In Pictures: Dual Bombings Rock Beirut’s Southern Suburbs

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Two explosions
via @TMCLebanon

Two powerful explosions were heard earlier today in Beirut’s Southern Suburbs near the Kuwaiti Embassy and an Iranian cultural center. Early reports are saying the attack was carried out by two suicide bombers, one driving a car and the second on a motorcycle. At least three were reported killed so far and over 40 injured.

It’s been almost 3 weeks now since the last bombing and this is the first one after the new government was formed last week.

May all the victims rest in peace.

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Lebanon Drops 5 Spots From Last Year In The Press Freedom Index 2014

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Syria is the worst ranked Arab country in 177th spot (out of 180). Kuwait is the best ranked Arab country in the 91st spot.

Here’s the list of Arab Countries and their respective ranking:

Syria – 177
Saudi Arabia – 164
Bahrain – 163
Iraq – 153
Jordan – 141
Palestine – 138
Oman – 134
UAE – 118
Qatar – 113
Kuwait – 91

Lebanon had dropped 8 spots last year and 5 more spots this year. You can check the full report and World map [Here].

In Lebanon, where the media serve as the propaganda outlets of businessmen and politicians, the Syrian conflict has consolidated the existing fault line between media allied with “8 March” (the mainly Shiite movement supported by Tehran and Damascus) and media allied with “14 March” (the mainly Sunni coalition supported by Saudi Arabia against Damascus). This polarization between media that support and oppose the Syrian government has reinforced Lebanon’s social and political polarization.

Happy In Lebanon: The Lebanese Version of Pharrell Williams’ Happy Song

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[YouTube]

I was hoping to compile the entries I got and upload the video by this weekend but it seems someone has been working on it already. I wish they had seen the post and contacted me, at least I would have shared the stuff I got and compiled everything into one video.

Either way, it’s a pretty cool clip but I think I will still go ahead with our planned video since a lot of readers already emailed me. There’s no harm in coming up with more happy videos from Lebanon and by the Lebanese.

Hashem el Madani, Akram Zaatari and Saida’s Studio Shehrazade

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All Photos taken by Madani – via BBC

Lebanese Photographer Hashem el Madani has been taking pictures of Saida’s inhabitants over five decades and his archive contains some pretty unusual portraits like the one below. Apparently, it was common in Saida and probably in Lebanon in the 1950s to reenact movie scenes like a fight or a kiss, as long as it’s a kiss between two people from the same sex as the society was a conservative one. In the 1960s and 1970s and following the turbulent politics of the time, it became popular to pose with a gun. Madani even says that following Egyptian President Jamal Abdel Nasser’s death, it became fashionable to take pictures while acting sad. Baqari’s wife is one of the few pictures that caused Madani trouble.

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This pretty awesome archive was picked up by Lebanese video artist and curator Akram Zaatari, who described Studio Shehrazade as a “trove of buried treasure” and decided to partner with Madani and show his photographs to the whole world. He feels that he’s writing history through Madani’s pictures. Zaatari is also a co-founder of The Arab Image Foundation who contains more than “600,000 historic images of daily life in the Middle East, North Africa and the Arab diaspora”.

Madani is now 86 years old but doesn’t believe in retirement.

“Staying at home makes you bored and tired,” he says. “During the day I go to my studio and reminisce about the past. I am nostalgic and I want to relive those days. I much preferred it back then. I used to sleep for about four hours a day, and the rest of the time I would be working”. He still occasionally takes photographs, now on a digital camera.

He is proud to have been chosen for Zaatari’s research and happy that his work continues to be seen. He has accompanied the artist to major international exhibitions, but the project that has meant most to him personally is the Hashem el Madani Walking Itinerary in the old city of Saida where framed portraits of shopkeepers taken in the 1950s were “returned” to the original shops. “I would have liked to photograph all the residents of Saida, because this is where I live,” he told Zaatari.

Two young men from Aadloun. Studio Shehrazade, Saida, Lebanon, 1966. Hashem el Madani 2007 by Akram Zaatari born 1966

I am from a village near Saida yet I have never heard of this place. I will ask about it next time I visit and I hope they will turn Studio Shehrazade into a museum. If you are interested in checking out more pictures, click [Here].

You can check out the full BBC article on Madani and Zaatari [Here].

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Baqari’s wife (Here’s the story behind it: She took pictures without her husband’s permission. As a result he asked Madani to destroy the negatives but he only scratched them. Sadly though, the wife killed herself few years later, and the husband came back asking for prints from the photo shoot)

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Madani and Zaatari

Beirut Municipality To Install 1500-2000 Security Cameras Worth $40 Million Dollars

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Surveillance cameras at the entrance of the Iranian embassy in Beirut – Source

Beirut’s Municipality has decided back in August to install CCTVs all across the city due to the security situation, and based on what Annahar reported yesterday, the budget allocated to installing between 1500 and 2000 cameras will be around $40 million dollars. Honestly, it’s quite a huge amount for a couple of thousand cameras (Around 20,000$ per camera), but nothing’s clear yet about the bids submitted and Beirut’s Mayor is saying he’s expecting the real cost to be 30% less. In all cases, the proposal has to be approved by the Ministry of Interior and the government and hopefully will be done in a transparent way.

On another note, I liked the suggestion made by one of Beirut’s municipality members in that article that consists of giving the Park Meter officers devices to scan cars and make sure they are bomb-free, but I wish he had elaborated and specified which type of devices they should be given, because a decent bomb scanner costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. A better idea maybe is to invest in bomb sniffing dogs and let them patrol the city along with the Park Meter officers.

Middle East Airlines Issues Clarification Regarding Roula el Helou’s incident

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Source

From what I’ve just read, it looks like a big misunderstanding and I agree that people shouldn’t make use of one incident, even though it’s not the first, to attack and disrespect MEA as a whole. In all cases, I think it’s better if Roula settles this matter internally with MEA in order for it not to happen again.

May Chidiac also commented regarding this incident.