Category Archives: Critiques

Beirut’s Roman Hippodrome to be dismantled

Posted By :

IMG_2714
Picture from TheBeirutReport

Construction works at Beirut’s Roman Hippodrome that were suspended last year by the Shura Council, are set to resume after the Ministry of Culture “has approved (in the absence of a general director) construction across the remaining hippodrome grounds, so long as the developer reintegrates the wall into the basement level of the luxury housing development.”

I am not sure how much of the wall will be preserved nor how the Shura Council decision was overruled, but it’s quite disappointing to see such an impressive 1st century monument be replaced by luxury apartments.

If you wish to read more about it, check out Habib Battah’s detailed report for BBC [Here].

hippodrome1
What the hippodrome could have looked like 2000 years ago

Another victim of Celebratory Gunfire in Lebanon

Posted By :

I’ve already posted about the dangers of stray bullets and the need to ban celebratory gunfire in Lebanon once and for all. That’s not something so difficult to implement yet nothing is being done about it and innocent people are getting killed. If the security situation is that bad in Lebanon, let the concerned ministry start with the simplest things that don’t require security plans and could save tens of lives if not more every year.

The last victim of celebratory gunfire is a 28 year old man who was shot by accident by his friend during a wedding. This is not a tradition we should be proud of, this is a stupid act that could kill people and can easily be replaced by harmless fireworks.

I live in Detroit. Our priest at our church is Abouna Michel Cheble. Saturday night his brother in law Wassim, age 28 was killed in a wedding celebration in Baalbak. It was celebratory gun fire, and his close friend shot him on accident. Wassim left a wife, a boy age 5, and a daugther 10 months old. I know this is a tradition, all across Lebanon regardless of religion… but it costs many lives. I thought this would be a good blog idea about this topic/incident… I want to bring awareness to our people about this. I know we think we know everything but this is very dangerous.

Thank you Tom!

BlogBaladi featured in the WashingtonPost

Posted By :

130916112150-08-navy-yard-shooting-0916-horizontal-gallery
Source: CNN

I was asked to comment on the Naval Yard Shooting in Washington that took place last week by the Washington Post Beirut correspondent and my remarks were featured in the below [article].

In Lebanon, news of the killings was overshadowed by the diplomatic push for Syria to relinquish its chemical weapons, which has eased concerns of a U.S. military strike on Damascus and the possible ramifications of such a strike for its smaller neighbor.

Najib Mitri, a prominent Lebanese blogger, said there was relief among Arabs that the shooter did not have a connection to the Middle East.

“What is happening in the area here is enough to tarnish our reputations already — the violence, the massacres. It’s a relief that this is not another opportunity to label us this way,” he said.

While Lebanon is no stranger to gun violence, plagued by corruption and groups that have not disarmed since the Lebanese civil war, the fact that a country like the United States was unable to prevent a gunman from breaching security at a naval base was unsettling, Mitri he said. He predicted a bolstered sense of national unity in the aftermath of the killings — something he said happened in Lebanon after recent bombings in southern Beirut and the northern city of Tripoli.

“The more you have weapons, the more you have crime,” Mitri said. “When something like this happens in your country, you stop looking at the political picture, and all that matters is that it needs to be stopped.”

While there are no clear studies that prove a correlation between Gun Control and Less Violent Crime, I will never understand why people are so eager to buy a gun and carry it around. Even in Lebanon where the security situation is bad, I can understand keeping a gun or any fatal weapon at home in case of a robbery but I would never put a gun in my car or carry it around for protection.

Personally speaking, I don’t even know how to fire a gun and I don’t have any weapon at home, because I am honestly not ready to have blood on my hands. If I ever consider keeping a weapon at home, I would join a Shooting Club, learn how to shoot and aim properly and only then buy a small handgun for emergencies.

The Best Time For Highway Pothole Repairs in Lebanon

Posted By :

BUcCc27IcAAqspv
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.

BUBqZhjIQAA5tTi.jpg large
via MTV

Update: We’re screwed till Saturday
1236856_10153279556590077_908084463_n
Picture via Anthony Rehayel

Al-Akhbar Roamed Beirut with a car full of explosives

Posted By :

p01_20130912_pic1

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?

Posted By :

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

Posted By :

20130810_122514
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.

20130907_083933

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

Posted By :

5702541735153368
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

Posted By :

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

Posted By :

1002177_10151642025733547_545174998_n

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]