13 Lebanese That Made It Big In 2016

As 2016 draws to a close, and you are overwhelmed by end-of-year lists, the only list that I wanted to make, as I also did last year, was one commemorating Lebanese faces that I believe did something in 2016 that made them stand out. Whether them standing out is positive or negative, especially those whose work was of a more political nature, is up to you.

Consider it as one of my rare non-nagging posts of the year, fitting to end 2016 on a more positive note despite it being the year that it was, hashtag #GoAway2016. The names I’m about to mention are in no particular order, and are chosen without wasta so please spare me the “you didn’t choose X so you must be biased for Y” comments.

1 – Rouba Mhaissen:

rouba-mhaissen

I had the pleasure of meeting Rouba way back in 2007 when we were classmates in an English course at AUB. Since then, she’s gone on to conquer the world – almost literally – after founding the NGO SAWA For Development And Aid, which has been at the forefront of dealing with the Syrian crisis, notably with the refugees. From being one of AUB’s youngest alumni to be honored by the university this year, to addressing UN assemblies, the UN security general, Prince Charles and other politicians from all around the world, the world is a slightly better place for having Dr. Mhaissen in it.

2 – Jamil Haddad:

jamil-haddad-colonel-beer

At a more local level, Jamil Haddad has helped put Batroun back on the Lebanese map, and in a big way, with Colonel Beer making it big onto the Lebanese scale in 2016. With it quickly becoming one of Lebanon’s top selling and best beers available, Mr. Haddad managed to maintain a niche for himself and his beer’s brand with a local brewery in Batroun that has hosted countless events over the years and has been a pilgrimage place for Lebanese mainstream and hipster individuals alike.

3 – Huda Zoghbi:

huda-zoghbi

Huda Y. Zoghbi is a Lebanese-born physician and medical researcher. She is a professor in the departments of Pediatrics, Molecular and Human Genetics, and Neurology and Neuroscience at Baylor College in Texas. This year, apart from receiving the Shaw Prize in May, for her work in research leading to discovery of genes and proteins involved in Rett syndrome, she was also awarded the Breakthrough Prize, which amounts to $3 million, for her neuroscience research that has laid the groundwork for promising therapeutic candidates for Alzheimer’s Disease and autism.

4 – Walid Phares:

walid-phares

I may not agree with almost any of his politics and find his choice of presidential candidates in the US presidential race to be abhorrent, as well as the way he writes his last name (why?), but Walid Phares, one of Trump’s top advisors managed to get his candidate elected president of the leading country in the world. That has to amount to something, right?

5 – Jeanine Fares Pirro:

jeanine-pirro

No, I’m not biased to people with my family name. Jeanine Fares Pirro is a Lebanese-American judge who has had an active political career with the Republican Party consisting of Senate and District Attorney runs during which she was the candidate of her party in New York state. In 2016, Jeanine Fares Pirro became one of the top influencers in the American Election through her Fox News TV show during which she was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, leading her to become a household name across the United States.

6 – Beirut Madinati:

Beirut Madinati

Leading up to Lebanon’s municipal elections in May, there was probably no other political movement that got anyone as excited about it as Beirut Madinati. They were a bunch of educated people from all sectors, running to change the Beiruti status quo. Their great campaign was, sadly, unsuccessful in breaking Lebanon’s very decaying electoral system but their 40% vote share was a triumph in itself. Here’s hoping the change they put into motion can translate into results in 2017’s Parliamentary elections.

7 – Adeela:

adeela

There’s not been another social media figure this past year that has been as polarizing and omnipresent as the often-hilarious Arab satire on Adele. Adeela is inescapable. It’s become so influential in the art scene that its critiques and jokes have become material that newspapers and tabloids write about.

8 – Mawtoura:

mawtoura

The founders of Mawtoura and Adeela are not the same person, but they’re best friends in real life – and both are quite nice people once you meet them. With Adeela being the police of Lebanon and the Arab world’s music scene mainly, Mawtoura provides as funny and poignant assessments of the Lebanese social scene and, occasionally, political life.

9 – Nadia El Cheikh:

nadia-el-cheikh

In 2016, Dr. Nadia el Cheikh became AUB’s first woman dean of the university’s biggest and founding faculty, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. A historian of the Abbasid Caliphate and Byzantium, she’s the holder of a Ph.D. degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard University. Dr. El Cheikh’s research interests focus on women and gender.

