawite group are deepest in the coastal and mountain regions of western Syria, the area is by no means homogenous. (It should also be noted that several publications changed the wording of their headlines following criticism from social media).

In the aftermath of the killings a picture is emerging on Facebook posts and Twitter feeds of the diverse backgrounds of those who were killed. Most of the victims were civilians and virtual memorials pay tribute to students, doctors, bus drivers and, yes, military men from the Syrian army.

Photo of man killed in bombing Photos of people who were killed in the bombings were shared

As Syria has fractured under the burden of war the Tartous and Latakia governorates have increasingly been defined by their political affiliation to the Assad regime. Many from this region have died fighting on the front lines in Homs, Aleppo and Deir Ez-Zor.

However, the mass killing on Monday (for which the Islamic State group has claimed responsibility) of such a wide spectrum of Syrian society has given an insight to the diversity and complexity of these communities.

Some of the most vocal critics of the Assad regime, have taken to social media to condemn the attacks and express solidarity with those who have lost their loved ones.

Due to the relative stability in the mountain and coastal region hundreds of thousands of Syrians from war torn areas such as Aleppo and Idlib have fled there throughout the conflict. By and large there has been limited friction and animosity between the local communities and those who have come seeking sanctuary.

However, there have been reports of attacks on internally displaced Syrians in retaliation to the bombings including the unverified reports on social media about torching of an Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in the small town of Amrit and violence against people at a camp in Tartous.

Some people local to the Tartous and Latakia area have lashed out against fellow Syrians who have moved into the area to escape fighting elsewhere in the country, many of whom are Sunnis and from areas now under rebel control. One Facebook user alleged, "without the displaced people, terrorism would not be able to strike Tartous".

The Facebook page for the media office for the Governorate of Tartous quotes the local mayor as saying "the terrorists are not from the residents of the province, the aim of the explosion was to create a gap among the residents and incite sedition among Syrians" and the Tartous City Facebook page claims that "groups" of the city's youth are protecting the displaced camps "to prevent irresponsible actions by some people".

Reporting by:

Zak Brophy & the BBC Monitoring Middle East team

Next story: The men who are taking a stand against 'dude fests'

all male panel

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Do vegans have a beef with meat eaters?

A video which parodies the sort of things some vegans say to non vegans has been a huge social media hit. More than 50 million people have watched "If Meat Eaters Acted Like Vegans" which was created by American comedian JP Sears.

Opinions are divided online, but what do vegans make of it? BBC Trending headed to a vegan restaurant to find out if there's any truth in the stereotype.

Video journalist: Alvaro A Ricciardelli

Producer: Emma Wilson.

Next story: The men who are taking a stand against 'dude fests'

all male panel

The growing movement of men who are boycotting all male panels. READ MORE

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The men who are taking a stand against 'dude fests'

all male panel A Tumblr page has been set up documenting all male panels in recent months (credit Saara Särmä)

You might have heard the term "mansplaining", but how much thought have you given to all-male panels of experts expressing their opinions on one subject or another? Possibly not all that much, if you're not a regular at such events, but in recent months increasing numbers of high-profile men have been speaking up against the all-male panel at conferences.

Earlier this month, some of Australia's most-booked male conference speakers criticised organisers for setting up "dude fests". They pledged to boycott panels that don't include women and set up a website called "No thanks, mate". That's not the only promised boycott. Over the Pacific in America, Sree Sreenivasan, the Chief Digital Officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wrote a Facebook post promising that he will no longer take part in panels that are made up of all men.

Sreenivasan wrote that he was acting on a pledge he had made to his daughter: "I won't speak on any all male panels (one-on-one chats are occasionally OK). Upgraded now to include not ATTENDING all male panels. How do we make this into a mini-movement?"

Lecturer Tobias Denskus also highlighted the issue in a much-shared blog after seeing a photo of 25 men speaking about "inclusiveness" at an Asian Development Bank meeting last year.

Photo of 25 men speaking about "inclusiveness" at Asian Development Bank forum Panel of 25 men discuss "inclusiveness" at the Asian Development Bank forum in 2015

Denskus told BBC Trending that the subject has been on his mind for a while: "Ever since all-male panels have been discussed, including by Owen Barder, very little has changed in academia, policy and development." He added that the long-standing issue was becoming more visible in the digital age; "there is more and better evidence now on social media, for example"

all male panel picture

The cheeky Tumblr blog 'Congrats, you have an all male panel!' has been viewed more than 140,000 times, and updated almost weekly with examples of men dominating public talks. Similarly, the hashtag #allmalepanels has been tweeted thousands of times since around 2013, but it began trending on a few occasions this year, especially in the international development and aid sector — where, ironically, women make up around 75% of the workforce.

