Amid the Chaos, Ebola Threat Left Unchecked in Lebanon

Ebola-story

There’s chaos in Lebanon at the moment, with the Lebanese government officially joining the “War on Terror” alongside two dozen other countries, the Lebanese public in darkness because of electricity disputes, the presidential seat being vacant, the upcoming postponed elections being pretty much dead and of course, the threat of Islamist extremist attacks and invasions is still very much a possibility. So, it’s understandable that not enough is being done to take precautions against Ebola spreading here.

Now, many of you might say, “it’s all the way in West Africa, shu baddo ywassella?!”. Well, I’m pretty sure you all know someone, or know of someone who works in West Africa, like Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. That’s where the danger lies: if any of the Lebanese diaspora gets infected and decides to come home.

Steps have been taken though. No flights from Lebanon’s national carrier go to and from the area anymore, but as this Al Jazeera English article shows, when Lebanese expats in West Africa do return, they’re not asked or tested for anything. France did so, and they were just there for a layover, to sorta show you how seriously they’re taking it compared to our government.

I know we have too much on our plate to worry about Ebola, but a little can go a long way. Stricter borders, quarantine precautions and medical facility preparedness can go a long way. In recent years, we’ve faced several virus strain threats, like the MERS virus from Saudi Arabia, and the Polio virus brought in by fighters from Pakistan to Syria, then to us. We came out on top so far, let’s hope we do when it comes to Ebola as well.

As for prevention, most of it involves staying away from infected people, their remains, or their bodily fluids. One sure thing though, as with every other infectious disease, is wash your hands… Always wash your hands, especially if you’ve been traveling.

Solar Farm Above Beirut River Construction Underway

BxJ2Q1tCcAA8xs7The plan to build a solar farm above the Beirut River has started. As you can see if you take the Emile Lahoud highway, you’ll notice the steel frames with solar panels being installed on them. Initially, the farm will supply up to 1 MW of power to the surrounding area, and there are plans to expand the project to supply up to 10 MW of electricity, which roughly would supply 10,000 homes with electricity.

At a time when we have no electricity because of political bickering and incompetence, it’s nice to see projects like these actually realized. What’s sad though, is how little they are, and how important it is to decrease our reliance on our unreliable power plants, and focus on renewable energy like solar and wind energy.

Here’s to hoping a wind farm in Akkar is next!

Defense Minister, Resign.

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The current crisis is one of the absolute worst we’ve ever witnessed, and that’s saying a lot, given Lebanon’s extremely painful and horrifically violent history. Here’s a small recap for those of you who still trying to ignore what’s happening.

  • Clashes between marauding islamist terrorists and the Lebanese army in the border town of Aarsal
  • After fierce clashes, muslim clerics mediate to get an immediate ceasefire, and the retreat of the Islamist terrorists back into Syria
  • Somewhere between 28 and 30 soldiers and policemen were kidnapped by the Islamists
  • Islamic State militants beheaded two soldiers, and released a purported video of them beating and humiliating a Lebanese soldier in their custody
  • Revenge attacks by thugs and corrupt municipalities target innocent Syrian refugees, reigniting wartime practices like self-enforced security, de-facto checkpoints and ID checks, refugee tent burning and giving refugees ultimatums to leave certain areas and towns

This complete and utter incompetence is colossal. It’s historically, epically bad. The handling of the Lebanese government of this crisis could not have possibly been worse, and here’s why:

  • Why would you negotiate with terrorists in the first place?
  • Why were the army barrack and bases not properly reinforced, given fair warning that Islamic terrorists were eventually going to attack Aarsal?
  • Why was there no effort to rescue the soldiers immediately?
  • Why did the Lebanese government not have actionable and reliable intelligence, given the situation?
  • Why didn’t the Lebanese government seek the help of foreign intelligence and security agencies to ascertain the troops’ location?
  • Why, after seeking to pinpoint the kidnappers location, didn’t the Lebanese government act to return our boys home?
  • How can you even consider releasing dangerous terrorists to replenish the ranks of the terrorists we’re already fighting?
  • Why has the treatment of the kidnapped troops’ families been so insensitive, incompetent and dishonest?
  • Why have the Lebanese taxpayers been kept in the dark about this serious crisis?