10 – Jimmy Keyrouz:

jimmy-keyrouz

Mr. Keyrouz is a young filmmaker whose movie “Nocturne in Black” was nominated and then won “Best Narrative Film” at the Student Academy Awards in 2016, organized by the same entity behind the Oscars. “Nocturne In Black” tells the story of a musician struggling to rebuild his piano in a war-ravaged Middle Eastern neighborhood. Keyrouz’s movie has already won Jury Selects at the Columbia University Film Festival, a National Board of Review Student Grant, the Caucus Foundation production grant, the Marion Carter Green Award and the IFP Audience Award. He was one of 17 winners out of a nearly 1800 movie selection.

11 – Charbel Habib:

charbel-habib

A vintage car enthusiast, Charbel Habib owns over 40 classic cars. With Walid Samaha as his co-driver, the duo took on the epic Peking-Paris Rally that saw them race from Beijing to Paris, or around 14,000km in a 1964 Porsche 365C. I daresay the biggest hurdle was probably their need for visas going across that territory, but they made it to Paris in one piece and were winners of a Gold medal, ranking second in their class, and being the first drivers to get a Porsche 365C to do that route.

12 – Fayha Choir:

Fayha Choir ChoirFest Middle East

They started off the year with their situation being as precarious as it gets. They were in financial trouble and fighting tooth and nail to try and keep their choir, Lebanon’s best afloat. Lucky for us, they were not only successful but Tripoli’s Fayha Choir went on to win Best Middle Eastern choir at the Choir Fest in the United Arab Emirates. I bet 2017 will be a great year for them too.

13 – Michel Aoun:

michel-aoun-president

After much debate, I figured the list can’t but be concluded by the man who, after more than a 2 year long presidential vacuum, managed to fulfill his life’s dream of becoming the Lebanese president. Sure, his election ceremony by parliament was as childish as it could get, but by taking up the highest governmental level in the Lebanese Republic, we can say that in 2016 Michel Aoun made it. He’s been in office for nearly 60 days and not much has happened (apart from a ministry for women’s affairs to which a man was appointed) but we’re still giving our president the benefit of the doubt to steer the country through next year’s parliamentary elections under a fair electoral law that could see those at #6 cause a dent.

Until 2017, everyone.

Dear Lebanon, Your Dignity Has More To Worry About Than a Facebook Status

A few days ago, a Lebanese journalist named Bassel Al Amin wrote a Facebook status that saw him thrown in jail. You’d never hear of such a sentence in any “civilized” country around the world, regardless of the content of said Facebook status, but here we are.

amin-1

It translates to:

“The shoe of the Syrian refugee and worker and citizen is worth more than your Republic, your cedar, your Lebanon, your right-wing, independence, your government, history, revolution, and presidents. Do you get it?”

Many journalists and activists have risen up to defend Al Amin with the hashtag: A status is not a crime. Of course, many others have also taken up the anti-Al-Amin camp with their proclamation, such as MTV in this piece of theirs, that – and I quote:

“We are faced with a segment of the population that wants to say what it pleases, whenever it pleases. It’s a segment that is completely in refusal of everything and doesn’t hesitate to insult our nation and express an opinion that should never ever transgress on the dignity of our country and our citizens. And even if what Al Amin wrote expresses the opinion of some people, then those should relinquish their Lebanese nationality.”

Let’s put it out there. What Al Amin said is nauseating. You can criticize anything you want about the country in any way that you like, and if you read my blog you’d know there’s nothing I like more than that, but I find that reverting to insults or derogatory rhetoric to get a point across takes away of the point you are making.

That said, let me put this out there as well: it is Bassel Al Amin’s right to say whatever he wants to say about anything that he wants, Lebanese Republic and presidents and politicians and botany, and still not be thrown in jail because of it.

The moment we start to limit what we are allowed and not allowed to say, we give our government and every censorship bureau out there a more than open occasion into further limiting the scope of what we can say in absolute terms. How long would it be, if we stay silent about the arrest of a Lebanese citizen because of a Facebook status, before our own statuses and tweets and even words on the street that we say to friends become the subject of lawsuits or arrests because someone with political or legal muscle decided they were “offensive” or “illegal?””

MTV may not like this, given their categorization of our segment of the population as one that wants to say “whatever it wants whenever it pleases,” but that is actually our right. I am supposed to be able to say whatever I want, whenever I want, and however I want, and you, MTV and those who believe in what it has said, are just supposed to deal with it in the multiple of ways that you can do so with, beginning with actually debating what I have to say and not stringing up poetic language to show people how my opinion or even my formulation of an opinion is a horrific act.

