Category Archives: Critiques

The Best Time For Highway Pothole Repairs in Lebanon

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Source: Carol Maalouf

I posted almost a week ago about the huge life threatening pot hole that emerged out of nowhere in the middle of the Jal el Dib highway. I also wondered whether the authorities will wait for an unfortunate accident to occur before fixing it and I was wrong as they decided to go ahead and fix it today.

It’s always good to see the Lebanese authorities actually fix something but they always figure out a way to screw things up by picking the worst time possible for their repairs. Only few weeks back, they decided to close the Zouk Mosbeh bridge during Eid and today they closed down half the Jal el Dib highway during peak hours between 1pm and until this hour.

Every time they schedule their works at a very bad time, I try to make some sense out of it but I am unable to. The only (absurd) interpretation that I came up with is that they want to show everyone that they are actually doing something, so they pick the worst hours to let people get stuck in traffic and see them in action.

If they are not done fixing the pot hole by tomorrow morning, expect to get stuck an extra hour in traffic on your way to Beirut.

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via MTV

Update: We’re screwed till Saturday
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Picture via Anthony Rehayel

Al-Akhbar Roamed Beirut with a car full of explosives

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Radwan Mourtada from Al-Akhbar put dynamite sticks and hand grenades in his car and roamed around Beirut, visiting malls and passing by Army and Hezbollah checkpoints in Dahieh. He wanted to test the efficiency of these bomb detectors that we see almost everywhere in Lebanon now but as expected none of them detected the explosives even though they were put in the front and not hidden in the trunk.

To be honest, I don’t think it was necessary to do that experiment as it is well known that these bomb detectors don’t work and the guy behind them was put in jail 3 years ago. Moreover, it could have ended badly for the journalist in question as that’s not the smartest thing to do at the moment.

On a different note, I’ve heard that there are few areas in Lebanon and one mall (City Mall If I am not mistaken) that use sophisticated bomb scanners that are efficient but cost way more than the small useless ones. Radwan did mention he spotted a more advanced bomb detected in Dahieh but it was useless like the others. Unfortunately he didn’t film anything or at least didn’t upload any videos so we can’t really tell what he saw or where he went.

What is sure is that the Ministry of Interior needs to take out all these defective bomb detectors ASAP from the market and penalize those who still are using them. I think most businesses, mainly malls, can afford to spend few extra dollars to buy decent bomb detectors or get trained dogs.

You can read the full article [Here].

Should We Arm Municipalities In Lebanon?

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A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the country's municipal elections in Beirut
Source: Al-Monitor

I’ve mentioned on several occasions the need to give municipalities increased responsibilities to enhance security and lower the crime rate in Lebanon, and it looks like it’s finally happening now due to the latest bombings and events in Lebanon. I’ve also suggested “setting up few useful apps for citizens to submit reports almost instantly” before the Lebanese Army launched ten days later the LAF Shield.

However I have few concerns when it comes to arming Lebanese municipalities knowing that you just need a clean criminal record and barely any qualifications (Brevet sometimes) to become a member of the municipality police in Lebanon. Of course I am assuming there’s no “wasta” involved in the recruitment process but we all know that’s not the case. Added to that, there are few heads of municipalities who could exploit this opportunity to form their little militia and commit wrongful acts such as harassing foreign workers and refugees (Which is already happening) or picking on certain people for personal or financial reasons.

[YouTube]

Having said that, what I recommend is the following:

- Avoid arming municipality members and assigning one member of the ISF and/or another from the army to accompany the municipality police on their patrols or assist them on checkpoints.

- If it’s impossible to deploy an ISF or army officer for every town, one or two municipality police members should undergo a proper training by the ISF or the army and later on become eligible to hold a gun. Nevertheless, they should report to a joint unit formed of ISF and Army members for a specific area and not to the head of the municipality.

- If both are not plausible solutions, then the municipality members won’t be armed and will have to report any incident to a joint unit (ISF + Army) that should be able to interfere promptly.

What is needed the most now is money and equipment to allow municipalities to patrol their towns all day long and set up cameras and neighborhood watches. This will not only help prevent bombings and crimes but improve security on the long run and raise awareness among the town residents all across Lebanon. In that context, the Ministry of Interior should come up with a law that forces every town and village to allocate a certain amount of money for security-related equipment, training sessions, awareness campaigns etc …

As far as Syrian refugees are concerned, municipalities should assign specific areas in every town for these people and stop the illegal and racist curfew hours. After all, refugees are not leaving anytime soon and we need to figure out a way to co-exist, as well as monitor who’s coming in and out to detect any potential terrorist or troublemaker. Unfortunately, I think it’s a bit late for that but it’s better late than never.

On a last note, it is worthy mentioning that Minister Charbel did specify that there are plans put in place to enhance security, but I don’t have access to them, so let’s hope the concerns regarding arming municipality members were taken into consideration.