Some extra points:

  • Who are the kidnappers? There is a LOT of ambiguity and suspicion about who they really are.
  • Are they truly IS militants? Then how come they’re coordinating with Jabhat El Nusra, who they are fighting fiercely in Syria?
  • What was the rationale behind the attack, given that these militants are cut-off from the de-facto IS caliphate and other Islamist terrorist strongholds? It’s obvious there was no way they could overrun Aarsal with Hezbollah and Assad’s forces on one side of the border, and the Lebanese Armed Forces on the other?
  • It seems that the purported IS militants are just a rabble of stupid religious extremists who pledged allegiance to the “caliph” Al Baghdadi, without real coordination or support. If so, why have the humiliated the Lebanese government and its army so heavily?
  • Why was the offensive stopped before the soldiers were returned? Having them beheaded one by one is a million times worse than risking their safety but apprehending or killing their captors…
  • Who stopped that counter-offensive exactly, and why?
  • Where are the promised arms, and who is twisting France and other nations’ arm to stall arming the LAF over stupid technicalities?
  • Has there been any coordination between the Assad regime over the crisis? And if so, should there be?
  • What is being done to both guarantee the safety of innocent refugees, and ensure none of them become radicalized and militarized?
  • Have the border crossings, both illegal and legal, been clamped down on and properly monitored and maintained?

The answer to all of the above, is a disheartening and depressing one. It truly could not have been handled any worse. I know in Lebanon people tend to believe that resigning is akin to suicide, and see it as a sign of weakness, and that’s one of our main problems: our failures which we call MPs and Ministers and etc. never fucking leave, despite their abysmal track record of corruption, sabotage, violence and even war crimes.

I call on the current Minister of Defense to resign, immediately, and a better alternative be found ASAP. Current 74-year-old minister Samir Moqbel has failed, and continues to do so every day. As a taxpayer, I have every right to demand he resign immediately and admit he is not up to the task so we can hastily find a proper replacement. It wouldn’t be so embarrassing, since he is also the Christian Orthodox vice-PM.

If for whatever reason someone cannot fulfill the duties of his position, he or she must resign. One of my favorite ministers, Ziad Baroud, did just that. For me, his resignation was justified, and I stood by him and today still completely support him and his school of thought and method. His legacy? Limitless. He was the one that allowed for civil marriages to happen when he so astutely gave people the right to cross off their sects from their IDs. That was just the cherry on top, many other positive things about the Interior Ministry, happened under his tenure, which eclipses the tenure of any other interior minister in Lebanon’s history. But, Ashraf Rifi’s political ambitions and the support he got for his illegal and out of line insubordination as well as other petty political crap, obstructed Baroud’s work, and he resigned in protest. Personally, I don’t think Lebanon deserves someone as transparent and hardworking as him, and his resignation was dignified and justified, even though it was a major loss for us as Lebanese citizens. With Baroud still at the helm of the Interior Ministry, who knows how better off we’d all be?

In this case however, Moqbel has failed to do anything meaningful. Whether arming the soldiers, handling the hostage crisis, or keeping the peace, they were all monumental failures. I would call for the resignation of PM Tamam Salam, but, I’m not sure how we could form a new government with no President, and even if that can be circumvented somehow constitutionally, I’m not sure the political parties and their warlord heads in Lebanon would be able to divide the cake fast enough to fix this. It’d probably take many, many months again… Time we do not have to waste. But, someone has to pay the price for these epic blunders, and the army is directly under the Ministry of National Defense’s jurisdiction. Plus, we need to find a more adept and militarily savvy minister, to help us out of this mess and take the tough decisions we need to restore some semblance of stability and get our boys back home safely…

So, your excellency, please leave and let someone else handle this.

Ali and Lana’s Fairytale Wedding Photos

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First, please allow me to congratulate the lovely bride and groom! I’ve known Lana for many years, before any of us had blogs back in AUB. So, it was very moving to see Lana take such a big step in her life after her blog’s and career’s stellar success: L’Armoire de Lana.

The wedding was held at BIEL, which was completely transformed for the occasion. Honestly, it would have been pretty tough to guess the venue from just the pictures. The event planners were Caractere and the catering was by Cat and Mouth.

The reception area was adorned from top to bottom with real, white orchids on all four walls, which was a masterpiece really. Surreal from the moment you stepped out of your car. Inside, the whole BIEL Hall 1 was full of tables and a large dancefloor in the middle, with massive LED screens all around.

After taking in the amazing venue, Ali showed up with his closest friends, as is custom, and then, Lana emerged from behind the LED screens in her absolutely stunning Elie Saab wedding dress. Lots of dancing and several foreign artists were followed by two, somewhat expected massive surprises: Nancy Ajram and Ragheb Alama took to the stage and walked around taking selfies with everyone. It was a perfect wrap up for a perfect wedding. For those who don’t know, Lana regularly styles Nancy Ajram in her public appearances, and, she never disappoints!

All in all, it was as close to fairytale wedding as you could hope for, it went along very smoothly and it was a blast getting to share such a special night with such amazing people. Oh, and if all that wasn’t enough, on your way out, you could grab a Magnolia Bakery cupcake with #MagnoliaForLana on it!