Lawyers across the country have agreed that Bassel Al Amin’s words are not, in fact, legal. However, a law existing does not mean the law is right. To note, Lebanon’s penal code has article 522 which allows a rapist to be absolved of his crime if he marries the woman he raped. The Lebanese penal code also has article 534 which bans “sexual acts contrary to nature,” an article that was used quite proficiently by Lebanon’s authorities on some occasions to arrest LGBT people.

The arrest of Al-Amin is also as hypocritical as it can get. A few years ago, Jean Assy, a prominent FPM supporter, went on a Twitter tirade against the former (then current) Lebanese president Michel Sleiman, leading to his arrest – albeit for very limited time. Gebran Bassil, son in law and politician galore of current Lebanese president, tweeted the following back then:

gerban-bassil-tweet

Perhaps tweeting and Facebooking is only a crime when it touches upon your president or your own political party?

This whole talk about national “dignity” being represented in the most mundane of things – tweets, statuses, what have you – reminds me of a debate the United States was having when I was there a few days ago.

When Donald Trump (cringes) tweeted (cringes again) that he was going to prosecute and/or take away the American nationality from everyone who burned the American flag, the US was divided. What was a fact, regardless of what Trump and his supporters wanted, was that the burning of the American flag was a protected act under the first amendment of the United States constitution, which guaranteers freedom of expression, therefore turning the burning of a flag – arguably one of the highest insults to a country – as an expression of freedom of speech.

Lebanon, we have a long way to go.

But for those who are worried about their dignity as Lebanese because of a Facebook status, let me remind you of the following:

  1. You do not have 24/7 electricity,
  2. You do not have access to water all the time,
  3. Your internet sucks,
  4. Your security situation is as precarious as it can be,
  5. You need a visa to go to almost anywhere,
  6. Your passport is the most expensive around the world,
  7. You have not voted for parliament since 2009,
  8. You stayed without a president for more than 2 and a half years, after a president that needed more than 8 months of void to be elected,
  9. You literally live in garbage,
  10. Your women can – as of the writing of this post – be raped and then proposed to and everything becomes okay,
  11. Your women cannot pass on their citizenship to their children, something that many of you wholeheartedly agree with,
  12. Your women can be victims of domestic abuse without repercussions.
  13. Your LGBT population’s existence is considered “illegal,”
  14. Your roads are in disrepair,
  15. Your infrastructure is near non-existing,
  16. Many see the country’s worth as contingent upon the well being of their religious sect,
  17. Censorship bureaus decide what you get to be exposed to depending on their whims,
  18. Not having a national budget since 2005?
  19. Your politicians – read Wiam Wahhab – having militias,
  20. The country having militias to begin with,
  21. You getting “SSSS”‘ed at airports just because you’re Lebanese,
  22. You getting secondary interrogations before entering countries even after you’re given a visa because you’re Lebanese,
  23. Smugglers and criminals being arrested and then freed a short while later because you need them to buy cheap phones,
  24. Your very last public beach in Beirut will soon become a resort,
  25. Your entire coast – your public property – is something you need to pay to access (refer to this for comparison),
  26. Your forests are subject to “accidental” fires but their wood ends up in your fireplaces anyway,
  27. Your governmental facilities are among the world’s most corrupt,
  28. You consistently rank among the countries with the least faith in their politicians… but keep on voting for them anyway,
  29. You put curfews for foreigners depending on where they come from,
  30. Your political class is basically warlords.

But yes, please tell me more about how our dignity was irreparably insulted by a Facebook status?

Meet Jess Rizkallah: The Lebanese-American Whose Poem On Being Torn Between Being Arab & American Will Blow You Away

I’ve been into slam poetry for more than two years now and Button Poetry is one of my favorite YouTube channels. I love it so much that it’s the only YouTube channel for which I’ve enabled notifications.

Late last night, Lebanon-time, I get a notification that a new poem by Jess Rizkallah has been uploaded. Intrigued by the name, I open the YouTube video to find one of the most enriching, gut-wrenching poems I’ve listened to on that website in months.

In three short minutes, Jess Rizkallah was able to convey the struggles that she, a Lebanese-Arab-American woman in the United States goes through trying to juggle her Arab side with her American side, in a culture that is increasingly putting both of her components at odds. I mean just look at a creature like Donald Trump existing and at people, many of whom are Lebanese unfortunately, applauding him.

Jess Rizkallah is a Lebanese-American woman who’s trying to find herself in the dichotomy of cultures in which she is stuck. She is light-skinned enough to pass as white, but brown-souled enough for white people to call her on it and make her question who/what she is, and question she does: From the injustice her family went through, to the change of beauty paradigms in the United States that now include her and her sister (thanks Kim Kardashian?), to the politics in general that make her people feel like lessers.

