S&P: Lebanon’s Outlook Downgraded From “Stable” To “Negative”

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garbage Via NationalPost

Standard & Poor’s has revised the outlook for Lebanon on the long-term ratings from “stable” to “negative”. We used to blame regional instability on the economic situation in Lebanon and it definitely has impacted us negatively but I believe our biggest problems right now are domestic instability and corruption.

We haven’t had a Lebanese president since May 2014, elections since 2009, the parliament has failed to pass a budget since 2005 and garbage is all over our streets! It’s a good thing we still have a solid financial system backed by the Central Bank.

My favorite quote from the article is the below:

The agency did not expect the government to use the lower oil price environment, and the resulting fiscal space, to implement the structural reforms that would reduce fiscal vulnerabilities and promote longer-term economic growth. It added that public finances and fiscal flexibility would remain constrained by structural expenditures that include transfers to EDL and high debt servicing.

I guess this is the S&P’s way of telling the Lebanese authorites: #YouStink!

Protesting For The Wrong Reasons

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Piles of Garbage were apparently blocking the Dora pedestrian bridge so an old man decided to cross the highway and got killed. As a result, the #بدنا_نحاسب movement decided to stage a protest in front of the bridge and blamed Sukleen among others for the incident. They also moved some of the garbage and dropped them in front of the company’s offices in Karantina.

I know we are all fed up of the garbage crisis and the corruption and incompetence of Lebanese officials, but there’s no excuse to jeopardize your life by crossing the highway, and Sukleen has nothing to do with the piles of garbage under a pedestrian bridge. Those who organized this protest should have at least promoted road safety and advised against crossing highways and blamed the municipality and concerned ministries (not Sukleen) for not clearing the pedestrian bridge.

Moreover, I think Yasa or KunHadi should organize a campaign on the Dora-Karantina highway to prevent people from crossing the highway because I spot people almost EVERYDAY crossing the highway, sometimes underneath the pedestrian bridge which is quite absurd! They could start by placing a police officer or volunteer next to the bridge for a short period of time to prevent people like this old man from crossing the highway. A lot of people don’t understand the risks of crossing busy highways and this old man’s life could have been saved easily if someone was there to prevent him.


Updates On Baby Ali And The Refugee Children Online Campaign

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I’ve been following up on Baby Ali all day yesterday with Leb4refugees and I got a confirmation yesterday night that he finally moved to the new apartment with his family. The new apartment is decent but needs few things which will be shared tomorrow for all those who wish to help. As far as the online campaign is concerned, the amount collected until now is around $5000 which is awesome news!

For those who are in Lebanon and can directly donate (cash, food, supplies etc ..), contact Leb4refugees offices at +961 4 546 077 (or +961 3 315500) or email them info@lebanese4refugees.com.

For those who are in Lebanon abroad and wish to help online, you can donate [Here].

The pictures shown in this post were taken today.



The Bad Guy In “BlackHat” Is A Lebanese

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One of the key villains in Michael Mann’s latest action thriller Blackhat is a Lebanese known para-military who fought with the Christian Phalanges during the Civil War and is called Elias Kassar. The character is played by Ritchie Coster. Kassar is a ruthless machine gun-wielding and bloodthirsty guy who would do anything to protect the big boss.

I don’t remember the last time someone referred to the Lebanese civil war and militias in a Hollywood movie. There are two movies that had scenes shot related to Beirut during the civil war era and that I can think of now: The Delta Force with Chuck Norris and True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

As far as Blackhat is concerned, it’s an action-packed movie but the plot is not that good. I’d give it a 6/10.





Here’s another movie as well: (Thanks Christian)

Mr Lebanon 2015 Candidate Genius Solution To The Garbage Crisis

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I feel so stupid right now. I’ve been brainstorming for months now on how to resolve the garbage crisis but I never considered such a simple and straight forward solution. This guy deserves a Nobel Prize for his ground-breaking solution!

Check it out [here] if you don’t believe me.

If you can’t watch the video, check below from Minute 1:45:00.


