Category Archives: Critiques

Is The New Traffic Law Still Working?

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I don’t think we need to compare stats between this year and the previous one to realize that the new traffic law, whose implementation started back in April, is no longer working. In fact, ever since I got fined for using my phone, which I insist I wasn’t, I haven’t seen a single cop on that same road. Moreover, I’m seeing more and more people use their phone while driving, as well as others driving recklessly, going the wrong way, parking illegally etc …

To make things worse, police officers and army men are still breaking the law without being punished. The other day on the Dbayyeh maritime road, I spotted an army man driving recklessly while talking on the phone and without the seat belt on, as well as a police officer driving the wrong way on a scooter without any helmet on.

In terms of numbers, Yasa confirmed back in August that the number of accidents decreased dramatically during the first two months (April & May) but then the numbers started increasing gradually. I looked up the stats per month that Kunhadi published (taken from ISF) and they surprisingly show that the number of crashes have significantly decreased this year but the number of fatalities didn’t change much. However, if you look at the Lebanese Red Cross numbers (August 2014 vs August 2015), you will notice that the numbers are very similar.

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Another Failed Attempt?

Some people may argue that the new law needs time to be applied properly but I think the reasons why it’s not working are very clear and I’ve raised them already before:

– Policemen are still breaking the law and should be punished more severely when they do so as they are role models for others to follow.
– People are using wasta to remove the fines.
– The idea from the new traffic law should be to help people become aware of the traffic law and care about their own safety, not just fine them and send the money elsewhere.
– Lebanese should know that the fines they are paying are going somewhere to improve the infrastructure.
– The law is being applied in specific areas.

I once proposed an idea to help implement the new traffic law, stop Wasta and fix roads and I’m sure there are other ways to make this law work but it doesn’t look like anyone is interested in doing so.

Shame.

august 2014

red cross aug 2015

About That Anti-Drugs Flash Mob in USJ

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flash

Yesterday, rumors spread that an USJ student had a stroke due to a Captagon overdose and was rushed to the hospital. The news also said that he overdosed after he had an argument with the drug dealer on campus which doesn’t really make any sense.

تعرض الطالب كارل ضاهر إلى نوبة جراء تناوله لجرعة زائدة من حبوب الكبتاغون إثر خلاف مع المروجة وزميلته في كلية الطب في جامعة القديس يوسف في منطقة المتحف ليا ونّس.

As it turns out, it was all part of a flash mob organized by the Lebanese Forces Students at USJ and the USJ administration to raise awareness on drug abuse. Of course the initiative is a good one but that’s not really a flash mob or at least that’s a badly executed one because a flash mob consists of a “large public gathering at which people perform an unusual or seemingly random act and then disperse” and more importantly they should be spreading the video online to make the proper impact.

The only video I found online was the one of the young man being taken to the hospital which is misleading of course. If they’re planning on releasing one later on this week, it would be too late as the so-called flash mob is already over.

All in all, I’m not trying to criticize the anti-drugs campaign led by these students and the USJ administration but they should have advertised it in a better way to reach a larger audience and make the story go viral.

PS: On another note, the anti-drugs billboards were spot on. I loved the slogans used.

[YouTube]

Who’s Spreading Rumors About Zaatar W Zeit?

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zwzwzwz

If I ask anyone about the food safety campaign that was kicked off few months ago, the only thing they will probably remember is the first list of restaurants that was announced by the Minister that included the likes of Roadster and Kababji surprisingly. Of course we still don’t know the nature of the violations at these restaurants, the standards applied to check these violations and if there’s any follow-up process.

I’ve been supporting this food safety campaign since day1 but I still don’t approve of the way the minister was flashing popular restaurant names in press conferences and causing serious damages to the businesses for reasons that are still unclear. Taanayel les Fermes for example got its share of bad publicity because most people mistook it for Centre Taanayel that was declared non-compliant.

Another example is what happened with Zaatar wou Zeit yesterday. I spotted an article early in the morning on Annahar saying that ZWZ received a warning from the ministry but I chose to ignore and check later on what ZWZ management had to say about it. As it turns out, they were unaware of any warnings addressed to them and they learned about it from the papers, which is quite absurd!

I traced back the article to the National News Agency but I couldn’t find anything on the MOH website. In fact, the latest health news there dates back to 2012.

All in all, sharing such articles can be seriously damaging and misleading and I think the MOH should investigate and make sure nothing is ever published without their consent. If there’s really a warning, we all deserve to know the whole story especially when the food chain in question is a very popular one.

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What Happens To The Victims Of Car Bombs In Lebanon?

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Jennifer

Jennifer Chedid was seriously injured three years ago in Achrafieh after a car bomb targeted the head of the ISF information branch, Wissam el Hassan. Jennifer’s condition was very critical but she refused to die, fought back and recovered.

Three years later, Jennifer’s wounds still did not heal completely and her family is unable to admit her to the hospital when needed due to financial reasons and lack of support. To make things even worse, Jennifer is being bullied at school and she thinks that it’s normal and she “understands those” who mock her.