The poem may be Jess Rizkallah’s personal experience, but I find it’s something most of us as Lebanese, who have been outside the country at certain points, who are immigrants, who might immigrate soon, have to deal with or have dealt with at a certain point: this need to assimilate while also wanting to maintain the semblance of who you are.

Find the transcript below:

i am but i’m not

white man says to my brown father

go blow up your own country i’m not buying a car from you

fires my father replaces him
with another white man.
the first time i hear my father cry,
my grandmother says a hail mary.
& he smashes the statuette of white jesus

we still brought it with us when we moved
to the white neighborhood where the children
broke eggs into our living room named us loud & dirty and the white father smiled at us
the next morning
as he mowed
his lawn.

& now white man leers at my brown sister
who no one believes is my sister he likes how exotic & kardashian she is all bellydancer hatching
from double apple smoke something entrancing
in the way she talks / way she walks
white man better keep walking say the Lebanese men who say they will protect my sister
they say they are her Big Brothers
i say No, actually I am her big brother.
I am all of her big brothers & I am her big Sister

so they tell me my problem: i’m too White
for them too loud & dirty won’t shut up, but they like the way i wear my shorts
& my arabic is too dull of the knife
my tongue could open them with so i let them
drive me home

then white man asks to use my phone
tells me i look like a Nice White Girl
not like those Not White girls winks. do i know what he means and suddenly
i hate him it is so easy to hate them

but it’s midnight by an alley on boylston & a strange man has
my phone so I just tell him No, I don’t know what you mean and suddenly I feel very much like a white girl because I am.

But I’m also not but when I’m scared
& I want to be, it’s not impossible it’s actually really easy.

but white girls still ask me where I’m from.

no, where are you really from? when you go back do you have to cover up?
& their boys love middle eastern girls
but oh man, all that hair would have to go

so i don’t shave anything for weeks because fuck you

then an arab man tells me he loves a woman with body hair
and i fantasize about setting fire to every individual hair on my body because fuck you

and my mother tells me i’ll never find a man if i don’t get rid of it

but she also tells me to be less american so less white? but i am white. so is she but she watched people die & still, white people called her the smelly immigrant

but white people invite me to their potlucks.
ask me to bring my mother’s food. they like me. except when i’m angry and they don’t like me. or when they don’t like my brown family.
i don’t look like most of my family.
i look like the people that hurt my family.

the census classifies middle eastern people as white but if we can be called terrorists and white people can’t then are we really the same?
is the distance between guantanomo and an acquittal just a pair of parentheses?
i’m safe in spaces others are not but invisible when my white friends make bomb jokes
when they say we deserve it
maybe i am the insurgent that hollywood says i am maybe they’re not safe from me from my tongue from its rage living in the space between
all my loud & my too much

& it’s funny
that’s the only thing white people and my people agree on
when they look at me

13 Lebanese That Made It Big In 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, and you are overwhelmed by end-of-year lists, the only list that I wanted to make, as I also did last year, was one commemorating Lebanese faces that I believe did something in 2015 that was great.

Consider it as one of my rare non-nagging posts of the year, fitting to end 2015 on a more or less positive note despite it being the year that it was. The names I’m about to mention are in no particular order, and are chosen in a non-scientific way of course.

1. Abou Ali Issa & Adel Termos:

In the depth of horror and chaos emerged the two stories of true heroism in the country this year in the form of two men: Abou Ali Issa and Adel Termos. Both of them lost their lives months and kilometers apart, but in eerily similar scenarios: to the hands of disgusting terrorists who know nothing but destruction and murder. Both of these men risked their lives, leaving behind their families and everything they had built up to for years, tackled suicide bombers and saved hundreds. If there’s anyone to leave 2015 remembering, it’s these two names.

2. Yves Nawfal and Georges el Rif:

In early 2015, Yves Nawfal was brutally murdered at the hand of thugs who thought they were above the law. A few months later, a similar scenario took place and Georges el Rif fell victim to a horrifying stabbing in broad daylight at the hands of a thug who also thought wouldn’t face repercussions for his actions. This is Lebanon after all. But the thugs ended up in jail, and for the first time in years there was a nationwide outcry for the serious need of accountability that overshadowed wastas and politicians trying to circumvent the law to protect their henchmen. May Yves and Georges rest in peace.

