The Good Note: A Smart Initiative To Help Street Children & Child Beggars

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goodnote

What can we do to help street children? How can we help them when money is clearly not the answer? How can we make sure that the money we donate to these children is being used properly?

The sad truth is that we cannot help these children most of the time and the money that we are offering them is going to organized mobs that are recruiting and exploiting them most of the time. Moreover, our government has been neglecting this issue for a long time even though begging and child labor are both illegal in Lebanon and the only organization in Lebanon that offers a refuge to both Lebanese and non-Lebanese street children (Home of Hope) is not receiving enough funds to do its job.

These children need to be taken out of the street and put back in school, but things are easier said and the Syrian crisis has unfortunately made things even worse. Hundreds if not thousands of families are living in the streets of Beirut and you cannot go anywhere without spotting child beggars these days.

So What Can Be Done?

As I’ve stated in a previous post, we need a new strategy to cope with this ever-growing problem and the work that the ministry of social affairs has been doing is less than pathetic. We need new ideas and initiatives to help and I think “The Good Note” is a good way to start.

What is The Good Note?
“The Good Note” is an initiative kicked off by Bou Khalil supermarkets to give children on the streets the things they need, without the risk of funding any unsavory trade or perpetuating an unfortunate cycle. Good Notes are worth the same amount as the 1000 Lebanese pound bill but can only be spent at Bou Khalil Supermarkets on necessities such as food, water, household supplies, personal hygiene items and small treats. Bou Khalil Supermarket also tied up with Pharmalife pharmacy in Hazmieh so that Good Notes can also be used to buy medicine to those in need.

You can buy these good notes in bonds of five at all 11 Bou khalil supermarket branches across Lebanon and Pharmalife pharmacy in Hazmieh. Dar Bistro in Hamra is also selling them.

Will It Work?
“The Good Note” will not bring these children back to school or out of the street, but it will encourage more people to help them and provide them indirectly with the things they need. I love the initiative and what would make it even better is if these notes are used and shared by other supermarkets and corporate and non-corporate entities. We need a large network of supermarkets and shops to join Bou Khalil because these children are unfortunately everywhere. For example, if you wish to give good notes to street children in Achrafieh, they will have to go all the way to Kraytem to claim these notes so it’s not very practical.

Nevertheless, thumbs up to Bou Khalil for coming up with this nice idea! You can read more about it [here].

LebaneseBlogs Awards & BlogBaladi Featured On MTV Prime Time News & LBC

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The LebaneseBlogs stats and awards were featured yesterday on MTV & LBC. Jerry Ghazal who runs the Connected segment on MTV spoke around the awards for almost 2 minutes right after the News and summed them up pretty nicely.

You can watch it here:

[YouTube]

My friend and blogger Ralph Aoun (BlogOfTheBoss) featured the LebaneseBlogs awards on LBCI and stated the winners for every list. Congrats to you Ralph and thank you for the kind words!

BB LBC

[YouTube]

On another note, the Uf Chou Laziz guys congratulated the winning bloggers in their own special way.

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All in all, I’m glad that blogs and bloggers are being recognized and featured on prime TVs in Lebanon and I hope we will see more and more blogs in 2016.

What Really Scares The Lebanese People

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The Lebanese people are among the most resilient in the world. We survived a 15-year long civil war, over 20 bombings and assassinations between 2005 and 2012 and over 10 suicide bombings in the past three years. We held against the Israelis in several wars, we kept ISIS out of our country and defeated several terrorist groups, we defied the Americans, the Russians, the Chinese, the Ottomans and everyone who stood in our way, but there’s one thing that still scares the Lebanese, a fear that we are unable to overcome and that keeps growing every year: the fear of an upcoming winter storm.

Storms are taken very seriously in Lebanon, even when they are not even storms and consist of light rains and a windy weather. No matter how big or small a storm is, all the media call it a storm and there’s always drama around it, predictions on how bad it will be, and the precautions that we need to take.

Here are the seven stages that precede a storm in Lebanon:

1- Media predicting that a storm is coming two months earlier even though everyone knows scientists can barely predict the weather a week in advance.

2- Media predicting snows at high altitudes (1600+), heavy rains and strong winds because storms usually consist of clear and sunny skies.

3- Reviving articles from last year or from the 1990s that predicted a harsh winter in Lebanon this year.

4- Calling the storm names. This has become a trend two years ago and the names used are all foreign ones (Olga, Yuri etc …) because the Arabic names are not cool enough.

5- People start making jokes on the storm’s name and turning it political (That’s actually the only part I enjoy).

6- Welcome the storm at the airport. Dabke, Zaffe, few members from the Lebanese government and the Lebanese President (when available) if the storm is a huge one.