What to do this Busy Weekend

Well, we have two major events happening this weekend: the first is the Wickerpark Music Festival! The second, is Fur Coat at The Garten! Oh, and the Shtrumpf 22nd Beer Festival also kicks off this Thursday!

Schtrumpf Beer Festival Sept 4-14

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Beer fest at Schtrumpf is always awesome. Great deals on beer and meals, and lots of entertainment at their Jounieh venue, means that almost 11,000 beer lovers participate every year, for 21 years. Bless your hearts you beer lovers… It’s starting this Thursday, but make sure you find places! It’ll be packed… So, at a time when bad people are trying to ban beer, let’s all go celebrate it!

Event link here.

Stir It Up Satruday Starting 2PM at White Beach

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If you’re a fan of Reggae music, this is where you have to be this Saturday. It’s a big weekend in Batroun, and the day before Wickerpark, there’s gonna be Stir It Up: Rewind It! at White Beach near Pierre and Friends. Tickets are for 25,000 LBP and you get awesome music on Batroun’s shore from the afternoon till late at night. (look out for Young Padawan’s set!)

RSVP here

Fur Coat at The Garten on Saturday

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If you don’t wanna venture out of Batroun on Saturday in the prelude to Wickerpark, then there’s one place in Beirut you have to be: The Garten. Fur Coat is in the booth this Saturday, and I can’t wait. Some of this year’s awesomest tracks were churned out by Fur Coat, and I can’t wait to see him live and listen to tracks like “There’s No Time” live =D

RSVP here, and listen to a sample of the awesomeness coming

C U AT THE BEACH Official Wickerpark Pre-Party on Satruday

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This is probably the last C U NXT SAT at Bonita Bay, and it’s right next door to Stir it Up! So, if you’re planning on a Batroun-filled weekend before Wickerpark, this is the official pre party on Saturday. Sunset at Bonita Bay, plus the C U NXT crew spinning? Yes please.

RSVP here.

Beirut Jam Sessions Presents Fareeq el Atrash and Safar

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This awesome show if part of the Wickerpark Music Festival run by Beirut Jam Sessions is bringing together two very different, but awesome acts from Beirut. Fareeq el Atrash and Safar, both good friends and amazing musicians. To top it all off, it’s in the awesome Colonel Beer brewery, an epic venue with the futuristic brewery on one side, and a large grass lawn on the other, right next to the sea in Batroun. (also, my absolute favorite beer at the moment)

RSVP here.

Wickerpark Music Festival on Sunday

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You can’t miss this awesome festival, it’s the cherry on top for this massive weekend, and one of this summer’s last! Every year it’s getting even better. It combines the best local talents with the ones that are gonna be the next big thing. Again, you can NOT miss this event. Apart from the awesome lineup that includes Mashrou3 Leila, there are several surprise guests that I’m sure will delight in an awesome venue, right next to the sea in Batroun!

RSVP here.

 

Everything You Need to Know About Sports and Politics in Lebanon by Rayane Mousallem

Spots in Lebanon, especially basketball and football, are highly politicized. We all know deep down “El 7ekme 2ouwet”, “Champville Aouniyeh”, “Riyadeh Mustaqbal lal Hariri”, “Amchit lal Ra2ees”, etc.

The problem is, the level those sports reached, especially Basketball, was impressive. Lebanon’s national basketball team and clubs have performed brilliantly on many international occasions in the past decade or so.

Sadly, politics ruined it last year, and made FIBA boot Lebanon out, crushing the dreams of the players and fans, because Michel Aoun and Michel Sleiman were bickering like stupid children, and the players and fans played along…

But, there is hope, as this short movie demonstrates. If you’ve ever been confused about what’s happening in Lebanon’s sports and how politics is ruining it, watch this movie.

Thanks Rayanne!

New Lebanese Car Plate Number App Blackmailing Lebanese

We’ve all tried, seen or heard of the infamous car plate number apps that keep popping up everywhere. I even remember a time before smartphones, when some employee in the the “Nafaa” would burn CDs and give/sell it to his/her friends to get the info.

Now, before I explain how outrageous this is, there is some sense behind it in these dark times. Rigged cars are usually stolen ones, or ones with fake license plate numbers. Perhaps an app commissioned by the Lebanese government could check for the main issues, like is it stolen? Is it fake? But, without revealing the personal information of the driver.

Now, the app sucks balls. I got 4 different shitty pop-up ads before I could even see my own information. It looks horrible, and the data is extremely old. I searched for a car purchased by a friend within the past year, and it turned up nothing (luckily).