3. Tol3et Ri7etkom:

Protest YouStink Beirut August 29 2015 - 1

Speaking of accountability, the second half of 2015 was, at a certain point, the period during which a secular, non-partisan movement scared our government shitless because they put every person in power under the spot of their corruption and did so in such a glorious way (link) prompting our government to attack with tear bombs, anti-riot gear, build walls to barricade the protestors, etc…. Sure, the movement ended up fizzling out, as most things Lebanese end up doing, but in that moment, when over 100,000 people gathered in Downtown Beirut to shout for a new system, they were infinite.

4. Ely Dagher:

Ely Makhoul Cannes 2015 Waves '98

When it comes to Lebanese cinema this year, Waves ’98 by Ely Dagher takes the cake. This young Lebanese filmmaker not only did what many considered to this point to be near impossible for Lebanese cinema, but he did so with full acclaim, claiming the first win ever for a Lebanese at the Cannes Film Festival.

5. Rima Karaki:

Rima Karaki

There’s a lot to say about Rima Karaki, good and bad, but her shutting up the Islamist Hani Al Siba’i was definitely one of my personal highlights of 2015, and judging by the international response she received, the world’s. When Al Siba’i told her to shut up and that it was “beneath him to be interviewed by a woman” like her, Karaki cut him off air. She was the leader there, and it was glorious to see (link).

6. Karim Zreik:

Karim Zreik

Zreik is the man behind the latest Netflix Marvel sensation “Jessica Jones.” If you haven’t started watching that show, get on it. Zreik is a leading producer on “Jessica Jones,” a series that has been critically acclaimed and has gained a fandom in lightning speed. Season 2 is already on the way, and I bet his name will still be the one you see first as the credits roll by at the end of every episode.

7. Ziad Sankari:

Ziad Sankari

Founder of a pioneering medical technology called CardioDiagnostics to diagnose cardiac emergencies as they occur, Ziad Sankari not only paved the way of medical advances in 2015 but was also honored by Barack Obama as one of the year’s top entrepreneurs. As a medical doctor, I can’t wait to see what his invention can do in real practice and how it will affect our job.

8. Mia Khalifa:

Mia Khalifa

I debated whether to include Mia or not quite extensively. At the end of the day, how could I not? She single-handedly got an entire country either proud or massively riled up. She got so many death threats from a lot of people around the region who were offended by what she did, as if that pertained to them in any way whatsoever, and, at the end of the day, being the world’s top pornstar – even if the ranking is labile – is still quite the achievement. Mia Khalife made it big. Double D big, or something along those lines.

9. Gabriel Abi Saad:

Gabriel ABI sAAD

At an age of only 8, Gabriel Abi Saad managed to win the world championship in a math competition involving fast counting. It may not be a first for a Lebanese – Mohammad el Mir did the same thing last year in his category too – but an accomplishment of the sort cannot go unnoticed.

10. The NGO Kafa:

Kafa

After years of campaigning, Kafa successfully got Lebanon’s parliament to pass a law protecting Lebanese women from domestic abuse. Recognizing that the law our dear parliament passed had massive shortcomings, Kafa did not simply stop. They kept their momentum going throughout the year, highlighting as many domestic abuse crimes as possible, culminating in a video about child marriage in the country that resonated all across the world. Here’s hoping the state of Lebanese women is better in 2016.

 

11. Mashrou3 Leila:

mashrou3 leila

Among Lebanon’s bands, Mashrou3 Leila were the frontrunners this year. After holding concerts across the world, from the US to Europe to the Arab world, they released their latest album “Ebn el Leil” not only to critical acclaim, but also to raves from The Guardian who called them one of the world’s next big bands.

12. Amira Kassis

Amira Kassis

A nutrition graduate from the American University Beirut, Amira Kassis reached for the stars in 2015. Literally. With her team at Nestle, she innovated a menu that will be used by two pilots who will fly a solar airplane around the globe over a period of more than 5 months. The food had to be preservatives free and still be fresh even after 3 months. The menu also included quinoa tabbouleh. What she did was never done before.

13. Our Vacant Presidential Seat:

Empty Baabda Seat

Because a list about a country who hasn’t had a president for over a year and a half cannot be complete without a spot reserved especially for that has remained spotless so far. We thought 2015 would be the year our political establishment finally found a president. The joke’s on us. Throughout the year, that empty Baabda seat has been an ever-present reminder of how dysfunctional this country is. Eventually, the vacancy became comical, so here it is, at #13, for the joke that this has become.

