Beirut’s Airport Is Not Safe For Air Travel Anymore; A Disaster Could Happen At Any Moment

beirut-airport

Add the current situation of Beirut’s airport to the growing (and endless) list of complete failures that Lebanon’s governments can add to their achievements: the airport is not only unsafe for air travel anymore, it’s become so dangerous that an air disaster not happening already is nothing short of a miracle.

To fix the trash crisis that their ineptitude caused, Lebanon’s government saw it fit to build a landfill which almost literally borders the airport wall, south of Beirut, calling it the Costa Brava landfill. As physics and common sense have it, establishing a landfill that close to the airport (or any airport for that matter) doesn’t come without repercussions.

Apart from the toxic fumes that could damage airplane engines and our lungs, as well as the hotter air that emanates from the landfill which could disrupt aviation, the birds attracted to the landfill could literally cause airplanes to crash. The government is aware of this problem so they installed ultrasonic bird repellers, which obviously don’t work.

This almost happened yesterday with an MEA plane, as reported by LBC, that was faced with a flock of seagulls as it was landing, leading the western runway the plane used to be closed until the birds were dealt with. How did the government respond? By increasing the numbers of ultrasonic bird repellers that, as established, don’t work.

I guess the only way they’ll do something is by a plane crashing and hundreds of people dying. You know, that’ll be the best way for them to proclaim they’re doing something and go to the victims’ funerals, shake the hands of their families and have their coffins draped in our flag.

You see, while the movie “Sully” in which Tom Hanks, playing the true story of airlines pilot Chelsey Sullenberg whose plane got hit by birds as it took off form New York, causing both engines to fail and leading him to land the plane in the Hudson river, was a riveting Hollywood story, things almost never play out that way. Are we counting on countless miracles to keep our airport running?

An anonymous source inside Beirut’s airport confirmed this saying that: “If the International Air Transport Association (IATA) were to show up at Beirut’s airport unannounced, the place would be closed down in a matter of hours. This is how unsafe things have become.”

It doesn’t stop there. He says that aviation has become so hazardous that “it’s a miracle how a crash has not occurred already. We literally hold our breaths every time a plane departs or lands.” Why hasn’t this made the media rounds yet? Because “airport officials are trying to hide it.”

I guess our safety and our lives are not worth anyone getting a headache over a media scandal. A plane crash is much easier to brush by, isn’t it?

Beirut’s airport is not only unsafe to use, it’s going to get us killed if we keep using it. The troubling part is that this is our only airport. The horrifying part is while our government is aware of this, they choose not to act out on it because, as we do things in Lebanon, we cross our fingers and hope for the best. Well, not this time.

#سكر_خطك: Why I’m Closing My Alfa & Touch Lines Today

 

sakker-khattak

Over the past few days, we’ve all seen the above screen-grab in one way or another asking Lebanese citizens to stop using Alfa and Touch’s mobile services on Sunday January 8th, in an attempt to raise awareness and fight the horrifying corruption infesting our telecommunication sector.

Lebanon has one of the highest telecommunication prices in the region and the world. For comparison, the average prepaid monthly recharge in Lebanon is around $25 while it’s around $7 in other Arab countries. The services we get with our recharges are also abysmal: a minute is 25 cents, a text is 5 cents and mobile internet is recharged separately at rates that are exorbitant: $23 for 5GB on Alfa and $29 for 6GB on Touch  with extra-use rates of around 7 cents/MB that run up your bill into the stratosphere. And to think those rates were more expensive….

A lot has been said about the aforementioned campaign, and many are saying there’s no point because, for a lot of Lebanese, they’ve already paid Alfa and Touch by recharging their prepaid line or renewing their internet bundle. But that’s not true, because a one day boycott will cost Alfa and Touch a lot of money.

Food for thought: If those affected by this boycott weren’t worried, they wouldn’t be launching the campaign that they are currently undertaking against it. Also, your personal rights are way more important than any political undertone that has been painted over this campaign.

Please note that with both companies simply enforcing prices set by the government, this boycott affects the government first and foremost. Telecommunication is the second largest revenue source for the government after taxes, which means that reducing that revenue effectively cuts off a major revenue source for the government, which could force it to look into better pricing and services.

In numbers: The 2015 estimated revenues from mobile telecommunication to the Lebanese government were around $1.28 billion, which translates to about $3.5 million daily, encompassing texts and calls as well as internet and other services. That’s a lot of money they’re making for the horrendous services we get. A one day boycott will stop both companies from making approximately that much, without adjusting for further increase in their revenue that they’ve made in 2016.