Iranian delegation had no female panelists in a conversation about women

There's been no empirical study done on the subject - just personal observations. But the instances of these observations have become too regular to ignore. The Washington Post found that at more than 200 Middle East-focused events hosted in 2014, 65% featured no women on stage. Foreign Policy found that at this year's World Economic Forum, 'only 23% of the speakers and moderators were women, and 20% of the panels'. However, the word "women" was the third-most tweeted topic at the conference (with over 10,000 tweets).

Another heavily tweeted about subject is that of Britain's upcoming referendum on 23 June about whether or not to remain in the European Union. As part of the public debate ahead of the vote, the Global Diplomatic Forum is this week staging a panel discussion in London with this cast:

all male panel
Brexit tweet

Trending gave the organisers of the event a call and asked why there were no women on the panel. "We try very very hard to cast female speakers. No women accepted our invite on this occasion. We do struggle to get women. It's not for lack of trying," the female event organiser told us. She later added that "on average, over 35% of our speakers are female each year."

However, if you think that organisers simply don't have the option when it comes to female experts, mathematician Greg Martin, gave an interview with the Atlantic where he said that most all-male panels are, in fact, statistically quite unlikely.

"If conference speakers were being chosen by a system that treated gender fairly (which is to say, gender was never a factor at all), then in any conference with over 10 speakers, say, it would be extremely rare to have no female speakers at all - less than 5% chance," he said.

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: Is this picture disgusting or beautiful?

Thomas in the shower with his son Fox

This picture of father holding his sick son has fiercely divided opinion on social media. READ MORE

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Anti-Semitic statements of 'joy and peace' selfie star

Photo of Zakia Belkhiri taking a selfie with Vlaams Belang protesters in the background

The photo of a young Muslim woman called Zakia Belkhiri subtly undermining an anti-Islam demonstration by using the protesters as a backdrop for a selfie was one of the most striking images of the past week. But it's a story with a not so pleasant postscript.

The iconic picture above has been widely shared on social media over the last few days and reported on by BBC Trending and a host of other news outlets around the world. Many who saw it were charmed by Ms Belkhiri's stunt which seemed to use humour to defuse a potentially awkward confrontation outside a Muslim lifestyle exhibition in Belgium. Photos of the event showed that even some of the placard-carrying demonstrators from the far right Vlaams Belang group seemed to find it funny.

"This wasn't a protest at all, this was just to share joy and peace," Ms Belkhiri told Trending in an email at the time explaining her actions. The 22-year-old added that she wanted "to show that things can be different. And that we can live together, not next to each other but with each other".

However, since then a series of deeply disturbing anti-Semitic statements made by Ms Belkhiri on social media have come to light.

In one tweet dating from November 2012, she wrote: "Hitler didn't kill all the Jews, he left some. So we know why he was killing them."

And in another Facebook post from March 2014, she used an expletive to describe Jews before adding: "I hate them so much."

After these and other statements emerged, Ms Belkhiri deleted all her social media accounts. As the backlash against Ms Belkhiri grew, a meme appeared showing the now-famous picture of her snapping her selfie but with Jewish concentration camp prisoners and scenes of various terror attacks photoshopped in place of the line of protesters.

On Saturday, Ms Belkhiri returned to Twitter seemingly seeking to justify her anti-Semitic remarks.

Image of tweet which reads: "My opinion many years ago was meant on the zionist back then, that spread hate instead of love so to all the other jews peace be upon you!"

"My opinion many years ago was meant on the zionist back then, that spread hate instead of love so to all the other jews peace be upon you!" she wrote as well as retweeting a YouTube video in which two friends dressed as an Orthodox Jew and a Muslim in Arabic clothes walk through New York to test the public's reaction.

However, for many of those who responded to her tweet, this attempted justification has, if anything, compounded the original offence.

Tweet which reads: "You meant that Zionist Jews deserve to die?"

Later Ms Belkhiri published a lengthy statement on her Twitter feed apologising "to everyone in the Jewish community which I've hurt with my comments of several years ago".

