The sandstorm sweeping the Middle East is so large it can be seen from space. You can see above an image shared by NASA. We usually get sandstorms during the summer in Lebanon but this one is by far the most intense one we had in years.
Unlike Germany and Sweden, Denmark does not want to be part of a common European asylum policy and has made its intentions clear by placing ads (English And Arabic) in different Lebanese newspapers “announcing tighter regulations and cuts in provisions for asylum seekers.”
The ads state that:
– Social assistance for newly arrived refugees will be reduced by 50 percent.
– New refugees will have to be able to speak and understand Danish in order to obtain a permanent residency.
– Those granted a temporary residence permit will not have the right to family reunification for the first year of their residence.
– And that rejected asylum seekers will have to leave Denmark as quick as possible.
The Syrian war is by far the worst humanitarian disaster of our time and has resulted in the the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century with over 4 million Syrians refugees hosted in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt and another 7.6 million Syrians displaced internally. While European countries are being pressured to open their doors to refugees, and Denmark is now being criticized for tightening regulations, I believe the Arab World’s wealthiest nations, mainly the Gulf States, should do more and “realize that now is the time to change their policy regarding accepting refugees from the Syria crisis. It is the moral, ethical and responsible step to take”.
They have the money, the infrastructure and some of the largest military budgets in the world. They are more prepared and equipped than anyone else to welcome refugees. Lebanon has been going through an economic and political crisis for the past 10 years yet has managed to host over a million Syrian refugees. Turkey is the only country to have taken more.
Abdul Halim Attar is a Palestinian-Syrian who fled to Lebanon three years ago with his two children and has been selling pens in the streets of Beirut to make ends meet. Attar was photographed by an Icelandic journalist and activist called Gissur Simonarson who shared on Twitter two pictures of the Syrian refugee selling pens while holding his sleeping daughter. After receiving tons of requests to help the man, Gissi was able to locate the man and start a fundraising campaign with the help of CaptainMaj, Jessy El Murr from Sky News Arabia annd Carol Malouf who runs an aid organization Lebanese4Refugees.
The campaign went viral and the 35-year-old single father of two from Syria received almost $175,000 in donations in only 6 days. The original goal set for the crowdfunding campaign was only $5000 so this is quite amazing especially that there are still 9 days left. Attar used to earn $35 on a good day but now his life has changed dramatically.
When asked what he wants to do with the money, Abdul said:
“I want to use the money to help Syrians. I don’t want to be the only one being helped; there are thousands of children on the streets. There are people who are worse off than I am,” he said passionately. “Syria is my country; these are my people. In Syria, we used to welcome everyone and help them.
“I am lucky because at least I have a roof over my head and somewhere to sleep,” he added. “There are many who are barely living. I hope this campaign grows to help all Syrians. I hope other Syrians get a campaign the way I got a campaign, and people can see the conditions they are in.”
Until Attar gets his money, Carol Malouf has been helping him get food, paid for his rent this month and has been working on getting his paperwork in order to establish him in Lebanon.
All in all, if this story proves anything, it’s that people are more than willing to help when they are given the opportunity and that small initiatives like this one can help change someone’s life positively.
Someone crunched the numbers from Forbes’ 2015 billionaire list and came up with a a list of the most billionaire-dense countries. Lebanon made the list with 7 billionaires for a population of 4,104,000, which equals one billionaire per 586,286 Lebanese. The Mikati (Najib & Taha) and Hariri (Saad, Ayman, Bahaa, Fahad) families are basically Lebanon’s billionaires in addition to Robert Mouawad. It is worth noting that the Hariri and Mikati families are originally from Saida and Tripoli, two of the poorest areas in Lebanon.
The only other Arab country that made the list is Kuwait with 5 billionaires. I expected to see the UAE on the list but they only have 4 billionaires according to Forbes.
The World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 Annual Global Competitiveness Report is out and it placed Lebanon among the 10 least efficient governments in the world. Lebanon is in fourth position behind Venezuela, Italy and Argentina. The report “evaluates the efficiency of 144 of the world’s governments on measures including the wastefulness of government spending, burden of regulation and transparency of policymaking, to produce an overall global ranking”. I’m quite surprised we are not in the top rank but I am sure we can pull it off next year so let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that our government will make things even worse for all of us next year.
If you look more closely at the report, you will notice we ranked before last or last in the following categories:
– Quality of electricity supply.
– Ethics and Corruption.
– Public trust in politicians.
– Wastefulness of government spending.
– 3rd pillar: Macroeconomic environment
Mabrouk la Lebnen 😀
On the other hand, Qatar & the UAE were ranked among the top 10 most efficient governments in the world. You can check out the full report [here].
