The Visa Situation for the Lebanese Passport

It’s bad people. Really bad. Remember when I was complaining about Lebanon being one of 39 countries that has to wait 10 days on average for the Schengen visa? If you don’t, then here it is.

It turns out the situation is much worse than having to wait 10 days for a Schengen visa. We, as Lebanese, can access 33 countries without needing visas. 33 sounds appealing? Well, the #1 countries in the world, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, can access 173 countries.

In a 2011 study, conducted by Henley & Partners, Lebanon ranked 97 out of 110 countries and behind countries such as Iran, Egypt.

In fact, in a 2010 study conducted by the same company (check it out here), we are also behind North Korea. And it doesn’t stop there. We are also on brochures that tell travelers about Lebanon being one of the countries with the most visa restrictions.

 

I have to ask though: why is the situation this bad? Other neighboring countries, who share our geographical location and the whole baggage of the Middle East, have a better situation that we do.

It could be that our Ministry of Foreign affairs is doing a horrible job, which I think is true. I mean, have you heard that “minister” asking the president to halt in filing a protest against Syrian violation of our land pending investigations? When you have people like that in charge of these types of relations, where do you expect to get?

Or could it be that all those other countries simply refuse to permit headache-free entry for Lebanese travelers?

I would tend to think it’s the former – that governments throughout the years have been and are doing such a bad job with foreign relations that with each passing day our passport loses whatever negligible value it had. And it’s actually very sad.

What’s the best passport to seek out in case you want to go anywhere you want and still retain your Lebanese citizenship? It seems like Sweden is a good fit. Denmark doesn’t allow dual citizenships.

A word for our minister of foreign affairs though, the citizens of the country that he has no problem getting up in a fit for whenever they violate our country can access 142 countries. Just saying.

 

 

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The Church of Kopimism: File-Sharing is Now a Religion

Sweden recognized the Church of Kopimism as a full-fledged religious institution just prior to Christmas. The founding principle of this “church” is that file-sharing and copying is a sacrement that cannot be touched. The Swedish acknowledgment of this “church” does not, however, legalize the sharing of copyrighted material.

Their holy symbols? Yes, you guessed it: CTRL+C and CTRL+V for the keyboard shortcuts of copy and paste, respectively. Or if you’re awesome and you have a mac, then it’s ⌘+c and ⌘+v for you.

Members of this church, who call themselves Kopimists, hold events called “kopyactings” where members copy and share information with each other.

I don’t know about you but I find this whole thing very weird. But why would Sweden care. They were just ranked as  #7 out of the top 23 countries for work-life balance.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Book Review) – Stieg Larsson

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is the first book in The Millenium Trilogy by late Swedish author Stieg Larson.

Mikael Blomkvist is a man of many things but liar isn’t one of them. He wasn’t exactly being framed. His predicament was totally his fault but he should have known better. Sitting in court, receiving a three month sentence for libel against a Swedish business giant, he thought he had hit rock-bottom both financially and career-wise.

Soon after, Mikael receives the strangest job offer from the head of one of Sweden’s leading businesses, albeit being on its way down. Henrik Vagner, aged 82, wants Mikael to spend a year writing the history of the Vagner family in an attempt to solve the mystery of the disappearance of his niece: Harriet Vagner, some 40 years prior.

As they say, you can’t get a colder case than this. Harriet disappeared on Children’s day on the fictional Swedish island of Hedestad and even though an extensive search was made following her disappearance, a body was never found. So Vagner asks Mikael to attempt to find answers, as a way of closure for a man whose days are nearing their end.

But soon enough, Mikael needs help as he starts uncovering chilling new evidence that were overlooked in the original investigation. And that help comes in the form of Lisbeth Salander.

Lisbeth Salander is a 26 year old woman who has been under the auspices of the Swedish state since she was thirteen after being deemed unfit to look after herself. She’s 4’11”, flat-chested, has more piercings than places to put them and more tattoos than real skin. One of those tattoos is a dragon on her left shoulder blade.

Lisbeth also happens to be a world class computer hacker, able to go into any program or computer known to man and make it look as easy as counting from one to ten. She’s also excellent at investigating people and coming up with extensive reports detailing things they never told anyone.

Together, Lisbeth and Mikael start unearthing detail after detail about a chilling series of murders with a biblical element, all taking place in scattered parts around Sweden, in relation with the Vagner corporation. Who could the killer be? And how does Harriet fit in all of this? these are some of the questions they will try to answer in the book, even if their lives depend on it.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a top-notch thriller. It doesn’t have any dull moments and it engages you with the complexity of its characters. You get immersed in the detail that Stieg Larson provides in his description of the inner workings of Salander’s mind, who happens to have some form of asperger syndrome, or Blomkvist’s sense of guilt after his sentence, which nearly got his magazine “Millenium” to go under.

The author writes down many of the main characters’ thoughts, in italics, throughout the book. These thoughts, along with the impeccable dialogue in which they are immersed, serve as a backdrop that enriches the story and breathes new life into it. Sure, many authors have used thoughts in italics in their texts before but those thoughts have never been as important to the development of the story as they were in “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”

Larson doesn’t shy away from being explicit in the book as well. There are scenes which are depicted with exquisite detail that they will shake you. The book’s original Swedish title was, after all, Män som hatar kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women), which means the book has many physical, mental and sexual abuse scenes. They are depicted to the letter.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a must read to anyone who enjoys an immersing novel to entertain their days (and nights). It is a book that you won’t be able to let down. It is a serious page turner that is more a character study of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist than a cynical approach by the author to his country, Sweden. It is a book where little is at is seems. But one thing is most definitely clear: you do not want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.