Statement apologising to the Jewish community.

She added: "I am not an anti-Semite. Even if it seems so because I haven't thought of deleting my angry comments from when I was younger and ignorant."

Trending has approached Ms Belkhiri again for comment but at time of writing has yet to receive a response.

Next story: Fighting the curse of the blessers

tweeted photo of young female graduate

In the past they were known as sugar daddies, but now in South Africa the "blessers" are becoming a social menace. READ MORE

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Fighting the curse of the blessers

tweeted photo of young female graduate A graduate tweeted this photo to show what young women could achieve without a blesser

You may have heard of the hashtag #blessed, it's often seen on Instagram next to beautiful pictures of family, travel and shopping; used to show how lucky people think their lives are. But the phrase has recently taken on a very different meaning in South Africa.

After some women posted photos of gifts from partners claiming they were "blessed" people started asking who was "blessing" them. Soon "blesser" became a term for someone who gives money and gifts as part of a relationship - the sort of person traditionally referred to as a sugar daddy.

Money left by a blesser This meme shows the sort of gift a blesser might leave for one of his blessees
Tweet of different blesser levels This cartoon shows how a blesser is judged by the cash that he flashes

Blesser has been so widely used on social media over the last month that a new joke has taken off "when a girl sneezes these days you can't even say 'bless you' in case she gets the wrong idea."

However, as the phrase has taken off, it has also kick-started a brand new debate about this age old practice. The hashtag #antiblessers trended this week on South African twitter as thousands of people began to criticise blessers and blessees. Some users posted comments like "real men don't buy girls" while a graduate called Nkamogeleng posted a photo of her degree ceremony saying "When young women are busy searching for blessers we out here (graduating)".

While a blesser can technically be male or female and of any age, many of those using #antiblessers were most concerned about older men lavishing gifts on young girls. One South African vlogger posted a YouTube video titled "Blessers are ruining our world" in which she expressed concerns about hearing 13-year-old girls discussing blessers on their way home from school.

This issue is so serious that when the South African health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced a major new anti-HIV campaign last week, he specifically included some economic measures aimed at helping girls between 15 and 24, which he hopes will help tackle the effects of blessers. Mr Motsoaledi told BBC Trending that as young women in that age-group have far higher rates of HIV infection than their young male counterparts it indicates intergenerational sex must form one part of the problem.

Mr Motsoaledi also suggested that young women from poorer backgrounds were more at risk of being targeted and exploited by blessers, particularly those who had lost parents as a result of HIV and AIDS. "Apart from the issue of who takes care of you… it's just the issue of who mentors you, who speaks to you every day?" he said.

While many are trying to halt the practise of blessing, under the right circumstances it does have supporters. Blesserfinder is a group that helps to arrange meetings between those happy to offer money with those looking to be blessed. Their spokesperson Ditshego says he's seen some of those using #antiblessers also using his site to find a partner. He thinks money will always be a factor in relationships, and until the government try and tackle the levels of poverty and inequality in the country there will always be a demand for his service.

Blog by Kate Lamble

Next story: Is this picture disgusting or beautiful?

Thomas in the shower with his son Fox

This picture of father holding his sick son has fiercely divided opinion on social media. READ MORE

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One Chewbacca mask, 90 million laughs

A braying Chewbacca mask found "on clearance" has shot a Texas mother to internet stardom.

Candace Payne was not expecting to purchase the mask when she went to her local Kohls department store, just outside of Dallas, Texas. She doesn't even consider herself a huge Star Wars fan.

On Thursday, the 37-year-old mother of two was returning some items and was going to spend her birthday money on some exercise clothes or something "for the kids".

The Facebook Live video she broadcast from the store's car park - immediately after purchasing the Chewbacca mask - has broken the record as the most-watched Facebook Live video - ever.

"That's just crazy," Mrs Payne told the BBC. "I'm just laughing - in all honesty, that is ridiculous. I've looked at the number of views and it just seems like someone is just playing with a calculator."

It's a big number: So far, more than 48 million people have watched Payne laugh hysterically as she shows Facebook her new purchase. (Update: As of early Saturday, the video has had 91 million views.)

The last record-breaking Facebook Live video, of an exploding watermelon, was produced by Buzzfeed and came in at little over 10 million views.