Worst part? The assholes behind this app want you to pay 10USD to “remove your car number of our search engine” (they even misspelled “off”). Sad part is, it’s already had over 10,000 downloads…

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This is illegal, and I believe it’ll be taken off the Google Play Store soon. However, I think more should be done to protect our information and privacy. Imagine one of those “BMW body-wozz” guys checking out a girl’s license plate number then trying to harass her via Whatsapp or at her address, since both are available. The people behind this app need to be prosecuted and the money they embezzled be reimbursed (if anyone was stupid enough to pay them anything). What’s infuriating is that they not only leaked private personal information, but want to make profit off it, and not just for you to remove your private data from their database…

As for the government, well, get your shit together. As for those commenting “it’ll help us spot threats”, well, privacy and freedom should never be compromised for the excuse of security. Ever. Especially in Lebanon, land of zero security.

Smoking Bun Mar Mikhael Review

1653401_10154502513875080_468992695240741450_nI love places that specialize in one particular item. It makes you certain that that one thing is gonna be definitely worth it. I have a tendency to hover back to these hole-in-the-wall style, small places known for their one item. Places like Artichoke Pizza in New York and Pinky’s Hotdog on La Brea in Los Angeles are such examples. So, naturally, I was gonna try just such a place that opened in my beloved Beirut.

Food

Awesome. I absolutely adored the burger patty, which comes medium, just the way I like my meat. It’s a nice, firm brown on the outside and a delicious, juicy, pink on the inside. The bun is sort of sweet and very supple, making a bite out of this burger savory enough to just keep in your mouth and let it melt onto your tastebuds instead of chew it all up. I realize now that the last two sentences are full of potential sexual innuendoes, so I’ll stop here and just tell you it’s among my top 3 favorite burgers in Beirut!

Place

It’s a tiny spot just under Secteur 75 (near Trainstation Mar Mikhael). It’s the place with the old VW with a “Smoking Bun” neon sign behind its windshield.

The inside is nice, with two bars to sit on, which I reckon would fit somewhere between 15 and 20 people total. The grill is right there for you to watch as your burger is made in front of you. The bar lights are cool: they’re accordion-like, and you can lower them down towards your plate to enjoy the sexy presentation before digging into it. It also helps keep your fries warm!

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Feel

I liked it. Super-down-to-earth, vintagy interior with cool designer items like the light fixtures and sink. The staff and manager are super cool and friendly, and you’ll be having a pleasant conversation with them as you wait for your burger to be served.

I liked it because its no-hassle seating policy and very fair price, makes it attractive to all types of people. From valet parking workers, to big shot executives in Ashrafieh, everyone loves a good burger, and here’s a place which succeeded in doing what most can’t: joining these two types of clientele under one roof.

I also love the branding on the napkins and sous-plats!

Overall

It’s a must-have. Stop by before your pub crawls in Mar Mikhail. You get a cheeseburger, fries and a soft drink for just 16,000LBP. Then maybe have a 961 draft beer pint to wash it all down. I’d highly recommend it for everyone, especially burger fans.

Volvo’s Only the Lonely Campaign Stats and Results

Damages

  • 38 buttons replaced
  • 19 cameras replaced
  • 6 complete stands replaced

Stats

  • 2436 people crossed on the crosswalks
  • 1954 people hailed cabs from the cab stations

What This Says

Perhaps, apart from the serious vandalism the stands got, the municipality’s decision to remove them instead of create their own, or ask for more such stands, goes to show you how lonely doing the right thing still is in Lebanon. And, understandably so. Why would anyone abide by the laws (at an apparent disadvantage) when everyone else breaks it ever so casually…

It’s a cycle no one has figured out how to get out of yet, but, who knows? Maybe someday we won’t be so lonely anymore…

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Jon Stewart Brilliantly Sums Up The Israel-Gaza Discussion

I love Jon. I adore Jon. Him and Stephen Colbert are arguably my ultimate idols. The comedic gold he crunches out 4 times a week always blows my mind away. The nice thing about The Daily Show, is that it’s not mindless toilet humor (for the most part =P), but it’s also extremely insightful, super-well-researched political, economic, social and cultural analysis.

Recently, the vicious Israeli attack on innocent civilians in Gaza has the world preoccupied, and any discussion, on both sides, is extremely inflammatory. It’s always black or white for both sides involved, with heated emotional shouting and accusations all round. This 2-minute clip sums it up perfectly. If you criticize Israel’s brutality, doesn’t mean you’re pro-Hamas. If you criticize Hamas, doesn’t mean you’re pro-Israel. A notion that falls on deaf ears on both sides.

I hope one day in our lifetimes we’ll see a fair and just peace. But, just like the six decades before this one, it has never looked farther…