13 Lebanese That Made It Big In 2014

2014 has been a pretty messed up year on the Lebanese scale, but amidst all of it, there were a few Lebanese whose news served as a diversion from all the mayhem. Their accomplishments made us happy, even if they didn’t pertain to us directly. As we saw some of them make it big on an international level, we were maybe reminded of our own hidden potential over here. Others caused ripples right at home. To those Lebanese, I came up with this to salute them.

This list is without any order.

1 – Fadel Adib

Fadel Adib

This 25 year old from Tripoli made it to MIT’s list of 35 innovators under 35. His innovation? A system that uses wifi signals in order to track people, their vital signs and other important components. The applications are limitless: from tracking elderly who are prone to falls, to new radiology methods in medicine to police application in criminal activity monitoring….

2 – Hind Hobeika

Hind_Hobeika

Hind was one of the most influential women of 2014 according to the BBC. She invented the Instabeat Goggles, a swimming monitor that tracks heart rate to offer real-time feedback. The device mounts on the straps of any swimming goggles, and reads the heart rate from the temporal artery.

3 – Mohammad El Mir

Mohammad el Mir

This 11 year old from Tripoli won a competition in Germany earlier in the year that found him being named the world’s junior genius. He beat out participants from 40 other countries. He deserves more recognition than what he got, but the future looks bright for him either way.

4 – Amal Alamuddin

Amal Alamuddin

She was the most ubiquitous Lebanese around the globe this year. As far as the globe is concerned, it’s all because Amal now has Clooney as her last name. But Amal is one of the world’s most brilliant lawyers. Her list of client includes people like Julien Assange and former Ukrainian PM Yulia Tymoshenko. She has also lately been chosen to represent Armenia in the European Court of Human Rights. She has charmed people across the world, standing not only as equal to Clooney, but sometimes being the more interesting of the two.

5 – Aya Bdeir

Ayah Bdeir

She was also on MIT’s 35 innovators under 35 list. Her invention is LittleBits, a library of modular electronic units that can be connected to build many different things ranging from a sound machine, a night light, or even a lifelike robotic hand. She has sold hundreds of thousands of units so far in over 80 countries. And I bet she’s not stopping anytime soon.

6 – Rand Hindi

Rand Hindi

He was named by MIT as one of the top 35 innovators under the age of 35 for his work in a company he founded called Snips, which analyzes data in hopes of making city living more efficient. To put that into effect, Snips partnered with the SNCF to create an app that predicts three days in advance how crowded trains would be on a certain day. In a world that’s increasingly built on algorithms, data, and numbers, analyzing such input is becoming not only essential, but vital.

7 – Jackie Chamoun

Jackie Chamoun

It all started when Jackie’s photoshoot for a calendar surfaced through a video that showed her nude. The news passed under the radar, until Sports Minister Karami saw her behavior as “insulting.” All online hell broke loose. From “I’m Not Naked,” to “#StripForJackie,” the country saw a tangible liberal movement rooting itself in the collective mindset of everyone. Debates about women, feminism, body image and sex became the talk of the moment. Jackie didn’t end up winning an Olympic medal, but she became a household name almost overnight.

8 – Yasmine Hamdan

Yasmine Hamdan

She first became known with Soapkills. Today, however, Yasmine Hamdan is on a whole other trajectory of success, having made it to Hollywood all by herself through her music. On “Only Lovers Left Alive,” she sings the song “Hal.” That song is on a shortlist to the Oscars this year.

9 – The People Behind Sakker El Dekkene

Sakker El Dekkene

They were the country’s first NGO to truly break into the mainstream when it the issue of corruption. For that, they devised an app that lets people pinpoint where they saw a corrupt act taking place and report it. They also set up base at various locations around the country to raise awareness. In a country where almost anything is at a price, shedding a light on this cancerous aspect of our society is very important.

10 – Bushra El Turk

Bushra El Turk

This Lebanese composer was featured by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential women of 2014 for her music. Her compositions have been played by orchestras such as the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lorraine, among many others.

11 – Manale Daou

Manale Daou

Most of you know her as the clerk that MP Nicolas Fattouch attacked for telling him to stand in line. Soon enough, she was spear-heading a campaign against Fattouch, who had managed to weasel his way out of every tough spot in his career. But not this time. The Beirut Law Syndicate decided to disbar him soon after he got caught up in another scandal. Daou filed a lawsuit against him. Who knows where all of this will lead, but at least she was able to do something.