Jennifer had nothing to do with politics and just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. Even though she survived the blast, she’s obviously in pain and unable to lead a normal life. This being said, the least the authorities can do is provide medical support at all time and make sure she’s fully recovered. Moreover, Minister Bou Saab should intervene and talk to the school principal to see why she’s getting bullied by other students because this is totally unacceptable!

I’m glad MTV shed the light on Jennifer and I hope they do the same with other car bomb victims.

[YouTube]

Special Celebrations For Weddings/Funerals/Baptisms/Graduation In Lebanon

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wtf Source

Forget the fireworks, the Zaffe and the go go dancers, there’s now a cooler way to celebrate your birthday, a first communion, your wedding, your graduation or even mourn your beloved ones. Several packages are being offered at highly competitive prices and satisfaction is 100% guaranteed (If you manage to get out alive).

Until the packages are finalized, here’s a glimpse of the promotions being offered and the safety measures taken:

– If you just gave birth to a boy and he’s the first boy in the family, two B7 shots will be offered for free. If it’s a girl, a special discount will apply.

– If you’re getting married soon and wish to drive a tank to church, you will have to take tank driving lessons or pay a bribe of $500.

– If you’re having a big funeral and don’t want your guests to get hit by stray bullets, we can arrange to fire towards neighboring towns for an additional fee.

– If the sound of gunshots is not too loud, you can hire our multi-talented “Zouzou ebba” BMW drivers to make more noise.

– If your kid failed to graduate and you had placed your order in advance, you get a 20% discount and your kid gets to fire 10 rounds for free as a consolation prize. Insurance policy will not cover anyone who gets hurt in the process.

guns

Jokes aside, I’m not just writing this to criticize what happened in Zahle during Elias Skaff’s funeral procession, and the fact that armed gunmen were roaming around officials firing in the air, but because some people are actually proud of this heavy firing and believe that it’s the right and “manly” thing to do. We’re lucky no one got hurt during this funeral but we’ve seen how many people were injured or got killed in Beirut due to celebratory gunfire.

What they fail to understand is stray bullets can hit anyone at anytime and kill them, and that their “manly” actions could end up killing innocent people and possibly one of their own. Firing in the air during any occasion is a dangerous habit that needs to be ended once and for all in Zahle and elsewhere for everyone’s sake.

Dalieh of Raouche, One Of Beirut’s Last Public Shores, Could Disappear

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dalieh

Two Lebanese sites were placed on the 2016 World Monuments Fund Watch List, The iconic Heneine Palace that I posted about two days ago and Dalieh, one of Beirut’s last public shores. The list of sites that are most at risk was announced last Thursday by The World Monuments Fund (WMF), a New York-based nonprofit preservation organization.

The World Monuments Fund is joining the civil campaign to protect Dalieh that was kicked off almost a year ago after plans of turning Dalieh into a private luxurious beach resorts were revealed. Activists organized weekly protests, lectures and even filed a lawsuit “against the government, claiming that the development laws had been passed during the chaos of the civil war and had sold out Beirut’s natural heritage. The suit focused on decree 169, from 1989, which removed previous restrictions on development in Dalieh and the surrounding coastal areas, including the famous pigeon rocks and Beirut’s only public beach.”

fisherman A fisherman at his Dalieh shack. Some have been paid to leave the area. Photograph: Habib Battah

Dalieh has been used as a public space for over 7,000 years now and no one in their right mind should consider turning this beautiful landmark into a private beach resort. Dalieh MUST be designated as a natural and cultural landscape and kept as is! I really hope that the World Monuments Fund and the civil coalition will be able to stop the privatization of Dalieh but it’s going be a difficult fight against all these major real estate investors and corrupt Lebanese authorities of course.

Here’s a brief description of Dalieh:

Beirut’s Dalieh, a prominent landmark on the main coastal promenade and a landscape of beauty, rich social history, and cultural memory, has been a feature of city life for more than 7,000 years. The Dalieh is part of the landscape of the iconic Raouche (the Pigeon Rocks), an icon of Beirut’s shoreline that appears in thousands of images of the city. The open rocky area along the sea shore has been used for hundreds of years by working-class families for everyday activities from swimming to religious festivals, as well as farming and fishing. The continuity of activity at the site is remarkable—excavations in the early twentieth century uncovered completely untouched stone tools and other artifacts dating from the Neolithic era. The area also has considerable natural interest, thanks to its complex shoreline ecosystem, fossil-bearing rocks, and plant life in a city with very little vegetation. Beirut has less than a square meter of green space per person, making it one of the least green cities in the world. There has been a long tradition of public access to the Beirut shoreline, beginning under Ottoman rule and continuing through the French mandate with laws prohibiting development on the coast. [Source: WMF]

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To read more about Dalieh, check out this great article by [The Guardian], as well as [dalieh.org] and [BeirutReport].

Five Protesters, Including Pierre Hashash, Are Still In Prison

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prisoners via #YouStink FB Page

More than 30 civil society activists and protesters were arrested last Thursday following the violent protests, out of which 11 were questioned by The Military Tribunal yesterday for several charges including: assaulting police, vandalizing public and private property and rioting. Six of them were freed yesterday while five remain in prison (Waref Suleiman, Pierre Hashash, Hussein Ibrahim, Fayez Yassine and Rami Mahfouz).