This is quite an amazing old footage from 1974 back when we had a rally between Lebanon and Syria that looked a bit like the Paris Dakar. Lebanese Driver Joe Hindi won the rally that year against the likes of Hannu Mikkola who became World Champion in 1983, the famous Jean Todt who later became the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team manager and is currently the FIA president. I also spotted Sehnaoui (which I assume is Maurice “Bagheera” Sehnaoui) in that race. The rally was called “The Safari of the Middle East” and crossed most of the Lebanese and Syrian territories as you can see from the maps shown below.
It’s pretty amazing how things have changed from the 1970s between Syria and Lebanon, from the wars that opposed both countries, to the civil war, to the Syrian hegemony era and now war in Syria. I look at all these rally stages (Der Ezzor, Aleppo, Hassaka) and the first thing that comes to mind now are massacres and bombings unfortunately.
Let’s hope that we will get back to such peaceful times and we will have another Lebanese-Syrian rally one day. Until then, enjoy this amazing old footage!
The 2006 Lebanon War Wikipedia page is in the top 30 most edited Wikipedia pages and controversial topics with over 20,000 revisions, with the most popular ones being George W. Bush and World Wrestling Entertainment. It’s the only Middle-East related page on that list weirdly enough despite everything that’s been happening since 2006. Other pages on that list include The Undertaken, Adolf Hitler, Jesus, Michael Jackson, Roger Federer and others.
I think the main reason for that was the cyber war that Israel launched back then against Lebanon and Hezbollah and that turned into a global cyber-warfare between the US and its enemies.
The UNHCR released its annual Global Trends Report: World At War on Thursday, and revealed that the number of people displaced by war and persecution has reached a new high whereas one in every 122 humans globally is either a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum. We are talking about almost 60 million people that were forcibly displaced compared to 51.2 million in 2013.
As far as refugees per 1,000 inhabitants ratio is concerned, Lebanon is still leading the way with 232 refugees, followed by Jordan with 87. The “good” news though is that this number has slightly dropped from mid-2014 where it peaked at 257, which could be due to the visa restrictions set by the Lebanese authorities.
Needless to say, there’s still a lot of work to be done as refugees need to be regrouped in decent camps and should get the necessary help. Of course Lebanon needs all the help he can get from Arab countries and the UN, but more importantly, we need transparency and accountability when it comes to foreign aids to ensure funds are not going into the wrong pockets.
The Abu Dhabi Police has apparently decided to add Lykan HyperSport to its fleet as part of “its efforts to reach out to residents, especially the youth, on traffic safety”. I’m not really sure how buying a 3.8-liter twin-turbo flat-six engine with a 770 horsepower super-car and displaying it at touristic locations and malls will help promote road safety but it’s worth a try if they can afford (which they can) paying $3.4 million for the car.
Just to give you an idea on how exclusive the Lykan HyperSport, a supercar made by W-Motors a Lebanese-based company by the way, it is the first Middle Eastern supercar and one of the world’s fastest. Moreover, the super-car is one of only seven in the world and features “diamond-encrusted headlights and an interior straight out of Star Trek”. It was featured in the latest Fast & Furious 7 movie “flying” from one skyscraper to the other.
The Lykan is definitly not the first supercar to join Abu Dhabi’s police fleet as the Rolls-Royce Phantom was recently acquired. Dubai’s police fleet is as impressive and includes a Lexus RCF, a McLaren MP4-12C, Aston Martin One-77, Audi R8, Bugatti Veyron, Mercedes SLS, BMW M6, Lamborghini Aventador, Ferrari FF, and a Bentley Continental GT.
I am going to label this post under “Humor” because this is an absolutely ridiculous list that makes no sense whatsoever and I’m quite surprised that the Telegraph and Time decided to share it without double checking some of its findings. Out of the 64 cities categorized as “extreme risk” in Verisk Maplecroft’s new Global Alerts Dashboard (GAD), there are 6 Lebanese cities: Beirut, Byblos, Aley, Baabda, Jounieh and Zahlé.
Noting that the rankings are based on “an online mapping and data portal that logs and analyses every reported terrorism incident down to levels of 100m² worldwide”, and that is based on the “intensity and frequency of attacks in the 12 months following February 2014, combined with the number and severity of incidents in the previous five years”, I am not sure how cities like Byblos, Aley, Baabda, Jounieh and Zahlé made the list while Tripoli wasn’t even mentioned. When was the last time you heard about an attack in Jounieh, Byblos or Baabda? The areas aren’t even close to conflict areas like Zahle is. Moreover, how is Beirut more at risk of a terror attack than Damascus?
Funnily enough, I was just praising Jbeil yesterday for winning the Arab Tourism Capital Title for 2016 and now it’s on some world’s deadliest cities list.
Update: I am going to email the Telegraph and Time and ask them to revise this article.