12 – Bahia Chehab

Bahia Chehab

She’s an associate professor of practice of art at The American University in Cairo, and was featured by the BBC as one of the 100 most influential women in the world for the past year. Her influence comes from her tangible work in the Egyptian revolution(s), by orchestrating the most widely used graffiti consisting of the Arabic word “No.” She explains it all in her widely popular Ted Talk.

13 – Wael Abou Faour

Wael Abou Faour

At a time when his predecessors did nothing of the sort, him doing his job becomes big news. His methods may be unorthodox – announcing restaurants in a weekly Star Academy-like nominee style is odd, and open to much criticism, but his work in the late months of 2014 on food safety in the country has shaken establishments.

Lebanese Observations of the 2012 United States Presidential Election

 

Many may find this hard to believe but I was much more enthusiastic about the US presidential elections in 2008 than I was about the same event in 2012. It was to the extent that an American friend of mine from Kansas sent me McCain bumper stickers which I still have on the car until today. I saw nothing but McCain/Palin back then. It was the only thing that made sense and certainly not Obama. And I lost.

In 2012, I decided to be more cautious. I didn’t like Romney and I didn’t like Obama either. The former had moments of sheer stupidity (“it’s their culture”) while the latter didn’t make sense to me at all. But I decided to back a candidate based on my convictions and I went reluctantly with Romney, fully knowing that any of the candidates winning won’t have a major effect on our situation as Lebanese and of the Middle East as a whole. Both of them will adopt the same color by number American foreign policy: If you’re not Israeli, you don’t matter.

So as I stayed up all night to follow the results of what had promised to be a close election, I had more than a few observations to make.

Who’s running again?

The amount of Americans that panicked when state results started rolling is too high. It seems few understand the electoral college board system and few had actually looked at the polls in different states to know that the early lead Romney got was absolutely meaningless. This conforms with a report that many Americans had absolutely no idea who was running for elections with google searches peaking a few days prior to election day with queries of “who’s running for US president elections?” and “am I registered to vote.” I wonder how they were able to escape the deafening ad campaigns. Personally, I think it’s sad that I understand the American electoral system better than a lot of Americans. How could you expect people who are that disassociated from their country to know how to choose?

All those Godless places! 

Once the results started forming a concrete picture of an Obama advantage, the polarization started. Half of my American Twitter followers and Facebook friends were in absolute outrage whilst the other half was in orgasmic bliss. Some were in hell, others were on cloud nine. And it is then that the level of the discussion started sinking so low it reminded me of our elections of which we’re sure to get a taste in a few months. Many Americans believe Obama is the second coming of Christ, a savior who will ride in to change everything. Others literally think he’s Muslim who was sworn in back in 2008 over the Qoran, not the bible – and they don’t want that to govern them. But be careful, they’re “not being disrespectful to Muslims.” It’s just how can “a Muslim govern God’s country”? When a discussion ensued because of those tweets, those Americans made it known that they believe the US is the only “country of God” in the world. Every other country is a Godless place. Good to know.

Your opinion is invalid

Some of the issues that were voted upon in some states were assisted suicide, such as in the state of Massachusetts. One of the people whose vote had been against such a legislation (it ended up passing) was busy throwing a fit about how “selfish” it was for patients to ask for it. So I personally replied that “it’s not that simple.” The answer I got, which was one of many that night, is: you’re not a US citizen so your opinion is invalid. It seems that assisted suicide and abortion and other humanitarian debates are US-only issues. Because physicians abroad do not face these decisions. Not one bit. My medical education also makes my opinion even more invalid.

Let’s get high! 

Let’s talk about legalizing marijuana. Honestly, I have no idea why this is even an issue. Marijuana should not be legalized. Whether hippie liberals believe it’s of benefit or not is out of the question. Marijuana is a known hallucinogen and it has been associated with other medical conditions as well (check this). The fact that it’s even a question on the ballot is, in my opinion, absolutely silly. And many Americans seem to agree with me on this. Conversely, many seem to disagree. Nothing should come between them and their pot – not even common sense. So now when marijuana-caused adverse incidents increase, who’s to blame?

Hope or lack thereof 

Once the results of the elections were almost certainly pointing to an Obama victory, the rhetoric changed into people who decided that their country is now a hub of communism with Obama being the world’s new version of Hitler. They were no longer proud to be Americans. Their country is such a disgrace. On the other side of the spectrum, you have those whose pride and hope in the US has just been re-established. And I sat wondering: if these citizens of the world’s biggest economy, toughest superpower and leading nation are this weak-minded, what does this say about all of us living in absolute hell-holes? I then realized that Americans need to toughen up. Their convictions regarding their country should not be this weak. They should not waver because of an election, regardless of results – especially not when their country has so much to offer to them. When your country is envied by many, you are not allowed to be this weak towards it and this goes to those who gained back hope and those who lost it.