Those of us whose lines are prepaid will only benefit Touch and Alfa if we use the credit that we already have. Those of us whose lines are postpaid and who decide not to use their phones will directly cost Alfa and Touch money by not providing them with a revenue. If we both put our lines off the grid, those of us who don’t won’t be able to reach us by calling or texting which further degrades the quality of their mobile experience.

With a wide enough boycott, Alfa and Touch will also suffer losses from the fact they have to invest in keeping their networks running without those networks being used: they are supposed to keep their networks at maximum capacity to accommodate the usual influx. With no influx taking place, they will run up the losses.

Perhaps a boycott isn’t the ideal way to bring about the change we want. But the point is not to remain apathetic anymore to the fact we, as a country, are being ripped off without anything to be done about it simply because this is our status quo and we’re forced to deal with it.

Call it slacktivisim, short-sighted, or whatever you feel like. But putting my phone in airplane mode for the day won’t affect me much, but it could get both companies, and therefore our government, to realize that their current rates and policies are unacceptable. Morocco did it when their government banned VoIP. KSA did it when their ISPs raised internet prices. It works.

To put it in perspective, the price of around 250 minutes and 300MB in Lebanon is $84, while the regional average is $32. The price of 500MB and 500 minutes in Lebanon is $136 while the regional average is $57. The price of a 1000minutes and 1000MB bundle in Lebanon is near $270 while the regional average is $111. This is not okay.

As an ending note: if you go France, you can get a phone line from a company called Free for around €20 a month. This includes: unlimited calls inside France to all lines, unlimited calls from France to mobile phones internationally to many countries around the world, Lebanon excluded, unlimited SMS and MMS, unlimited mobile internet, and free wifi when you connect to Free’s Wifi Hotspots on streets. That is all.

Save Kfarabida: Lebanese Government Wants To Turn Batroun’s Best Beaches Into a Private Yacht Club

The place that welcomes you North, once you cross the Madfoun, is an idyllic coastal town in Batroun called Kfaraabida. It has around 1000 voters, a small municipal board, and a resourceful mayor that has been around for nearly two decades.

What Kfaraabida is known for, however, is the presence of countless beach spots for beach-lovers to go to, as well as multiple sea-side restaurants in the area. Of those, I note: Barracuda, which many Beirutis attend weekly on Thursday for George Nehme and his band, White Beach, Pierre and Friends (technically not in Kfaraabida per se but might as well).

The area houses some of Lebanon’s most pristine beaches. Many of them are free, or cost very little to access. But, most importantly, they are some of Lebanon’s cleanest, with rock formations that serve as a habitat for many marine animals. Those rocks can also serve as beautiful Instagram pictures, since that’s what matters most these days.

Well, recently, the Lebanese government passed a decree whereby 37,000 squared meters of Kfaraabida’s beaches, and 4000 squared meters of sea that will be reclaimed, are to be given to a PRIVATE company which will use the area to build a private resort and yacht club.

How much money will that company pay the Lebanese government yearly for such an atrocity? $30,000. For reference, that’s less money than a private beach makes per week with their exuberant entrance price. So yes, the government is taking one of Batroun’s best beaches, getting no money for it, and giving it to a company to ruin it and make it private.

Live love Lebanon indeed.

Apart from the gross corruption taking place in having our government enable a private company from taking what should be OUR public property, and turn beaches that are as of now free into a private resort for their yachts and for their swimming pleasure, the project will have detrimental effects on the region and the town:

  1. The marine life in the region will be threatened. As I mentioned, those beaches are a habitat for many of such creatures.
  2. Fishermen in the region use those beaches as points from which they go fishing.
  3. Batrounis and Northerners who can’t afford $30 entrance prices to beaches will have nowhere to go to anymore.
  4. The area is so diverse in both marine life and rock formations that its inhabitants thought it should be turned into a natural reserve. It’s now being destroyed instead.
  5. The project is being done with utter disregard of Kfarabida’s municipality.

Batroun’s MP Boutros Harb doesn’t see what the fuss is about and believes the project is beneficial given it will generate jobs, because ruining the environment and the lives of the people of the area is the only way to do so. Maybe he should just transfer the project to the Balaa pothole in Tannourine instead?

So Kfarabida’s municipality, it’s up to you to make sure that such a project doesn’t see the day of light in your jurisdiction. They are taking your hand, claiming it as their own, ruining everything about it that makes it beautiful, and leaving you in the dust.