The social media site introduced live stream capabilities to all of its users in April. Users are able to live stream for up to 30 minutes and can save their broadcasts to their Facebook page.

Candance Payne wearing a Chewbacca mask What began as a simple trip to a department store turned into a record-breaking Facebook live stream

"I could see myself in the camera, and I saw this view and I could not stop laughing at how gleeful Chewbacca looked. I thought 'Chewbacca's found his joy!'"

This isn't her first Facebook Live video. Mrs Payne, who also volunteers as a worship leader at her local church, said she often shares interesting moments with her friends and family on the web.

"When you are a stay-at-home mom, every now and then you just need an adult conversation. Like 'Please someone else out there in the universe or Internet tell me I'm not the only one who finds this funny.'"

In the case of her Chewbacca mask, she was most definitely not the only one who laughed hysterically.

'Laughed out loud'

Mrs Payne says she has received comments, emails and text messages from friends, family and strangers praising her four minute video.

But what she found most surprising is that her video helped many viewers on Facebook who were suffering from depression.

"Everyone has been really encouraging. My friends and family are saying it's not degrading or anything for me. It just makes other people laugh" Mrs Payne said.

"I'm seeing how many people are saying 'I suffer from depression, and this video is the first time I've laughed out loud in like two months."

Mrs Payne said she is happy to be able to spread that kind of joy to lots of people.

Blog by Shefali S Kulkarni


Is this picture disgusting or beautiful?

Thomas in the shower with his son Fox

This photograph of a father holding his son in the shower has been shared tens of thousands of times on Facebook in the last fortnight. But over the same period it's also also been taken down by the social media platform more than once before ultimately being reinstated each time. Why?

In some ways the picture appears to show a fairly everyday scene. A dad cradling his severely sick child in his arms. Except in this instance, they are in the shower and both naked. The picture was posted on social media by the photographer Heather Whitten who lives in Arizona in the US. It shows her son Fox and her husband, the boy's father Thomas Whitten.

For many viewers the image is a touching portrait of parental care and affection. The reason that father and son were naked was because Fox had Salmonella poisoning for which he would soon after be hospitalised.

"Thomas had spent hours in the shower with him, trying to keep his fever down and letting the vomit and diarrhea rinse off of them both as it came," Whitten wrote in her post accompanying the photo.

"He was so patient and so loving and so strong with our tiny son in his lap... I stepped out and grabbed my camera and came back to snap a few images of it and, of course shared them."

But for some people the image is inappropriate at best and at worst has undertones of paedophilia. Whitten has been surprised by this reaction and was shocked when people posted negative comments about what was for her a beautiful moment.

"There is nothing sexual or exploitative about this image," she wrote in the initial post. "I was taken aback by how many people missed the story or didn't even look past the nudity to find the story."

Controversy about what images of naked children are acceptable is not new. In 1995, before the use of digital cameras was widespread, newsreader Julia Somerville and her husband were questioned by police after they took family photographs of her seven-year-old daughter to be developed at a chemists. Ms Somerville protested that the images were "innocent family photos" and no charges were brought.

In 2001, artist Tierney Gearon's exhibition featuring photos of her naked children at the Saatchi Gallery sparked a row. She later admitted being "completely taken aback" by the reaction to the photos which she described as "kids in masks doing a silly pose".

In photos where a child appears naked with an adult there are additional complications and there may be evidence of something of a double standard. A nude man may appear more sinister to some than a woman without clothes.

Last month, an Australian woman Kelli Bannister posted a photograph - in a similar pose to Whitten's photo - cradling her daughter Summer. It was taken by her five-year-old son on a mobile phone. The reaction to that image was overwhelmingly positive.

Kelli Bannister holding her daughter in the shower

Whitten told BBC Trending she has been "blown away" by the response to her image, which was actually taken in November 2014. "I wasn't prepared at all," she says. "I was very intimidated by it."

"A disgusting lack of boundaries," posted one person who was less keen on the content.

Whitten told Trending that she respects people's rights to disagree and she has never deleted a negative comment posted under the photo. "But people shouldn't be able to dictate what is right or wrong for other people," she added.

Whitten says some people also contacted her saying it triggered memories of past abuse, something she had not even considered when posting the picture.

But the majority of the comments have been positive. "All I see is a loving caring dad comforting his sick child," reads one. "This is a beautiful image," says another.

