How Lebanon’s Parliament Was Worse Than A School Classroom In Voting For a President


Ladies and gentlemen, those are the people that represent us, the ones we voted for, the ones who then stopped us from voting for them again because we all know that’s what will happen anyway as you only need to look at the orange streets of Lebanon to see how engrained things are.

127 Lebanese MPs, a near full quorum, gathered for the first time since they were elected to vote Michel Aoun as the president of the Lebanese Republic, after 45 failed attempts to vote for a president, stretched over two and a half years of stalemate.

Attending the election process were ambassadors and dignitaries from all around the world who were invited to be there. I bet most of those attending were just there to watch our parliament and the people who are our face to the world show everyone exactly how ridiculous they are, and how abysmally pitiful this country they’re representing has become.

The first round starts. Yes, parliament is equipped with electronic voting but who needs technology anyway? It’s pen and paper. The vote count is underway. One vote is for Myriam Klink, another is for Gilbert Zwein. Those two votes rob Michel Aoun the opportunity to gloat in winning the presidential vote from the first round. Of course, this was intentional.

But let’s take a moment to let the idea that our MPs believe casting ballots for women is a joke. 

To note, parliament has 4 women members out of 128. 

To continue the humiliation of Aoun to the presidency, some other MP figured it would be a good idea for them to drop two ballots inside the voting box instead of one.

If in naivety one would think the first time was a mistake, leading the second round to be canceled in order to go to a third one, the same thing then happened again. Childish? Silly? You name it.  

Cue in the ruckus. How is it that a parliament is failing so irrevocably at doing the only thing it’s been meant to do for the past two years?

Hear an MP here shout for ballots in different colors. Hear an MP there demand for a voting booth because that’s what will fix things. Hear them all be so disorganized, so all over the place, so loud and unaware of what they are doing they you might as well have been observing a kindergarten agglomeration of toddlers, and even that would be slightly more civil.

To say that in voting for a president Lebanon’s parliament has shown exactly how inept it is at running the country is an understatement. 

Those are the same people entrusted to agree on an electoral law in the next few months, and they couldn’t even vote for an unopposed candidate that nearly 2/3 of them supported. A process that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking 2 hours plus, and then you hear them nag about how the process is taking longer than you thought.

I didn’t think I’d see the day when even voting for a president that the country hasn’t had for two years would turn into a joke, but it did.

The sad part is that this maskhara doesn’t even matter. A few months from now, we will vote for parliament and most of those 127 faces whose names we had to hear repeated at us 4 times because they were so efficient will be back in those same seats, and it’s just so unfortunate. They make alliances however it suits them personally, not how it suits the country best. They attend sessions whenever they’re free not every single time because that’s what they were voted to do. They play with our future like a yo-yo and then make a fool out of themselves and the country they’re representing in doing so. And they’re always above reproach. 

Until then, congrats to Michel Aoun. Here’s hoping he ends up being a better president than his political track record has shown him to be. 

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What Happened At LAU With The Lebanese President’s Son

I can say with absolute certainty that terrorizing campuses is not something they teach us in medical school – and I’m going to the same medical school Mr. Charbel Sleiman went to. Why can’t I be the son of the Lebanese president so I get to have my own henchmen following me around, threatening security guards who are doing their job just for the fun of it?

A sense of unlawful superiority isn’t restricted to our politicians nowadays. It has become infectious and spread to their offspring. I have no idea why Charbel Sleiman wanted to enter LAU’s campus but does it really need armored vehicles and security personnel? After all, pardon my honesty, but how is Charbel Sleiman relevant again?

This is political inheritance fair and simple. If Mr. Sleiman doesn’t manage to create a halo while his father is the president of the Republic, how will he manage to do that when his father’s term ends in 2014? How will he make absolutely sure he will have a political future for himself?

It starts with simple measures: threatening journalists at basketball games, injuring campus security guards… until everyone accepts your situation as something special, something important, a force to be reckoned with. I, for one, sincerely hope the protective laws governing our president’s stature don’t extend to his son.

They can park in handicapped spots. They can box in your car on the highway. They can do whatever they want. And they get away with it every single time. It’s worth mentioning it for the sake of venting. But at this point, is it really something worth getting upset about? It’s their country and we’re just doing our best living in it.

W ya Charbel Sleiman, ya m3ayyishna – what the people of Jbeil will probably find themselves saying a few years from now.