How To Help Baby Ali & Other Refugee Children

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baby ali via Lama

As soon as I heard about the 8-month old baby, that was originally tweeted by Jad, living under the Charles Helou bridge yesterday, I shared the story and talked to a couple of friends and NGOs to see how we can help. After making few calls, I was introduced to Lama Beydoun (Thank you Sarah) who was apparently among the first to spot the baby and has been helping him since Day1 along with Rachelle Ismail who took him yesterday to see a doctor on her own expenses. I also talked to Rana who has offered to relocate the baby and his grandpa and has been helping as well to get some feedback on the family. I finally decided to meet with Carol Maalouf and members of the Leb4refugees NGO at Charles Helou station as they have been dealing with refugees for several years now.

What’s The Story?

Ali is an 8-month old baby who lives with his mother, her sisters and brothers, his step-dad and his grand father somewhere in Ouzai. His dad is Lebanese from the South but has apparently abandoned his family for some reason. The grandpa was taking care of the baby most of the time from what he told us and he decided to move him out of the apartment because it was in a very bad condition (too dirty and too hot). To be honest, I don’t think any place can be worse than living under the Charles Helou bridge and we couldn’t really figure out why the grand father took the baby and moved out but what’s for sure is that he’s taking good care of his grandson and other members of the family are helping as well.

To cut the story short, we told the father that the baby should no longer sleep under the bridge and that he should sleep at the Ouzai house (if there is one) till we find a new shelter. He agreed and the baby spent the night at home yesterday and we made sure with the police that he didn’t keep him under the bridge.

How To Help?

Ever since the story broke up, a lot of people have offered to help and several of them showed up and offered the grand father money, food and baby supplies. Everyone wants to help but it needs to be done properly in order to get Ali off the street and into a decent shelter. First things first, we need to find them a new apartment and cover the rent for at least 6 months, then get the baby and grand father the food and supplies they need.

– Alfa Telecom were among the first to offer help and Alfa’s CEO messaged me directly and told me they will cover the rent for 6 months which is awesome news!
– As far as online donations are concerned, I decided to team up with my friends at LiveLoveBeirut and Leb4refugees to start a crowdfunding campaign. Since there are a lot of children in need, the funds donated here will go to Lebanese 4 Refugees to help find Ali get a new life at first and then help other refugee children because there are thousands of babies like Ali in Lebanon unfortunately.

For those who are in Lebanon and can directly donate (cash, food, supplies etc ..), contact Leb4refugees offices at +961 4 546 077 (or +961 3 315500) or email them info@lebanese4refugees.com.

For those who are in Lebanon abroad and wish to help online, you can donate [Here].

I really hope this works out and we can get Ali a new shelter and a new life. No baby deserves to be sleeping under a bridge. No one deserves living under such conditions.

Update1: I just passed by this morning and Carol told me they found an apartment in Nabaa for $350 a month and that they will probably move today as soon as the funds are secured.

How Can We Help The 8-Month Old Baby Living Under The Charles Helou Bridge?

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I’m glad that MTV shed the light on this 8-month Syrian baby living with his grandfather under the Charles Helou bridge but something needs to be done quickly to pull them out of this horrible place. I’m already talking to a couple of NGOs to see if we can raise money and move them somewhere safe the soonest. The baby and his grandpa have been on the street for over 20 days now.

Three weeks ago, a 35-year-old single father of two from Syria received almost $175,000 in donations in only 6 days after his picture was shared by a foreign journalist in Beirut and I’m sure that a lot of people are more than willing to help Ali and help change his life positively.

Ever since I watched the report, I can’t help but wonder how do they sleep at night? How did they survive the sandstorm? How is the baby coping with all this heat and noise around? This is just terrible!

If anyone has any ideas on how to help, please share them. I’m going to pass by this afternoon see if they are still there.

ali granpa


10 Sandstorm Pictures From The Highest Building In Beirut

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I had the chance to visit Sky Gate, which is currently the highest building in Beirut, and take shots of the severe sandstorm that has swept across Lebanon for the past three days. I went all the way up to the roof and took some amazing pictures that I’m sharing with you. I’m going back in a week to take the same shots and show you the contrast once the sandstorm is over so stay tuned. I will also share some information regarding Sky Gate because it’s quite an amazing building.