And in an online poll run by the Telegraph newspaper 94% of the more than 7,000 people who responded indicated they didn't think the photo was inappropriate.

Despite this, Whitten says the picture has been removed a number of times since being posted on Facebook at the start of May.

A spokeswoman for Facebook confirmed that the picture had been taken down in error but has been reinstated.

Whitten used the hashtag #standupstripdown which empowers photographers to take a stand against social network sites banning photos and the damage that can be done by that, especially for professionals.

Whitten is adamant that the image captures something honest and human. "For me it's just such a positive image and my hope is that it's a normalising image, normalising family nudity," she says.

Blog by Harry Low

Next story Osborne letter pledging to scrap tuition fees surfaces after 13 years

Chancellor of the Exchequer

A 2003 letter in which the future chancellor promised to scrap the tuition fees he's now increasing goes viral. . READ MORE

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Osborne letter pledging to scrap tuition fees surfaces after 13 years

Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne wrote in 2003 that a future Tory government would scrap tuition fees.

It's not exactly breaking news. But 13 years after it was written a letter by George Osborne to one of his then constituents is being widely shared on social media.

In the letter Mr Osborne wrote passionately about his opposition to the £3,000 a year university tuition fees introduced by the Labour government of the day. "Very unfair" and a "tax on learning" were two of the phrases used by Mr Osborne - then only two years into his role as a Conservative MP for Tatton - to describe the charges.

He added: "I thought you would be interested to know that the Conservatives have just announced that we will scrap tuition fees altogether when we are next in government. Education will once again be free for students."

By 2012 he clearly felt differently. Then as the British chancellor of the exchequer, he oversaw an increase in the fees to £9,000 a year.

The recipient of the 2003 letter was Rosy Williams, to whom Mr Osborne wrote that there was "lots of evidence that it is the fear of going in to debt that puts people from poorer backgrounds off going to university." .

This week Ms Williams rediscovered the letter in an old box of papers and posted a scan of it on Facebook, where it has been shared thousands on times.

Rosy Williams Facebook post

Ms Williams told the Guardian that when she received the letter she was 17-year-old, "I was about to leave school and it was all very relevant."

She told the newspaper that she had studied drama for a year, and later did a year-long postgraduate course in violin for which she paid £6,000 in tuition fees. She said that she had hoped to pursue those studies for longer but wasn't able to because of the cost.

"I do think it's outrageous the amount of money people have to pay now," she said. "It's astronomical. It means that some people just can't do it.

Rosy Williams Rosy Williams found the letter in a box of old papers

A spokesman for Mr Osborne said: "It is a matter of public record that the Conservative party were against tuition fees in 2003.

"Nearly 10 years later in 2012 when the government introduced the new funding system for universities the economic situation had changed and we needed to put universities on a strong, sustainable financial footing."

The emergence of the 13-year-old letter has been cited by some on social media as evidence of a politician breaking his promises, others have pointed out that it was written before the start of the 2008 economic crash and that many people had shifted their opinion on tuition fees in the intervening years. The National Union of Students dropped its total opposition to tuition fees in 2008.

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The letter surfaced on Monday around the time the current Conservative government's published its latest higher education white paper. Under the plans universities will be allowed to increase annual fees in line with inflation from next year.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said students today were more in debt than ever, adding Labour would not support raising tuition fees.

Borrowing some of Mr Osborne's own language from 2003 he branded it a "tax on learning", adding: "What an insult to the aspirations of young people wanting an education. We are deeply concerned about the implications for a free market, free for all in higher education."

Blog by Megha Mohan

Next story: 'Sorry Sir' - show of support for headmaster goes viral

Actor Iresh Zaker Bangladeshi actor Iresh Zaker posted a picture on himself squatting and holding his ears

The 'public shaming' of a Bangladeshi school principal sparks a social media campaign.READ MORE

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Muslim woman's cheeky selfie with anti-Islam group goes viral

Photo of Zakia Belkhiri taking a selfie with Vlaams Belang protesters in the background

When hijab-wearing Zakia Belkhiri saw members of a far-right anti-Islam group protesting outside an Islamic lifestyle event she was attending in Belgium she responded like a true Millennial.

The 22-year-old took out her phone and snapped a series of selfies with members of Vlaams Belang - a far-right nationalist group who some have described as "openly anti-Muslim". The photo above of Ms Belkhiri posing against the backdrop of the demonstrators - some of whom were clearly impressed by her cheek - has since been widely shared on social media.