 

Lincoln [2012] – Movie Review

Lincoln Movie Poster

Steven Spielberg’s new movie, Lincoln, is the American Civil War-era story of the United States’ 16th president on his quest to get Congress to pass the 13th amendment to the constitution, effectively ending slavery, something he wants done before his inauguration ceremony for the second term which he had just won. In order to do this, he must gather a 2/3 majority in the House of Representatives – one that goes beyond the 56% majority that his Republican party held and into Democrat territory, a party that is staunchly against such a thing.

Lincoln is Spielberg’s best movie in a long time, something that is definitely helped by the fact that the director has been fascinated by Abraham Lincoln since he was a little boy. In this highly dignified portrait of the late American president, you are invited to delve into a world of charged polarizing politics on a story with an undertone of liberty and humanity. The movie can be divided into two halves: A strong first half sets the tone – the era, the characters, the entire situation and its framework.  The even stronger second half shows how the wheels set forth in the first half play out.

The true gem of Lincoln and what helps elevate this movie into a masterpiece is Daniel Day Lewis who incarnates the character he’s portraying to the letter – from the mannerism, to the tone. Lewis’ subtle, engaging, deep and highly emotional performance is one for the ages. His portrayal of the late American president is spot on in every sense. It never wavers, never falters, never drops from the standard that is set with the movie’s opening scene down to the last frame. He adds a sense of humanity to the commander in chief: a man who tells stories, laughs at his own jokes, cares deeply for his family. This sense of humanity gives the character an entirely new dimension.

Daniel Day Lewis is helped as well by chilling performances by Sally Fields and Tommy Lee Jones. Fields plays Mary Todd Lincoln. As a mother, she’s afraid for the life of the sons she still has and as wife, she’s growing more distant by her husband’s coldness towards her after the death of a child that she blames on him.

Tommy Lee Jones plays Thaddeus Stevens, a “Radical Republican” congressman whose goal in life is to establish equality between America’s black and white populations.  Jones is the only character in this movie that knows, deep down, that blacks are equal to whites in every way. The hurt that his character has to go through as he’s forced to tone down his convictions is passed on convincingly in a multi-layered and highly engaging performance.

However, not all acting performances in Lincoln are as great. Joseph Gordon Levitt, for instance, as Lincoln’s oldest son who wants to enroll in the army but is forbidden by his protective parents never quite finds his footing, causing the father/president-son story arc to falter and be less compelling than it could actually be. The father-son story that is interesting, however, is Lincoln’s relationship with his younger son Tad, played by Gulliver McGrath, as a young boy who wants his father to curl up next to him besides the fireplace and look at portraits of slaves who should be freed.

Tony Kushner, who wrote the screenplay for Lincoln, did a great job at turning a mostly dialogue-driven movie into something that doesn’t drag on and, despite the extensive running time, doesn’t feel overstuffed. His take on the story is very focused and specific which in itself is a very good thing if you’re familiar with the history behind the movie, which I believe every American viewer is and should be. In a way, it is the screenplay that sets Spielberg in a certain framework that helps him not turn the movie into an overly melodramatic mess but to give it a documentary grit. However, many non-American cinema enthusiasts, who will end up watching Lincoln because of the attention it’s garnering, might end up being overwhelmed by the details causing them to care less about the story which should be front and center and seek entertainment in the acting performances that I’ve previously mentioned or other attributes that I will mention subsequently.

What helps Daniel Day Lewis in his Lincoln incarnation is a stunning make-up work that transforms the actor’s face into that of the late president’s identical twin. In fact, Lincoln is bolstered by a technical team that spans from the aforementioned makeup to the cinematography to the sound mixing to the art direction. Almost every aspect of this movie is taken care of in a way to ensure authenticity.

Lincoln is a highly engaging and entertaining film, one that stops being a historical portrayal and becomes a character study of what many Americans believe is one of their best presidents. By becoming a character study, Lincoln also becomes a movie about politics which are the wheels that get the movie rolling: how these characters interact to make legislation, how these characters use each other’s flaws in order to advance their agendas, how this presidential character so deeply believes in the sanctity of freedom, how this presidential character wants peace for his nation and for himself.

If I were an American, I’d be proud to have a movie such as Lincoln portray one of my presidents.

9/10

 

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.

The White Guilt of American Elections

Subtle racism has found its way to the American political scene in the final days before Americans head to the ballots to vote on who should run their country for the next four years. The issues both candidates stand for are known. Conservative versus liberal, right wing vs left wing, grosso modo. However, with elections being less than 48 hours away, the talk isn’t centered around the core issues anymore.