PS: Many thanks to Mena Capital and Elyse for granting me access :)











Beirut River: Expectations vs Reality

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Nahr Beirut via NowLebanon

Two years ago, a Lebanese architect called Sandra Frem revealed a project she had been working on since 2008 “seeking to beautify the Beirut River (Nahr Beirut) and make it an integral part of Beirut rather than a separate entity as is the case today”. Sandra thought we could make good use of the open spaces on both sides of the river and turn them into green spaces. Moreover, she thought that we could help solve the water shortage in Beirut by purifying and distributing sewage and rainwater.

Of course Sandra knew her project was a bit unrealistic (mainly due to politics) but I’m sure she never thought Beirut River would be turned into a huge landfill and become a threat to all the Lebanese. She wanted the river to help change people, instead it’s helping spread diseases that kill people. I’m sure she must be devastated by the current situation and what the Beirut River has come to just like we all are, but we can only hope that this is a temporary phase that we’re going through and that Nahr Beirut would be turned one day into “a beautiful and fun place that brings people together and alleviates the burden of life in this country”.

You can read the full article [here].

The architect’s project built bridges between hypothetical gardens along the river banks, and traced special routes for public transportation (buses or tramways). Her objective was to make walking a fun activity for Beirut residents and to transform the river into a space for relaxation for residents of the surrounding poor neighborhoods. “The river can help change the people,” she argues.

For Sandra Frem, a LAU architecture professor, talking about this project is all but unrealistic under these circumstances. She has since recanted “her dream” of carrying out such projects, focusing instead on working in her engineering office on small, more realistic projects. “This project is politically and socially sensitive. There is no political will to carry out such projects in poor residential neighborhoods, as preference now goes to towers,” she said.

Nahr Beirut2 via NowLebanon

Garbage Crisis In Lebanon: Why is Everyone Warning Us About The First Rains?

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Beirut River turned into a landfill (Reuters/Mohamed Azakir)

Why is everyone warning us about the first rains? What will happen when it rains with all this garbage around? The truth is Lebanon will be facing a very serious health crisis if the garbage is not removed in time. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for two days now but I don’t know much about it so I asked a friend who’s an environmentalist to help out and I spotted yesterday a very useful article on eTobb.com on the results of this garbage crisis on our overall health.

Wet Garbage = Water Pollution

So what exactly happens when it starts to rain? Heavy rainstorms will “cause the garbage to disintegrate into the soil reaching underground water reserves such as natural wells and fossil water (non-renewable)”, which means that diluted garbage would “sink into the soil, spreading downwards and outwards in a characteristic brush-stroke shape known as a plume, contaminating soil and water as it moved”.

As far as the Beirut River is concerned, here’s what eTobb had to say:

In addition to that, recently circulated images of Nahr Beirut show immense quantities of garbage blocking the path of the scarcely flowing river (in summer alone). The latter river is known to absorb and take in large amounts of rainfall every year, sometimes overflowing naturally due to weather changes; and now that we know that Nahr Beirut is completely blocked by piles and piles of stinking, harmful and poisonous garbage, only one destiny is bound to this year’s first rainfall with those piles of garbage which will definitely overflow, sending trash all over the roads and residential neighborhoods, down the water sewers and into the ground which will increase the risk of dangerous diseases, mutated insects, polluted water, air and vegetation and on the long run, we can expect plagues similar to those humanity witnessed during the major wars due to uncontrolled numbers of rats roaming the streets on a garbage feeding frenzy. Last but not least, let’s not forget how many hot and humid days have passed while the garbage was left out on the streets, fermenting, rotting, decomposing and vaporizing into the atmosphere, bringing a new threat our way, a threat that will affect each and every once of us, Acid Rain.

In addition to that:

– Landfills contaminate the air that we are breathing with various toxic substances.
– Contaminated water could lead to the widespread of several diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid, Dysentery and Dengue Fever. Add to that typhoid fever, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, and enteric fever.
– Populations exposed to untreated chemicals witness an increase in cancer rates.

The garbage crisis has been ongoing for 3 months now and the Lebanese authorities are still wasting their time on organizing national dialogue sessions instead of forming an emergency committee, encouraging people to recycle, reducing waste and trying to figure out solutions.