The actual selfies that Ms Belkhiri took have received less attention. Here's one:

Zakia Belkhiri's selfie with far-right anti-Islam group

Ms Belkhiri told BBC Trending that she took the photos "to show that things can be different. And that we can live together, not next to each other but with each other."

It appears from photos of the demonstration that some protesters were amused by her actions, even though they held signs and placards which read "no headscarves", "no mosques" and "stop Islam".

Some reports claim they were joined by Voorpost - a nationalist militant group who then distributed slice of pork sausages to visitors of the expo. Filip Dewinter is one of the leading members of Vlaams Belang. He said: "This Islam fair is an apartheid fair, where they preach segregation instead of integration."

Photo of Zakia Belkhiri standing with protesters from Vlaams Belang

The target of the protest was the third annual expo held in Antwerp last weekend. The expo is a lifestyle event for Muslims, showcasing stalls, performances, talks, workshops and a halal food market is open to all members of the public.

Although around 15% of the Belgian population follows the Islamic faith, the recent bombings at Brussels airport resulted in reports that there was increased support for far-right groups. Vlaams Belang's gained 10,000 new likes, a 25 percent growth overnight after the attacks in Belgium.

BBC Trending spoke to freelance photographer Jurgen Augusteyns who was there to cover the event and took the photo of Ms Belkhiri snapping her selfie. "A journalist friend of mine told me to go, you never know how things like this will develop". He described how he saw Vlaams Belang at the entrance of the Muslim Expo last year. He said, "This Saturday there were about 40 protesters. To be honest, it was all a bit dull but when Zakia started to take the selfies it suddenly became much more interesting."

Photo of Zakia Belkhiri standing with protesters from Vlaams Belang

Ms Belkhiri told BBC Trending that she initially shied away from media attention because she "didn't want to look like a girl who seeks attention."

She also added that she doesn't think a selfie can be a form of protest; "this wasn't a protest at all, this was just to share joy and peace."

The relatively friendly response to Ms Belkhiri's selfie diplomacy are in stark contrast to another recent confrontation which produced an image that was striking for different reasons. Two weeks ago the photo of a black woman raising a clenched fist salute in defiance of a march by neo-Nazis in Sweden was also widely shared on social media.

Blog by Anisa Subedar

Next story: 'Sorry Sir' - show of support for headmaster goes viral

Actor Iresh Zaker Bangladeshi actor Iresh Zaker posted a picture on himself squatting and holding his ears

The 'public shaming' of a Bangladeshi school principal sparks a social media campaign. READ MORE

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook. All our stories are at bbc.com/trending.


'Sorry Sir' - show of support for headmaster goes viral

Bangladeshis show support for teacher

When images emerged of a headmaster being publicly humiliated by an angry mob many Bangladeshis were disgusted and wanted to show their support for the school official. Some have now posted pictures of themselves in the same embarrassing position that Shyamal Kanti Bhakta was made to adopt by his tormenters.

Video and photographs showed Bhakta, a school principal in Narayanganj District near Dhaka, squatting and holding his ears in front of a crowd that included a local MP. In the footage, which soon went viral on Facebook and YouTube, the crowd can be heard cheering as the headmaster squats repeatedly and folds his hands. The pose - which indicates shame and apology - is associated with punishments meted out to students in primary schools in South Asia.

Bhakta was allegedly also beaten up by a mob in the presence of local lawmaker AKM Selim Osman last Friday.

The motive behind what happened are murky. Local reports say Bhakta, who is Hindu, was accused of punishing a student and making a comment critical of Islam - an accusation he denies. He told local media he was a "victim of a conspiracy by the management committee". The school committee has since suspended Bhakta.

In a show of solidarity with Bhakta, hundreds of of Bangladeshis have posted photos of themselves imitating his squatting pose whilst holding their ears.

Actor Iresh Zaker Bangladeshi actor Iresh Zaker posted a picture on himself squatting and holding his ears

On social media in Bangladesh, where teachers hold a revered position in society, it led to an outpouring of support and solidarity. On Facebook, users, mostly students, posted pictures of themselves holding their ears to apologise to Bhakta with hashtags #SorrySir, #WeAreSorrySir and a Bengali hashtag which means - "Let's hold our ears and protest".