7- the Ainata Arz road is declared blocked. I don’t think anyone bothers to check this road anymore, they just state it’s closed.

Of course let’s not forget the hashtags that follow and everyone posing for pictures in the storm, but that’s also a part I enjoy. I just don’t get why we make a big fuss every time it rains here.

#NERD16: Let’s Build Robots To Collect/Recycle Our Garbage & Prevent Fires

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nerd16

#NERD16 is an open nationwide tournament that is hosted at AUB on March 2016 and the biggest robotics tournament in Lebanon. This year marks the sixth edition of NERD (National Education Robotics Day) and it will feature more competitions and challenges than the previous years. Moreover, this year’s theme “Robots for Nature” is related to our current situation and the robotics challenges are about waste management and environmental issues.

I guess this is a good opportunity to figure out solutions to our current garbage problem. Who knows? Maybe students will come up with robots that recycle and collect garbage for us. I heard Volvo is working on something like that already, so here’s a chance for Lebanese students to offer a solution. I’d love to see someone design a robot that can be deployed in forests and prevent fires before they take place as well. That would be very helpful especially in Lebanon.

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I know the ideas that I’m proposing may seem impossible to achieve, but we have a lot of talented young students participating in this competition and one of our Lebanese teams (Fast & Curious) has won the first place in at the Arab Robotics Championship last year and a World Robotics Festival in the US.

fast and curious

#NERD16 is open to all Lebanese student teams or individuals aged 6 or more. The registration period for schools, universities and teams starts on October 23 and ends on December 31. It’s the best opportunity for smart and geeky students to shine so don’t miss out!

PS: For school students, their schools must register. For university students, they can register by themselves. Registration can be done on the website www.etclb.com where anyone can find the rules of all the different competitions and challenges.

[YouTube]

Lebanon’s Most Controversial Bishop, Grégoire Haddad, Dies At 91

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Grégoire Haddad was a bishop and at some point Patriarch of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Beirut and Jbeil, yet he believed in secularism, was among the first to strike his religious affiliations from his civil records and supported civil marriage. He believed that the idea of a civil marriage is harder to apprehend among the Christians because Christian figures “feared loss of power and money” and asked Lebanese to fight for this idea.

Known as the “Red Bishop”, Haddad received several warnings and threats for his daring take on several issues related to religion, politics and society in Lebanon and was once attacked by religious extremists. He fought for over 40 years against sectarianism and helped found the Civil Society, a secular socio-political movement.

civil Haddad removed his religious affiliations from his civil records

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from one of Haddad’s old interviews:

“If one is a true Christian, he should be able to accept people as they are, and if people wish to exist in a certain manner, then no one should deter them from doing so, and it is the state’s duty to provide them with the right laws to support their way of living. In the end, if one wishes to cross out their religion, it does not mean that they have lost faith, and a man should be valued because he is man and not because of the belief he practices.”

Our biggest problem in Lebanon is still sectarianism and the fact that we put loyalty and religion before competence. Gregoire Haddad was a symbol of moderation and openness and we need more religious and non-religious people like him.

BlogBaladi Is Lebanon’s Most Influential Blog And The Blog Of The Year 2015

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most influential

[LebaneseBlogs] has just published this morning its blogging statistics and awards for 2015 and BlogBaladi emerged as Lebanon’s Most Influential Blog of 2015, also known as Lebanon’s Blog of the year which is awesome news!

What I love about these statistics is that they are not based on subjective opinions, but on hard data gathered and analyzed from the thousands of posts that were published and indexed this year, and I thank Mustapha for going through this effort to pull out these results because I know it’s not easy.

BlogBaladi was featured in all the top lists as follows:

Lebanon’s 20 Most Shared posts on Facebook:
fb shared

My post on the Facebook Safety Check following the Burj Brajneh attacks gathered over 30k in terms of shares and ranked #7 in the most shared Facebook posts list.

Congrats to Elie from A Separate State of Mind for topping the list.

Lebanon’s 20 most shared posts on Twitter:
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It’s very hard to compete with KarlRemarks on Twitter but I managed to sneak into 10th spot with my post on Lebanese journalist and activists and my friend Joumana Haddad being denied entrance to Bahrain.

Ambassador Tom Fletcher topped the list this year with his farewell tweet.

Lebanon’s most viral blogger:
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BlogBaladi was ranked as the 3rd most viral blog in 2015 with an average of 35.9 over 50. Virality is a “score for each post that combines its Twitter shares and Facebook shares while normalizing extreme variations”. Last year my average was 21.72 so this is a huge improvement and I’m glad that all the hard work I put into generating better content this year paid off.