It’s Not Only About Creamfields

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I’d rather see kids go to concerts than hold guns and fight

Few days before the Creamfields concert got cancelled, I was asked by someone on Twitter to join some Facebook event asking to postpone the event because, and I quote, “Not only does the event itself signify a striking indifference/ignorance/carelessness towards the overwhelming and unfortunate incidents in the country, but it also disregards the more general danger that surrounds crowded areas and traffic conditions.”

My answer was plain and simple: Should we close down Gemmayze and Mar Mikhail pubs and restos as well? How about Hamra? Kaslik? Jounieh? Batroun? Byblos?

Going back to the cancellation of this long-awaited event, the online community was split yesterday between those who were outraged by the news, and others who were complaining that there are far more important issues to be upset about. To be honest, the frustration that was manifested by Creamfields enthusiasts is not just about the event itself, but about a certain lifestyle that is imposed on us, whereas we are forced to stay home and wait for the next car bomb to explode or the war to finish.

The truth is, we are sick of wars, bombings, assassinations and stupid sectarian clashes. We are sick of Lebanese groups interfering in other countries’ affairs, we are sick of foreign countries sticking their nose in our issues, we are sick of officials speaking on our behalf while stealing and doing nothing, we are sick of events getting cancelled because of the incompetence of some people and the deep-rooted corruption in most of the country’s institutions.

We kept partying in 2006 even though Israel was bombing us, then in 2007 and 2008 amid the political assassinations that were taking place, and we will keep partying and living life to the fullest not because we are brainless or don’t have our priorities right, but because we have the right to do so.

Yesterday it was Creamfields but it could have been Fairouz, Coldplay, U2 and many other names, and we could have had different generations frustrated and expressing their anger over Facebook, local radios or TVs, so this is not about a bunch of kids like some are portraying it. Funnily enough, a lot of people who were arguing that our political problems are more important that an event are the same who complain constantly about politics and how politicians and officials are ignoring their everyday needs.

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All in all, you can’t prevent car bombs in Lebanon by banning parking lots and more importantly you won’t be doing Lebanese a favor by asking to postpone concerts and events. We need happy events, we need to spread some positive energy and we need to keep enjoying life despite what’s happening around us.

That’s why this isn’t about Creamfields only, and the F*** Yous that Gino expressed yesterday, and that I agree on, were overwhelmingly well received and widely shared.

The importance of tomorrow’s nationwide strike

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Picture from Al-Akhbar

The Economic Committees in Lebanon, which constitute the private sector groups, as well as all the Lebanese banks are closing tomorrow to demand the immediate formation of a Cabinet. Most people I know are happy that they are getting a day off, but few are realizing the gravity of the situation and the importance of this strike.

We hear about employees, teachers, NGOs or syndicates demonstrating and protesting in Lebanon usually, but this time business owners and heads of major corporations and all banks in Lebanon have decided to close down and send a clear message to the officials that Lebanon cannot get out of this economic crisis without a functioning government. Historically speaking, Lebanese banks which are the backbone of the economy, have very rarely, if ever, agreed to join such strikes, so by closing their doors tomorrow, they are raising the alarm on the dwindling Lebanese economy.

“The positive results of banks and reassurances of the Central Bank governor about the Lebanese pound and monetary situation are important … but if things continue on this pace of deterioration … all strengths will be endangered,” he said. “The only difference between Lebanon and these countries is that they found help being European Union members.”

25% of Lebanon’s population are refugees, the touristic season is dead, the economy is bad and above all that we don’t have a government. Let’s hope this strike tomorrow will result in a government of technocrats soon because this is what the country needs at the moment. If no government is formed anytime soon, things only get worse (if that’s even possible).

Celebratory Gunfire must be banned in Lebanon

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Bayan Bibi

Celebratory gunfire is a great threat to unaware individuals and houses as the falling bullets can ricochet off walls, break through glass windows and occasionally cause injuries or tragic deaths. The last victim is a 25 year old girl called Bayan Bibi, who was walking in Hamra on August 31st around 5:45 when a bullet hit her in the back.

She was “lucky” enough not to get killed, but such things should not happen and must be stopped.

I hope you get better soon Bayan.

Bayan’s memorable quote:
I never talked about the political situation, but it hits me and it hurts me.

Minister of Information Requests Warning against Marcel Ghanem for incitement to sedition

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I agree that the pictures displayed should have been verified and Kalam Ennas did apologize for that mistake but I fail to understand how those images managed to “ignite provocation and tensions and incite to sedition and destabilization in the country”.

In fact I don’t understand how Lebanon’s No.1 talk show gets a warning like that while other TV shows that keep the show running while their guests curse and insult each other get away with it. Personally speaking, I think Kalam Ennas is the only show that truly depicts the reality of what is happening and is worth watching.