Dear Lebanon’s government, how many more beaches will you ruin, spaces will you steal before you reach equilibrium with your need to build yacht clubs for your members? The sad part is that we live in a country where such flagrant corruption will, unfortunately, end up being unpreventable.

I mourn for my North. They only care about it when they can ruin it in projects that only bring them money but not its people.

For more detailed information about the project’s legality, check out this link.

To The Lebanese Parents Celebrating Their Children Passing Brevet With Gunfire

Brevet

Dear Lebanese parents that couldn’t believe their son or daughter passed their brevet exam so they figured the best way to celebrate, in between the ten kilos of baclava consumed, was to fire a few rounds of M249 up in the air,

Yes, your child is special. I mean, how could your child not be special if he or she passed 9th grade and will continue to high school? In Neanderthal times, that’s akin to your child being ready for marriage or leading a life of his own! Yes, your child is unique, him and the other 75% of applicants that presented this year’s exam and passed.

Were you firing rounds up in the air because you couldn’t believe your child passed? You do know that doesn’t really reflect confidence on your part for your child’s capacities? I bet your child is going to grow up into such a terrific young man or woman knowing that his parents never truly believed in him or her and were utterly dumbfounded, a few AK4 rounds-dumbfounded to be exact, that they passed an exam that 3 out of 4 of those who take it actually pass it. If more information is needed, let me refer you to some good psychologists who will work on mending your child’s traumatized psyche from having his own flesh and blood not remotely believe he managed to pass an exam.

But how does this whole celebratory gunfire thing work exactly? I mean, you people seem to do it at every corner. Your child passes an exam, you bring out the riffles. Your politician goes on air, you bring out the machine guns. You manage to pass stools after a serious bout of hemorrhoids, you bring out the guns. Is there an algorithm you follow to delineate the mechanism behind this enigma?

Is it two rounds, for instance, for a simple pass grade? Three rounds in case all those “rachat points” were used as an “allahou akbar zamatna” hail Mary of sorts? What about those coveted “mentions” that were all the rave back in my old days? Did he or she get “bien” or “tres bien?” Did you fire thirteen rounds instead of six because your child got 230 instead of 196 points? I’m a doctor here who is more confused by the way your brain works regarding this, than by the diseases I have to address on daily basis.

Now tell me, what if your bullets end up killing someone? Is it okay because “fida hal brevet?” Or is it also okay because if God didn’t want him dead, he wouldn’t have died anyway? How do you convince yourself that your summer rains of shells are totally fine, wholly acceptable and utterly, irrevocably awesome to do?

Or maybe, just maybe, if you were a parent who felt the need to celebrate, for instance, their child passing an exam as stupid as a brevet exam, then you shouldn’t be a parent to being with? Maybe it’s the perpetuation of those genes that have a big contributory factor to why this country is a hell-hole, one round at a time?

I have so many questions that I hope you answer. Until then, see you in world war 3 next June when your other child graduates from kindergarten.

Ramlet El Bayda, Beirut’s Last Remaining Public Beach, To Be Privatized and Turned Into A Resort

The whole “Beirut is for Beirutis” slogan that the winning Municipal board ran with is officially in full swing with them making sure Beirut is as such, for any Beiruti who can afford to pay $40 and above to spend a Saturday or Sunday at a beach that used to be the only place to unite the city’s residents, across their socioeconomic strata.

Images have surfaced yesterday of construction beginning to take place in Ramlet el Bayda, with the first step being destroying the places where the beach goers used to sip on their drinks or rest in between their swims.

Ironically, the facility being destroyed is also something that should not be there, given that it exists on public property and is most likely not regulated by any form of governance. But let’s not kid ourselves and pretend the above move is for the well-being of the beach, or for any other actual legal matter.

Rumor has it that Ramlet el Bayda will soon be turned into a private complex for cabins and chalets by Achour development. The project’s info could be found at this link.

For many, Ramlet el Bayda was the only beach in Beirut where they were able to take their children for a swim, with every single place around it becoming a location where people like them are often considered persona non grata.

They are doing to Ramlet el Bayda the same thing they tried to do to Dalieh: wall it off from us, the people, who have the right for this beach and land to become a place for everyone to visit, not just those who are able to afford it.

They want to turn Ramlet el Bayda from a beach for everyone, to a resort for the select few. As their plans start going into action, the city of Beirut bids farewell to its last free space to the Mediterranean. Everywhere else has been claimed by businessmen and politicians who know their power is always above the laws that say our shores are forever ours, and never theirs.