#sorry sir hashtag being shared

"This attack is not on an individual but an attack on the backbone of the nation," said one social media user in Bengali, while another post read: "We are not just sad, we are disgusted."

"As a fellow teacher, I am ashamed. My demonstration is not only a protest; it is a token of apology to all my fellow teachers in Bangladesh, who face humiliation in the face of the government," read a post by a US-based teacher which has been liked more than 2,000 times.

The incident comes in the wake of a series of attacks on secular writers and bloggers, professors and members of religious minorities in the country.

The assault on Bhakta has also been condemned by government officials, with Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid calling it "very sad and inhumane" and that people can not take the law into their own hands. Bangladesh's High Court bench have ordered police to investigate and update them regarding the incident within three days.

Blog by Akhil Ranjan & Samiha Nettikkara, BBC Monitoring

Next story No, Cameron is not on Tinder

Cameron is not on Tinder Any opponents hoping to swipe left and say 'nope' will be left disappointed

Downing Street deny David Cameron has set up a profile to encourage EU Referendum votes. READ MORE

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No, Cameron is not on Tinder

Cameron is not on Tinder Any opponents hoping to swipe left and say 'nope' will be left disappointed

The internet is awash with rumours that David Cameron has joined dating app Tinder. But if you were hoping to match with the prime minister - or were primed to swipe left - we're sorry to tell you that he hasn't.

On Tuesday morning, the Times reported on a possible collaboration between the prime minister and Tinder. This comes after a meeting between Cameron and senior representatives from companies such as Facebook, Twitter, The LadBible, Google and Buzzfeed was held last Friday. The purpose of the meeting was to explore new social media strategies to encourage young people to vote in the upcoming EU Referendum.

Many other news organisations also ran the story, with some headlines, such as the Metro's David Cameron's on Tinder and he wants to be matched with EU leading many on social media to believe that David Cameron now has an actual Tinder profile.

Russia Today tweet
Twitter comment

Trending spoke to a 10 Downing Street spokesperson who confirmed that "Cameron was holding meetings with various social media outlets to explore ways of encouraging more people to vote". But when we asked whether Cameron had joined Tinder, or had plans to do so, they confirmed the rumour "isn't true".

Tinder are reported to be in collaboration with youth campaign group, Bite The Ballot, who were also at the meeting.

Trending contacted Bite The Ballot's Partnership Co-ordinator Kenny Imafidon who also dismissed rumours of a David Cameron Tinder profile. He said "We're not creating anything to do with David Cameron on Tinder" and described the rumour as "not true". Adding "We are in talks with Tinder… but can't talk about specifics at this stage".

Blog by Alex Dackevych

Next story 'Renegade Jew' reveals bitterness of Republican rift

Renegade Jew

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'Renegade Jew' reveals bitterness of Republican rift

Tweet using Jewish superhero meme Might this be a what a "renegade Jew" looks like wondered one online wit.

We've had the Iron Lady, Slick Willie and The Governator. Political monikers are not a new thing. But a new and controversial one has emerged as a result of Republican divisions over the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the party's candidate for the US presidency.

The term "renegade Jew" is trending after one right-wing news organisation Breitbart News used it as part of a headline attacking William Kristol, the editor of another conservative journal the Weekly Standard.

The full headline reads "Bill Kristol: Republican spoiler, renegade Jew prepares third party effort to block Trump's path to White House". It accompanies a hostile profile of Kristol by the Jewish writer David Horowitz whose name has also been trending.

Kristol is one of the prominent Republican voices opposed to Trump (although in fairness, Kristol does seem to have softened his support of the #NeverTrump campaign recently). Trump is the last remaining Republican candidate in the Presidential race, although that doesn't mean he's a shoo-in for the GOP candidacy.

There's speculation in Washington that Kristol is one of the a group of anti-Trump Republicans - which is said to also include Mitt Romney - allegedly seeking ways to keep the businessman from running for the Oval Office. The conspirators are said to want to elect a third-party candidate to challenge Trump for the nomination in defiance of the will of those who voted for him in the primaries.

However, much of the online conversation resulting from Horowitz's article has been less about Trump's personal merits or lack of them and more about the pungent phrase in the headline. For some on social media "renegade Jew" encapsulated how bitter Republican divisions have become.