Congrats to Elie from A Separate State of Mind and Ralph from Blog Of The Boss for the top 2 spots.

Lebanon’s most prolific blogger:
prolific

Last year I was the most prolific blogger with over 1,557 posts throughout the year, and I could have probably topped the list this year but I decided to cut down my posts to 2 or 3 per day and try to improve the quality of the posts even further and it surely paid off in the virality average and user engagement.

Congrats to Anthony from NoGarlicNoOnions for topping the list.

Lebanon’s blog of the year:

I’m very proud to top the list and be Lebanon’s most influential blogger for 2015. Blogging is hard work and it’s always great to see your work being appreciated, especially when it’s based on objective results and hard data.

Check out all the results [here].

Four Ways To Celebrate New Year’s Eve In Lebanon

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nye via Siestke

New Year’s Eve is 4 days away and I’m sure a lot of people didn’t decide on what to do yet, but it’s not too late unless you were planning to travel somewhere. Here are four ways to spend your NYE:

1- Book a chalet or a small apartment in the mountains:
Faraya, Kfardebian, Faqra, Zahle and the Cedars are still popular destinations to celebrate New Year’s Eve even if it barely snowed this year. The closer you are to Mzaar, the more expensive chalets are but you can find good deals if you go up and ask around. In fact, chances are you will find real cheap chalets if you have time to look around.

2- Book a chalet or a small apartment in Beirut/Mount Lebanon
If you can’t drive to the mountains to check out chalets, I recommend you look in areas like Broumana or Bikfaya. Three years ago, we found a huge apartment that could fit up to 25 people in Broumana for $400 and we are probably going there again this year.

PS: You can also opt for chalets in beach resorts as they are much cheaper now.

3- Spend the night at home or at a friend’s house:
If you have a mountain house or a spacious house with a small garden or outdoor area, you can always plan parties at your own place but it’s a hassle to organize everything and make sure no one messes up the house. If you have kids and can’t leave them anywhere, you can always plan a fun night (board games, cards, poker) with friends or other parents.

4- Party Out:
I’d rather spend the night in a chalet or at some friend’s place than go out and party on NYE but there are tons of events and parties taking place that you can check on the below links:

– [Lebtivity] has over 100 events listed with all the necessary details.
– [newyearinLebanon.tel] lets you search for parties inside and outside Beirut, as well as sort them by budget.

Enjoy and make sure to drive safe on that night!

The Best Christmas Gift For Lebanese Politicians

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people

Sakkir el Dekkene ran a poll to determine the best Christmas gift for Lebanese politicians and 59% voted for a first class expulsion airline ticket (Rawou7a bala Raj3a). As a result, Dekkene decided to visit all politicians and give them the ticket but only Boutros Harb and Ali Hassan Khalil agreed to meet them.

I guess most of them were already abroad on a holiday spending our tax money in insanely lavish hotels and resorts.

PS: I’m surprised 2% voted for politicians to review their mandates. Who are these people?

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dekkene

#BlogWaladi: Baby Brian’s First Christmas

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The most wonderful time of year became even more wonderful this year with Baby Brian around. I’ve been reading tips and tricks on how to make his first Christmas a special one but the truth is we didn’t need any. Having him around was more than enough and yesterday night was a wonderful one! He was smiling at everyone in his little Santa clothes while ringing a little Santa bell. The only thing that could have made yesterday’s Christmas eve even better was having my niece and her parents of course around, but they couldn’t fly this year from the states.

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Merry Christmas to everyone!

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Christmas Trees & Decoration From Around Lebanon

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Dhour Choueir #Christmas at Dhour Choueir – via OnTime Photography

Here are selected pictures from Christmas tree and decoration from around Lebanon. I included malls that I visited as well since they usually have the best Christmas decoration. If you have pictures from your hometown that you’d like to share, email them please at nmitri@gmail.com.

via StudioTechnoMix

There are two Christmas trees in Jbeil, one on the main street and another near the sea castle and both are stunning!

byblos1 Christmas tree by the sea castle in Byblos.

20151216_210437 Patchi Christmas tree – Beirut Souks

20151217_112627 ABC Achrafieh tree and decoration

20151218_192117 LeMall – Sin el Fil

20151128_102414 LeMall Dbayyeh

Batroun2 Batroun Christmas tree – via Gebran Bassil page

Beirut Martyrs Square Christmas tree – via Patyl

Zahle Zahle all lit up for Christmas

Zgharta Bnechaii lake

Tannourine Tannourine Christmas tree

Ferzol Ferzol Christmas tree

I spotted as well this original tree at Les Caves de Taillevent:

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Here are pictures of the nativity scene at College Central in Jounieh. Thank you Samer!

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