Hollywood

The absolute majority of Hollywood actors and actresses, even some who hadn’t made their opinion known before, came out in support for Obama as the results were unveiled, which was very much expected. Some, such as Whoopi Goldberg, subtly accused all those who were dissatisfied with Obama’s victory with racism and invited them to get the “crap outta here.” Very smooth.

Trump’s Wig

Donald Trump was absolutely freaking out. He even called for a revolution and was immediately turned into an immediate mashable article. I guess he doesn’t know that revolutions never work for men with wigs. Never, ever.

Canada

The Americans that were dissatisfied with the Obama victory suddenly wanted to move to Canada. I found it odd that they wanted to move to a country which employs many of the policy’s they’re hating on: welfare, same gender marriage, etc… regardless of what I personally think of these policies. Canadians commented that this reflects the lack of knowledge they have of their neighbor to the north.  A level-headed discussion with these Canadians, who preferred Obama, showcased the absolute necessity for Americans to learn more about the world in their education system. After all, for many Lebanon is but a city in Ohio and Canada is that very cold place no one wants to visit. Of course, this does not apply to all Americans because many know more about Lebanon and Canada than many of us but, again, these are just observations.

The Lebanese

The Lebanese people who were observing the elections were many. Once an Obama victory became certain, those with Romney immediately disappeared in typical Lebanese fashion. Those with Obama, however, made it known that they were happy. Some were even more enthusiastic about it than the most enthusiastic of Americans with rhetoric that slipped down, again in typical Lebanese fashion, to lower than the lowest tone employed by pissed off Republicans. It seems that the GOP is a bunch of anti-gay, anti-women, pro-rape, anti-science, anti-environment, anti-common sense, anti-all that is good, pro-religion, pro-everything that is bad. Delusional much? You betcha, à la Palin. But you can’t discuss that with them because they’re Lebanese and one does not have a decent discussion with a Lebanese. I bet they’d be interested to know that the pro-rape senate candidates lost their seats with a lot of Republicans not voting for them.

The Bottom Line

For the rest of the world, nothing will change upon Obama getting re-elected, especially not for us with both of them having similar effective foreign policies. Even when it comes to the internal workings of the United States, very few things will change between now and 2014 with the country being as divided as it is today: the House controlled by the Republicans and the Senate controlled by the Democrats. Obama will have to use his executive function, more than his legislative branch, in order to be able to do anything. And what he’ll be able to do is very limited. Which means that those whose candidate lost have no reason to fear their country would turn into Cuba. And those who won shouldn’t be this comfortable regarding the future because it may not be this bright. A few questions though: Obama’s failure, as perceived by his drastically declining numbers compared to 2008, was attributed to Bush. If nothing changes by 2016, will his failure be attributed to Bush as well?

Will the Republicans see the need for a restructuring of their party away from the radicalization of the Tea Party, one which doesn’t represent the core values of the Republican party, and move towards moderates in order to be able to contain the growing disparity between their views and those of mainstream Americans especially with changes in American demographics which may turn them, if not tackled, into a party that isn’t able to win nationally?

Good luck to president Obama and congrats to those who voted for him. Hard luck to Mitt Romney who gave a phenomenal underdog race to give one of the tightest popular vote results in recent history and hard luck to those who voted for him. However, the winner after the American elections was the whole world for being able to observe democracy being applied at its finest and that is something that all Americans should be proud of.

In other news, I really need a crystal ball to choose winners to back next time. This losing streak of mine has been going on for far too long.

Tzipi Livni’s Sex Scandal

Who can forget Tzipi Livni’s face? She was the most highlighted Israeli politician for years and years – even trumping the prime ministers she was serving.

Well, Tzipi Livni is back. And she’s coming loose.

It seems that Livni, being a former Mossad agent, had ways to extract information and blackmail people. And it wasn’t beneath her to use her womanly abilities to their full potential.

Livni is apparently the type of many Arab politicians with who she has had affairs in order to blackmail them later on with the threat of exposing the affair. It seems that Tzipi isn’t against using sex to get information which may benefit Israel. Her behavior was also approved by a rabbi who believes Israeli women should be permitted to use their bodies in order to help their state.

Livni, however, hasn’t revealed any names – sadly. The question to be asked now is: Have any Lebanese politicians gotten in her pants? And if yes, which is not improbable, then who?