To make things worse, and even though these images have been online for around 24 hours, no media has discussed them or at least critically looked at the issue to unearth the deal behind it. Have we become to apathetic that this has become just another corruption entity for us to gulp down?

A resort at Ramlet el Bayda will probably also have lasting environmental impact on a city where public spaces are rarer than the tourists roaming its streets these days. Maybe they believe, after opening Horsh Beirut, that we have right to only one public space?

In the battle for Beirut to keep hold to an identity that makes it unique, one thing is for sure: we are losing. With each building they destroy, we lose. With each street they erase, we lose. With each beach they claim, we lose. When will their greed ever stop? I guess until Beirut has no more places for us to cling to.

Ramlet el Bayda is down, mayday.

That “Lebanese” President of Brazil You’re Proud Of Is Very Corrupt, Like Lebanese Politicians

Michel-Temer

In the surge of Lebanese pride that one of their “own” is now the president of Brazil, while the country celebrates its second year without an actual Lebanese president in Lebanon, not one outlet has bothered to look into Mr. Michel Temer, beyond the fact that his parents immigrated from Btaaboura around 80 years ago.

His interviews with Lebanese media during his first and last visit to his “motherland” a couple of years ago have been circulating like wildfire. Him proclaiming to have a “Brazilian heart” but “Lebanese blood” were on a loop. He probably couldn’t care less.

What is certain, however, is that Michel Temer is corrupt, semi-fascist, just like those Lebanese politicians we all love to hate.

He Screwed Over His Own President:

The only way Temer became president was by screwing over Dilma Roussef, the now-suspended president of Brazil, in a textbook Frank Underwood-esque plot.

Through a series of orchestrated leaks, which he “claimed” not to have anything to do with, he effectively managed to throw his president under the bus so he could rise to power. For instance, he leaked a statement to the press about how he was upset he was not involved in key decisions by his president… and then said he was outraged by the leak.

Then he leaked a Whatsapp message to Brazilian parliament members claiming they needed a “new government.” He was later “outraged” by that leak as well.

Through it all, he was the main orchestrator behind the scene of the coup against the president, and in bed with big money and right-wing-run Brazilian media to further make him inevitable.

He Is Corrupt As Hell:

Temer’s ascent to power means that a political party that didn’t win Brazil’s elections is now effectively taking power. Once he is in power, he will reportedly appoint Goldman, Sachs, and IMF officials to run the economy. Those are the same people that American politician Bernie Sanders is accusing of corruption and electoral campaign fraud.

Michel Temer also has his own saga with corruption. He was ordered to pay a fine only this week for violating campaigning regulations and is being prosecuted for it. He may be banned from pursuing further office later for up to 8 years.

During his campaign for vice president, Michel Temer was also involved in other campaigning scandal when he received up to $1.5 million from a company to whom he provided preferential governmental treatment in construction contracts.

He has also been accused of involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing scheme which has brought him back millions of dollars.

Michel Temer is also said to be involved in the “Petrobras Scandal,” a partly-governmental owned oil company that some Brazilian officials profited from by laundering some of the profit through a Lebanese-origin intermediary called Alberto Youssef, and transferring it to secure accounts in Switzerland.

To put it bluntly, Temer is accused of more corruption than Dilma Roussef. Only 2% of the Brazilian electorate would vote for him and over 60% believe he should be impeached also. The only reason his political career is not ending is because 1) he is a man, 2) he serves the interests of corporations that want to see someone with his agenda in power.

He’s Already Targeted Women, The Blacks and LGBT People:

Michel Temer’s upcoming government is rumored to be composed only of men, a long way down from a country that just had a woman president.

It doesn’t end here. He has also been active in closing many LGBT and black rights offices, and will reportedly continue on his rampage now that he’s ascending further up the power echelons.

Let’s Not Be Proud Of Everyone Who Happens To Be Lebanese Anywhere and Everywhere?

If any Lebanese politician were accused of what Temer has done, you’d be up in arms about how disgraceful, horrifying they are, how they’re ruining your country.

Can we not pretend this is any different just because that politician has ascended to power in Brazil?

There are times and places to be proud of entities pertaining to our heritage. This is not one of them. The world finally has a Lebanese president…. That’s not really a good thing.

How To Handle The Disgusting Smell and Mosquitoes Overtaking Beirut

Pic via Mawtoura.

Pic via Mawtoura.