Funnily enough, Prime Minister Mikati was not aware of the warning requested by the Information Minister and disagrees with its content.

If I were Marcel Ghanem, I would get Walid el Daouk on the next episode and ask him to explain to the viewers the reason for issuing such a warning.

On August 23, the talkshow’s producer and host displayed obnoxious images of charred bodies he claimed they belonged to the victims of a two deadly blasts in the northern city of Tripoli last week.

They photos later proved to be belonging to victims of a fatal fire at a Morocco bank in 2011.

In a letter to the National Audio-Visual Media Council, Daouk slammed Ghanem’s practice as unprofessional and irreverent, and not complying with the honor pact LBC had signed.

“Therefore, we hereby request the National Audio-Visual Media Council to urgently address Kalam el-Nas producer and host, Mr. Marcel Ghanem, with a warning over the content of his show igniting provocation and tensions and inciting to sedition and destabilization in the country, in an express violation of the terms upon which the institution was given broadcast license and of Law 382/94,” Daouk said in the letter. [Source]

Can We Prevent Further Bombings in Lebanon?

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Picture by Justin Salhani

Almost a week after Dahieh’s blast, two explosions shook the city of Tripoli killing 45 people and injuring hundreds. The bombs, similarly to Dahieh’s bomb, were directed against civilians and were placed this time outside two mosques during prayer time. This is the bloodiest attack since Lebanon’s civil war and the worse is yet to come according to most security reports and officials.

I don’t know who’s behind these bombings, nor do I intend to try and point out accusations towards one team or another, but I don’t understand how all these high ranking security officials, ministers and politicians are predicting worse days to come without taking any initiative or setting up a proper security plan to try to prevent at least another car bomb. There are tons of measures that can be taken to make it harder for terrorists to infiltrate crowded areas and to detect any suspicious activity.

Interior Minister Marwan Charbel mentioned yesterday that he had set up with other security officials “a road map for the security agencies to deal with the situation” (Few hours before the explosions took place), but I don’t think any plan will work if the Lebanese citizens are not involved in it, and the borders are not sealed properly (A rather complicated matter).

At the moment, we don’t need road maps but quick and effective ways to protect our homes and streets, as well as coordinated efforts between the citizens, the municipality members and the security forces. The Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces may not be able to protect the whole country, but they can always trust people and ask them for help. Neighborhood watches can be organized (Bourj Hammoud municipality already does that), Parking lots around crowded or religious sites can be removed, set up cameras, checkpoints (by the authorities only) can be organized regularly, cars can be registered at the municipality, hot lines can be assigned for each area to report any suspicious activity etc …

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Mall Security still using these pointless bomb detectors

The media has an important role to play here and TVs should start awareness campaigns and advise people on how to monitor and report suspicious activities (As recommended by the Security Agencies of course), as well as organize talk shows that revolve around protecting the Lebanese instead of hosting political parrots and arrogant guests just to get more viewers. Businesses can also play a crucial role in financing the municipality, equipping them with the proper equipment, covering the expenses for setting up cameras and many other things. For example, a city like Achrafieh which has more than 20 banks and major companies can easily get the money to set up cameras on every corner.

The situation nowadays is very different from few years back when politicians were being targeted or bombs were placed in hidden spots to scare people. The last two bombs were placed in crowded areas to cause the biggest number of casualties possible and it is no longer acceptable to just wait for the next car bomb to happen. It’s no longer safe to go out anywhere to be honest and we can’t just pretend nothing’s happening and move on.

On a last note, the internet is a very powerful tool and the majority of Lebanese are connected now, so let’s make good use of it and express solidarity and love instead of promoting hatred and sectarianism. The Lebanese Police could set up few useful apps for citizens to submit reports almost instantly.

Since we want action and not just talks, and given that a lot of people, myself included, don’t have the time or money to take initiatives on the ground, what we can start by doing for example, even if it’s a baby step, is raise awareness online by asking businesses, such as malls, restaurants, pubs and other places to take proper measures and stop using these defective bomb detectors. Added to that, teachers can ask their school or university administration to take preemptive measures before they begin the new academic year.

I am almost confident Lebanese are mature enough not to want a new civil war, and I am sure there are still few good people in this country capable of making a positive change.

PS: I will forward this post and any of your suggestions to ex-Minister Ziad Baroud and other influential people to see if we can materialize any of these plans before it’s too late.

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Inauguration of Bachir Gemayel Avenue was cancelled yesterday in Beirut after the Tripoli Explosions. A car was suspected as well near the place but it was a false alert.

Another Bad Day For Virgin Ticketing Box Office

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Picture via GinosBlog

Last week they were advertising some guy as being the real Psy and today they posted about Fadl Shaker going back to sing. The good thing though is that they deleted both entries and explained what happened on their website.

[The story behind Fadel Shaker in concert]
[Gangnam Style Official tour corrective action!!]

Psy
Via ListenArabic