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In the video above, LBC TV show host Joe Maalouf takes multiple shots a Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one the world’s richest men, who also owns significant stakes in LBC. Maalouf accuses the prince of laying off some 400 LBC employees without compensation when he bought a majority share in the TV corporation- one of the region’s most popular- in 2012.  Maalouf begins by airing a sarcastic montage of the prince’s charity work and the ubiquitous philanthropy of his Lebanese aunt Leila Solh (who is on Lebanese TV almost every night helping the poor and accepting awards). Maalouf then ends by airing a parody skit of the Prince and quoting a New York Times piece that linked him and other Saudi princes to reported support for Al Qaeda.

“400 Lebanese families have been asking for their compensation for over three years… and the prince is funding terrorism,” Maalouf says.

Maalouf goes on to claim that the families’ compensation claims are known by Lebanese politicians but none have acted, he concludes, because “even dignity is for sale.”

It’s not very often that you see Saudi Princes mocked on Arab TV, much less when the Prince in question owns a significant chunk of said TV channel. LBC had previously raised the issue last year.

Initially the LBC buyout by Prince Alwaleed was hailed as great news for LBC’s expansion plans, but subsequent articles revealed growing tensions over a merger with Bin Talal’s Rotana entertainment group and the reported split of the local LBC channel from its production company and international affiliates.

It’s not clear to what extent Alwaleed has influence over the local broadcaster or how long he will tolerate its attacks, which seem unprecedented in a region where royalty is rarely questioned, particularly its financial assets and dealings. In other words, I would be surprised if this video doesn’t remain online for very long, so you might want to save it or have a look soonish.

UPDATE:

All this comes on the heels of yesterday’s reported “permanent” closure of Alwaleed’s Al Arab news channel. Why is the prince suddenly under attack from all fronts?

I just stumbled upon this interesting Al Jadeed TV report about Lebanon’s old trolley car or “tramway” system. The reporter visits an exhibit where researchers talk about the impact of the tramway by displaying old route maps and gathering memories about the lines. The researcher explains that the advent of the tramway was very influential on the perception of time, punctuality and orderliness. Unlike today’s buses and shared taxis, the tramway only stopped in certain places and at certain times, he says.

Several people are also interviewed about their memories. Interestingly, one woman recalls that the tramway was seen as demonic in that it was interpreted by some as contradicting religious beliefs.

The good news is that this exhibit is open again this week, beginning with the grand opening tomorrow at UNESCO palace at 3PM. It runs from December 2-10 according to the Facebook event page.

With endless traffic, choking fumes and chaos on the roads, safe and reliable public transport is desperately needed in Beirut today. See this previous post on one of the initiatives to make this happen and how you can help support them.

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It’s not easy flying into Beirut these days. With fears of ISIS beheading soldiers and invading villages, refugees spilling out onto the streets, a lack of a president or parliamentary elections, constant tensions with Israel– and most recently– serious health hazards exposed at restaurants and food suppliers across the country, many of those privileged enough to travel may not consider coming back. But not for this woman.

The returning passenger was welcomed with a marching band, balloons and dancing friends wearing T shirts saying “proud to be Lebanese.” The famous TV host Zaven Kouyoumdjian even stumbled upon the action, stopping to capture the moment with a huge smile on his face.

At a time of so much anxiety, it’s nice to know some people are still hopeful in this country. Without their optimistic spirt, how else can we face the challenges ahead?

Local channel LBC ran this brilliant five minute interview with an unidentified man on the street in Tripoli. His language and delivery is powerful in Arabic, but I thought I would do a rush translation into English, particularly for a lot of the foreign press who continue to focus on “Islamic extremism” instead of gripping poverty as a major cause of violence in the city.  In fact the media, both local and international, frequently frame recent clashes in Tripoli as part of “spillover” from the Syrian war and potential ties to armed Islamist groups operating across the border. Yet what many seem to forget is that intense clashes have been ongoing in Tripoli well before the Syrian war, as early as 1990s.

