AUB Professor Discovers New Chemical Reaction

As a rule of thumb, we feel proud when such discoveries happen at local institutions because we can relate to them somehow.

Today, I feel even prouder because the man that discovered this reaction was my professor at AUB.

Makhlouf Haddadin, a Jordanian professor, has discovered a new reaction which he called the Davis-Beirut reaction, after ten years of testing during which he didn’t come out on Lebanese TV shows to discuss his science, to boost himself among the Lebanese populace, to get some free advertising, etc.

This isn’t his first discovery as well. Prior to Lebanon’s civil war, Dr. Haddadin discovered a reaction which he called the Beirut reaction and which has caused AUB’s Chemistry department to get a huge boost ever since.

According to Dr. Haddadin, his new reaction might serve as a breakthrough in the treatment of cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening disorder that mostly manifests in the lungs. You’d probably recognize it as the disease that killed French singer Gregory LeMarchal. It currently has no cure.

My most memorable memory with Dr. Haddadin wasn’t the organic chemistry course I took with him during my Sophomore year. It was when I went to his class on May 7th, 2008 and we were almost 10 people and he gave us a talk about the merits of the country we were in.

He told us that what was happening outside the fences of our campus was reminiscent of things that took place around the civil war in Lebanon. He told us about student uprisings, about how democracy doesn’t work by canceling other opinions, how democracy doesn’t work via violence.

He also told us how lucky we were to be Lebanese, how lucky we were to come from a country where scientific discoveries weren’t stifled by a state that was worried about what such discoveries might entail, how fortunate he was to be working in this country where he felt he could give his all without having a big brother eye overlooking his every experiment, how grateful he was for Beirut to have welcomed him so warmly. He told us that was why he named the reaction he discovered back then after the city that he loved.

He then begged us not to waste our country away because we didn’t know the value of what we had, given the region in which we lived.

Between 2008 and 2013, I daresay we as Lebanese have probably failed Dr. Haddadin. But this man is still grateful to Beirut nonetheless.

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Et Tu, Egypt?

As I’m writing this, everything is going haywire in Tahrir Square.

Egyptians have cracked. They are no longer a united front.

Blame it on whoever you want… money, poverty, Mubarak’s influence… it all comes down to this: Change has been betrayed.

I was honestly optimistic that Egypt would be the major catalyst in the reaction of change in the Middle East.

I remember a very wise Chemistry professor at AUB telling me, when I attended class amid the May 7th protests in Lebanon, about one of his visits to the Arab League Summit.

He was sitting there and a man approached him and told him: “Who’s the odd-one in this group of leaders?”

My professor looked at him questionably. The man answered, “Amin Gemayel”, the Lebanese president at the time.

“Why’s that?” my professor asked. The man replied: “He’s the only one who won’t be here in five years”.

This little story shows how it’s all been the same since the 1980s in this region: same people governing, same people doing the same things all over again. This region needed this reaction of change.

But with one speech from one of those people, everything went wrong. The catalyst is now working for the reverse reaction: status quo.

This is where we are heading back. Mubarak has definitely showed other leaders around the region what he’s capable of. He single-handedly contained a massive two-million-plus protest in one day and reversed everything it did.

People in Egypt are now fighting each other. Molotov cocktails are being thrown, bricks from the roads are being torn apart to be used as projectiles, bricks are being thrown from rooftops, boiling water being poured on protesters… a massacre is starting on the streets of Tahrir Square. The army is apparently beginning to fight the protesters. Activists are being hit with rocks. They are bleeding on the streets. Nurses and doctors are nowhere to be found. Even Anderson Cooper was punched in the head 10 times. Thugs are infiltrating the peaceful protests and a bloodbath is forming.

My Lebanese friends are reporting that they are afraid for their lives now. They are trying to escape but the army is blocking all the exists. The protesters are surrounded. There’s no way to go. I am afraid for them and I can’t even begin to imagine the fear they must be feeling right now. What civilized country in the world turns protests into an event where your life is threatened? Into an event that is slowly turning into mass-killing?

Long gone are the days when we thought January 25th is a sign of hope for the region. Long gone are the days when we thought there’s even hope for hope in this region.

And for what? for this man, who contrary to what he announced yesterday, is still, 30 years later, starving for even more power. Mubarak, you are a coward. You are not a man. A man would respond to his people’s concerns. He wouldn’t resort to killing those who rise against him. He would hear what they have to say. You are not worth of your country. You are not worthy of life.

And the ironic thing is… what will tomorrow’s headline be?

Egypt Protests Contained

What will the American stance from this be?

We support whatever the Egyptian people want

And where will the Egyptians be? Either dead on the streets of Tahrir Square or back in their stinking poverty.

Change to Egypt: Et tu, Egypt?