The American elections are now all about demographics: who’s voting for who. Because demographic talk is important to see how the country might vote on November 6th.

Pro-Obama analysts underplay the shift in numbers from 2008 to 2012 as something that can be compensated for on election day. Pro-Romney analysts extrapolate the shift in numbers to claim a premature victory they desperately seek. But what is the demographic talk they speak of?

It is that of Catholic and Protestant voters. It is that of independent voters. It is that of women. And do you know what’s the common thing among all those demographics that are up for grabs still?

They’re all white. Or caucasian, whichever term is more politically correct.

In the dying minutes before Americans choose, the tactic is to bring out the colonial white guilt that hasn’t died down since America’s old days. Bringing out the guilt happens even in subtle comedy that, when not read into, is another funny gimmick to make people laugh. However, after a careful minute of reflection, a seemingly harmless skit holds a deeper meaning than it presumably intends to.

For struggling campaigns, the play on the emotional cords of voters is essential to rally them up come election time. The emotional cord for white American voters is the issue of racism. If you don’t vote for this candidate, then you are subtly racist. The fear from the label pushes some people to vote against their convictions in order not to fall into the stereotype.

And this is the inherent hypocrisy of the American system.

More than 90% of African American voters are voting for Obama come election day. Are they accused of racism? No. How many of those voters are more inclined to vote for Obama because of the color of his skin? How many are voting for him based on their convictions and political stance? Both questions are quite irrelevant because they don’t apply here. They apply to “others.”

On the other hand, caucasian Americans do not have the prerogative to vote for their convictions guilt-free. It’s because they weren’t the segment of American society that was marginalized for years and years. But does the fact that African Americans had a very tough phase in their history warrant the rhetoric that has sunk to the level it’s at today?

And we’re not even going into the baggage that voting for one candidate over the other carries: xenophobe, homophobe, female-phobe, anything-phobe.

The bottom line is: it’s not racism and you’re not a racist when you’re voting for someone not because of the color of his skin but because of what he stands for. It’s not racism and you’re not  a racist if you haven’t really thought about a candidate’s skin color until now. Come election day, everyone – regardless of their skin color – should vote to who they believe can get their country in the right direction. The “white result” of 2008 has shown that the majority of Americans don’t care about a candidate’s skin color. So for those who voted to one candidate in order to prove they weren’t racist in 2008, mission accomplished, no need to feel guilty if you cast an opposite ballot this time around. One thing to be said though is shame on media that would revert to such cheap tactics in order to get their preferred candidate a boost.

 

Nicolas Sarkozy & Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaigns – Who’s Copying Who?

If you’ve been following the French presidential elections closely, you’d have noticed the Sarkozy camp has been sharing attractive-looking infographics of his achievements while in office. Here are a few examples:

Well, you get the idea.

Recently, I saw on Barack Obama’s twitter account a very similar infographic released as well:

The resemblance between Sarkozy and Obama’s posters is uncanny: the colors, the style, the font size, etc….

The first Sarkozy image of the sort was shared on April 17th. The one by Obama was released on April 28th. I would be more inclined to believe the Obama campaign is taking a few hints from the Sarkozy camp, seeing as the latter’s campaign is wrapping up with the final round of elections set for next week.

With the American elections set for November, I’m sure we’ll see much more posters like these from the campaign office of Mr. Obama.

 

 

Bashar Assad And The Syrian Regime

I still remember what it felt like to be thirteen. Going to school every day, nothing on my mind but getting good grades and catching up with the latest Pokemon episode. Life was as carefree as it could be. Thirteen also happens to be my favorite number, not because I was born on the thirteenth, but because many people find the number to be an omen. Do I believe in all those things though? Absolutely not, but thirteen is a number that makes me happy.

However, that rule does not apply today.
I’m always saddened when I hear about youngsters passing away. It’s always sad when you know someone approximately your age going through an ordeal such as cancer. You pray for them and hope that the doctors (or whichever mystical power you believe in, I shall call it God) and God help that person out. And you’re always filled with joy when you hear the cancer has gone into remission.
For a young thirteen year old by the name of Hamza Khatib, the number thirteen was the last candle he would blow out on his birthday cake. Why so? Because he fell victim to a brutal tyrant known as Bashar Assad, the head of the Syrian regime in its current form.

Hamza Khatib was used as target practice. The bullets were not used to kill Hamza but to torture him. Imagine anyone being shot repeatedly in the arms and legs just because someone felt like it – now imagine that “anyone” be a frightened thirteen year old whose only fault was expressing, in the only way that he knows, his opinion in a country where that luxury is not given.
Hamza Khatib was castrated and his hands, feet, and abdomen were severely beaten. Overall, men in power who don’t care about him being so young and innocent subjected this teenager, for a period of well over a month, to most signs of abuse and torture imaginable.