Even if some of these charges are valid (under the Lebanese law) and some of these protesters did get violent and damaged public properties, I don’t think it’s just or fair to arrest any of them without holding other parties accountable. People have been protesting for 4 months now and police (and army at some point) violence has been documented almost every time yet no measures were taken against any of the security officers. Moreover, why weren’t any of the infiltrators arrested? Why weren’t certain riot police members who beat up innocent civilians and journalists held accountable? What about those who beat up the activists that were on an open hunger strike? What about the reckless arrests and interrogations in prison? Where’s the investigation that we were promised? What about armed thugs and terrorists still roaming our streets freely?

The duty of the ISF is “to protect democracy, the government premises and public properties” and more importantly protect the people. These protesters should not pay the price simply because they don’t have a proper political cover and should be freed the soonest.

Meanwhile, garbage is still piling up all over Lebanon.

zbele

None Of The #MissLebanon Contestants Asked For Better Women Rights

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valerie

Miss Lebanon contestants were asked this year to choose a cause for which they’d be willing to go down and demonstrate, and shockingly enough, none of us chose women rights. Most of them chose the garbage issue, one wants to elect a president and another one wants to abolish political sectarianism in Lebanon (right after achieving world peace).

I never expect anything from Miss Lebanon but I think it’s quite sad that none of the contestants brought this issue up. Lebanese women are still treated as second-class citizens and are still victims of abuse and domestic violence. The Lebanese law offers them no protection and doesn’t allow them to pass the nationality to their children among other things.

Valerie Abou Chacra is the new Miss Lebanon 2015 by the way. She’s a cute miss :)

LGBT Movie “WASP” by Lebanese-Swiss director Philippe Audi-Dor Banned In Lebanon

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wasp

WASP is a movie by Lebanese-Swiss director Philippe Audi-Dor that tells the story of a gay man in a relationship, who finds himself unexpectedly attracted to a woman. The film won Best International Feature and Best Actress in a Feature at the Film Out San Diego Film Festival, and recently had a sold-out UK premiere at the renowned Raindance Film Festival in London. WASP was scheduled to play at the Beirut International Film Festival but failed to secure a screening license due to the film’s topic. The Lebanese-Swiss director was surprised by the decision as LGBT films (Lilting (UK) and Tom à la Ferme in 2014) were previously screened at the festival.

We all know censorship is random in Lebanon but there are several Lebanese films that tackled homosexuality in the past and I’m sure there are tons of Hollywood movies in the theaters that included gay scenes so why did they ban WASP? It’s not even playing in theaters so what’s the big deal?

Actually, I will never understand why the censorship bureau would ban any movie or anything. I don’t even know why this bureau exists in the first place. If some people don’t like a movie or a play or a book, they can simply not watch it. Banning it is useless as it will not stop us from downloading it online or getting a pirated copy. More importantly, it’s about time that the Lebanese authorities acknowledge the fact that homosexuality is not a trend nor an illness and people don’t choose to become gay. There are plenty of homosexuals in Lebanon and it’s their right to be so.

If you are interested in the BIFF screening schedule, check it out [here].

In Pictures: Yesterday’s Beirut Protest- The Aftermath

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demo4

Note: I wish to make one thing clear in regards to this post and the protests in general, as I got several replies telling me that I put too much focus on rock throwing and ignored police violence and that violence is “justified” in certain circumstances. To begin with, and even though I already said it in the post and documented it (and mocked it) in previous posts, police violence has ALWAYS been excessive against protesters since Day1 and I strongly condemn it. The argument that police officers are “given orders” is a very weak one when compared to what happened and every security officer who beat up an unarmed and innocent protester should be held responsible. Nevertheless, this excessive use of force does not imply that we need to react in the same manner and get violent. I know this may sound ideal, but we never got violent in the early protests and there’s no reason to start now. I believe the amount of frustration was much higher at first yet we were helping out fallen officers and showing them we are here to protest for their rights as well, not against them. I wasn’t there yesterday but I know a lot of people who went there and told me that the use of water cannons and tear gas was excessive and that people were fed up, but I believe the organizers should have dissolved the protest the second it got violent just like every time. We all know the police won’t let them through and even if they did, there’s nowhere to go. Going back to the protests, people have been losing interest whether we like to admit it or not because they no longer understand who’s doing what and what we’re protesting against. I said it since day1 that we should keep our focus on the garbage issue and stay away from fighting class wars and toppling regimes because you need years to achieve that and people will lose interest quickly. In all cases, I just felt I needed to clarify one again that this is not about throwing rocks but using violence as a means to achieve change. I blame the state for everything that’s happening and I’ll always support protests, but I never believed in violence and never will as long as there are other alternatives.

This is just wrong. Even if the police is using excessive force, throwing rocks at them and damaging public properties won’t get us anywhere. I’m not pointing fingers at anyone here and I’m definitely not siding with the police, but organizers should make sure that the protests stay peaceful. Police violence has to be documented, not countered with more violence.

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Pictures via Jessica