Tweet-headline is anti-semitic

While others expressed the view that this was nonsense because, they argued, Horowitz couldn't be anti-Semitic about another Jew.

Tweet: Jew can't be anti-Semitic

Some wondered what a 'Renegade Jew' could be.

IS a renegade jew a superhero tweet

Others did extensive research to find out how a 'Renegade Jew' would behave.

Renegade Jew bong tweet

But the renowned US political pollster Frank Luntz pointed out that an undistinguished Nineties rapper had also gone by the same name.

Tweet-Renegade Jew rapper

While one wag pointed out that great things had been achieved by other figures who fitted the description.

Tweet: Christianity founded by a renegade Jew

So what does lie behind the phrase? Horowitz has admitted that he came up with the headline as well as the text of the article. So it wasn't a Breitbart sub-editor who was looking for an eye-catching title that has little to do with the words underneath.

In the body of his Breitbart text, Horowitz doesn't actually use the word 'renegade'. He writes, citing several examples, that Kristol's opposition to Trump risks "splitting the Republican vote". This, as Horowitz sees it, is Kristol's real offence as undermining Trump, the argument could hand victory to the Democrats.

In his article he writes "half of world Jewry now lives in Israel, and the enemies whom Obama and Hillary have empowered — Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hezbollah, ISIS, and Hamas — have openly sworn to exterminate the Jews. I am also an American (and an American first), whose country is threatened with destruction by the same enemies. To weaken the only party that stands between the Jews and their annihilation, and between America and the forces intent on destroying her, is a political miscalculation so great and a betrayal so profound as to not be easily forgiven."

Kristol is unlikely to be chastened by this rebuke. He said of the article: "I haven't read it, and can't say I intend to."

Blog by Megha Mohan

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Storm over weather presenter told to cover up on air

Picture of Liberte Chan being given a cardigan

When TV weather presenter Liberte Chan was handed a cardigan and told to cover up during her broadcast it wasn't because there was a chill in the air.

The US meteorologist was in the middle of her California weekend forecast when she was given a grey cardigan to put on. Chan asked why she was being forced to wear it, to which someone off camera responded: "We're receiving lots of emails."

It's not clear how many people had contacted the station, KTLA 5 in Los Angeles, to complain about Chan's attire. But on social media it wasn't so much the dress, but the cardigan that many had an issue with.

There was a furious response from viewers who thought Chan had been treated outrageously.

"Whoa @KTLA I didn't like the dress either, but you don't have to make her cover up-ON AIR like that. How embarrassing," Heather Poole tweeted. Emily Sears tweeted: "KTLA you owe @libertechan an apology. As a viewer and a woman I'm completely disturbed to see this woman publicly shamed doing her job." Another tweet from Gaby Dunn read: "The meteorologist in this video has like four degrees and is working in a male dominated field and this is what it's like."

Liberte Chan wearing the grey cardigan
Sweatergate

As users of social media continued in their defence of Liberte's choice of attire the programme presenters read some of the emails to which they had referred to.

"Liberte Chan's dress is totally inappropriate," read one. "Liberte Chan looks like she stayed out late and came to work in the same dress," said another.

But more than 8,000 tweets have since been directed to the LA based TV station prompting the hashtags #righttobarearms #IstandwithLiberteChan and #sweatergate.

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Earlier in the day Chan had tweeted a picture of the black beaded dress but following the awkwardly orchestrated cover up she was forced to explain her reason for choosing it.

Picture of Liberte Chan in black dress

She took to social media to say that a different and more demure black and white dress that she had wanted to wear that morning did not work, because the pattern on it clashed with the green screen, on which graphics for the broadcast are projected. Chan had previous experience of the problems that can occur when an outfit is not green screen compliant.

Picture of black and white patterned dress

Chan attempted to draw a line under the furore on the programme saying "It's a dress people, can we talk about my weather report?"

She has since posted on her own website that the stunt was a joke: "For the record, I was not ordered by KTLA to put on the sweater. I was simply playing along with my co-anchor's joke, and if you've ever watched the morning show, you know we poke fun at each other all the time. There is no controversy at KTLA. My bosses did not order me to put on the cardigan, it was a spontaneous moment. I truly love my job, I like my bosses and enjoy working with my co workers. Since talking to my team, I want our viewers to know it was never our intention to offend anyone. We are friends on and off the air and if you watch our newscast, you know that."

Blog by Rozina Sini

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