This is how Hamza was returned to his parents.

Alas, we should know better. Hafez Assad, Bashar’s father, once proclaimed: “Lebanon and Syria… one people in two countries.” We all know the phrase. It was written, after all, on every wall around the barracks the Syrian army and security apparatus occupied in Lebanon for over thirty years. So, since we are “one people in two countries,” it is our right, as Lebanese, to demand the regime in Syria to fall. We’re only going by the teachings of the “great” Hafez Assad, after all.
I don’t want to bring up being Lebanese in every talk about Syria, but we Lebanese were subjected to what Hamza Khatib has been through but to a far worse degree and for a much longer period of time. How many of our men and women are handicapped today because of things the Syrian regime did to them? How many media outlets were intimidated, censored, or closed (anyone remember what happened to MTV in 2002)?  How many of our fine men and women are still missing today and how many martyrs have we buried because “brotherly” Syria stated that Lebanese security was tied to Syrian security?

We, Lebanese have suffered from Syrian hypocrisy even when it comes to our land. Bashar Assad (and his father before him) made it their job to point out how our South was occupied by Israel, day and night. They made it their duty as well to arm Hezbollah and work on making it as strong as it is today, giving it an allure of grandeur that Hezbollah does not, honestly, possess. And yet, look at their land. They have an area that is about 17% the size of Lebanon occupied by the Israeli army for over forty years now and yet they don’t even dare talk about its liberation. Why is it that they are only feisty and defendant of this “glorious” thing called Arabism when it comes to our South and yet when it comes to their land, they’re ever so silent?

Israel occupied South Lebanon until 2000, yet a much worse form of tyranny occupied the rest of Lebanon. From handpicking the presidential candidates, to extending presidential mandates, to rigging elections, censoring media outlets, playing politicians off one and another (Hariri vs. Lahoud) and controlling the security apparatus, Syria dominated nearly every aspect of Lebanon as if it was its own personal fiefdom and all in the name of “brotherly” security. What is sad is that Syria still has its proxies in Lebanon today to fight its battles outside its borders. These proxies pay regular tributes to Damascus for protection of their own parliament seats and sect, all in the guise of “brotherly” relations and fighting Israel, all the while thanking Syria for its “presence in Lebanon”. They constantly threaten that instability in Syria would be no good for Lebanon. Even worse these proxies recently spat in the face of the Syrian protestors by supporting the Egyptian and Tunisian uprisings while declaring that Syria is merely facing a Western backed conspiracy and that Lebanese must stand by this power hungry tyrant. But how different can those people be from the regime and person they support? After all, Assad brutally killed every Lebanese that stood in his path for the thirty years of Syrian occupation, without caring – even remotely – about human life. That makes him a war criminal.

The Syrian people are going through some of the similar events we went through for thirty years such as tanks shelling their towns and villages, and innocent civilians disappearing because they were crying out for liberty. They are making the same calls we made in 2005, calls for independence and freedom, and no to rigged elections and brutal security services. The Syrian people need to revolt, for the innocent souls of the likes of Hamza Khatib and the hundreds of other martyrs that have fallen victim for this tyrant since the protests started on March 15th.

Assad put forth the strategy of a minorities coalition, whispering in the ears of Lebanese and Syrian Christians alike that such an alliance is needed to safe guard minority rights against Islamic fundamentalists. His actions, however, proved otherwise. Look at what happened in the 1990s, Maronites were robbed of their political perogatives, with their major parties banned and political leaders jailed and tortured.The Syrian people need to speak now because now is the time for action and they will not get a better chance.

“The Syrian regime is dealing like the old-fashion Soviet regime, imposing the reign of terror.  When we talk about fighting for democracy, fighting for freedom, it isn’t only words.  We know the smell of blood, we know the smell of dynamite, we know what “gun” means and what “threaten” means.  They can only kill you…. And we know that sometime we’ll be assassinated.”   -Gibran Tueni

So for children like Hamza, their families, and the future of the Syrian people, the time to get Bashar Assad, his tyranny, and his regime to fall is now… after all, I was once thirteen too.

The following is a YouTube video of the brutality Hamza Al Khatib has been through. It is very graphic. So only watch it if you can take in brutal imagery of human torture.

Thanks to Ali Seifeddine and Boulos for their input.