Here it unfolds, the worst chapter in the non-ending story of the Lebanese garbage crisis. Don’t be fooled, the crisis is far from over. The governmental “solution” is so short-sighted and non-sensical that the crisis is bound to be repeated if not in 60 days, then in a few months or years. This is how we do things in this country: we put band-aids on gaping wounds, without making sure that the wound itself has actually been stabilized enough to be managed with band-aids; we do makeup coverups for problems that need hardcore fixes.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies how short-sighted and lala-landish our government is than the Minister of Environment tweeting (then deleting) a few days ago that the wave of mosquitoes and flies the likes of which this country has not seen in recent memory is due to nothing other than the heat. He then subsequently blocked everyone who told him off or otherwise.

Mohammad Machnouk tweet

Ignore the fact that our Minister of Environment’s credentials don’t come anywhere near the science of the environment, and ignore the fact that we’re not actually experiencing waves of heat that could bring this much mosquitoes to our cities, what remains is a minister in a government that is trying to repeatedly fool you: the mosquitoes are due to the garbage, not just the weather.

As they stacked up the garbage in various locations around Beirut over the past several months, from Karantina to the Beirut River, the organic matter in that garbage underwent fermentation and decomposition leading to a wide array of toxins and bacteria. For months, those toxic materials were just lying there, unperturbed. However, the moment those poor garbage handlers started removing it, the chemicals were “freed” allowing them to move up to the Beiruti atmosphere and give you the absolutely horrible smell that feels inescapable.

The smell will remain there as long as they’re removing the garbage. The more time they take, the more we’ll have to endure, so let’s hope the poor fellows handling it physically can sustain the effort it takes before temperatures become higher and work conditions become too horrifying for the to manage.

Many people have reported unable to prevent vomiting many times a day because of the stench. Some have reported feeling ashamed of not being unable to vomit in public. I tell those people, your vomit is more honorable than the faces of those in governance who have inflicted this upon us. Wear it – not literally – like a badge of honor. If you’re having multiple episodes of vomiting, however, make sure to stay hydrated. Use anti-emetics, like primperan or motilium, to try and prevent such episodes as much as you can.

The disgusting smell has the worst ramifications on those with already present pulmonary disease. If you’re asthmatic or have an underlying lung illness and are feeling more out of breath than usual, consult your pulmonologist on adjusting your inhaler dose.

But what can be done about the smell and the mosquitoes and flies other than essentially sucking it up? We have to make sure our homes are safe for us and our children.

The mosquitoes and flies are a huge problem because 1) they exist in huge amounts, 2) they are caused by the garbage crisis, 3) they carry toxins with them as they travel, 4) they might carry infectious vectors from one person to the next and 5) they will bite.

So here’s a step by step process over how to handle things to the best of your capacity.

  1. Use face masks while going out if the smell is too much for you to handle. They’re present at most pharmacies and will help to a certain point.
  2. Before leaving your house, close the windows and doors to make sure mosquitoes and flies don’t welcome you back home. You can also use low dose insecticide, which will dissipate over the day, to keep the house free of the pests.
  3. Make sure to have cleansing hand gel with you at all times. Use it abundantly.
  4. If you or your children are bitten by a mosquito or flies, many of which are specific to this kind of fermentation process, clean the bite with a little bit of antiseptic, which will help in relief and cleaning.
  5. You can also use antiseptic sprays around the house. Those are a bit expensive, but there’s a cheaper DIY method that Ziad Abi Chaker shared on Facebook yesterday, consisting of mixing mouthwash with equal parts of water (1 cup mouthwash to 1 cup of water), putting the combo in a spray bottle and spraying the house.
  6. Maintain proper hygiene, not only of yourself but also of your house. The cleaner it is, the safer it is for yourself and your family.
  7. Every time a wave of nausea hits you or a mosquito/fly bites you, curse the hell out of this country and its government for making you go through this.

While our politicians live in lala-land and pretend that the only thing happening in Beirut is basically #Live and #Love, we are dealing with things that no civilized country has to ever deal with. Except the only notion of civility we have is what we propagate to those poor tourists to whom we now have to find an explanation as to why it just smells so bad in the city they’ve been duped to visit. If only odors can be carried over to Instagram posts.

I can’t believe it’s the year 2016 and we are discussing the ways to handle a putrid smell taking over our capital. What will be equally horrifying is the fact that the people in Nehme and other areas in the country where landfills reined supreme had to deal with such things for an extended period of time while no one cared. There’s a reason those people protested the landfill in their area, closed roads leading to it and refused to receive garbage in it again, only to be faced with army men and tanks forcing them to open it up.

In a short period, when the Burj Hammoud landfill opens up, this smell and everything that comes with it will become customary for Beirut. Keep that in mind.