The man in the video– a resident of Bab Al Tabbaneh (one of Tripoli’s poorest and most violent neighborhoods)– helps us understand why.

He begins by questioning Saad Hariri, former prime minister and one of the richest and most powerful politicians in Tripoli. He then takes aim at the members of parliament, whom he accuses of having a major role in stoking the violence in order to pass the recent “emergency” legislation that cancelled parliamentary elections and extended their terms in office. Their excuse was the ongoing instability related to the war in Syria. Needless to say, our man in Tabbaneh doesn’t buy it. Pay close attention to how he characterizes the vulnerabilities of both the impoverished youth and the ill-equipped military, especially in the closing lines.

 

Rush translation. Bold added for emphasis.

 

Man: The whole country is zifit (tar) (i.e. disgusting/worthless) the politicians, the government, the parliament, all tar, even the presidency, because we have no president.

Where is the public works, where is the security? Where is Saad Hariri?

He is sitting in Saudi Arabia. He sends billions to the army. Instead, why doesn’t he employ the young men sitting without work?

Today, if the young boys are working, no one will think about carrying weapons. But if they are unemployed, anyone can come and manipulate them to get armed and start a terrorist organization.

I have six children, I can’t even afford diapers.

Man 2: People are scared to come into our neighborhood

Man 1: There is work to be done in this country, but the members of parliament are sitting in their houses, they don’t care, they are well fed, they’re children are well feed, they are comfortable, they sleep comfortably. And then they get up and give a speech to ignite the whole neighborhood fighting and no one does anything about it.

One (militant group) goes down, another will come in its place.

There is no security in this country, nothing. People need to work, to get back to work.

There is poverty here, there is poverty in the country. It’s a shame. How many MPs do we have? If everyone gave a quarter of his earnings we could fix up the whole city.

The MPs are making 11 million lira ($7,300) per month, they are people, families more important than them, they can’t even make 1,000 lira (60 cents) and you want to extend your term too? Go home and take care of yourself, curse every MP in this country. The biggest MP in this country is (bleeped expletive)!

Man 2: We don’t vote for any of them and they are the ones that got us fighting with the army

Man 1: Who do you think the army is? Everyone knows that this solider standing behind us is either my brother or my cousin or my neighbor’s son. You think I want to go kill him?

It’s the politicians, look what they pass under the table. First they extend their mandate, then they don’t elect a president and then what? We are paying the prices and they are padding their pockets. Leave us alone already, do they have no mercy?

They tore up all of Tripoli just to pass the laws to extend parliament. Go extend yourself, just leave us alone to work.

Reporter: So what your saying is deprivation is the cause of what’s happening in Tripoli?

The people of Tabbaneh are good people, they are poor people. They have the wrong impression about us. The people of Tabbaneh are a poor people.

When we knock on the politicians, they never answer, people come begging them for help like dogs but they can’t provide anything. They are all crooks, each one of them!

$3 billion was sent to the army, for what? To kill people? Use the money to employ people. Make a tissue factory, you’ll employ 1,000 people. Where are they? Just terrorism?

Where is the terrorism? Go to any street in Tripoli, where is the terrorism? No one will bother you. If you wear a Bikini no one will attack you. Where is the terrorism?

Reporter: But what about the issue of backwardness. They say there is extremism in Tripoli?

It’s the politicians! They made a world war in Tripoli just to extend their terms. These bastards call themselves representatives of the people, they are only representatives of themselves, just to collect their salaries at the end of every month. They are the ones that created this.

I mean it takes just 10 armed men to destroy the country. They attack the army and they shoot at the army. 

 

A lot of bottles will be piling up on the streets tonight. Soon they will be in landfills or riverbeds, adding to the mountains of garbage that are destroying our environment.  But what if the bottles (71 million per year) went to the right place? What if the they could be reused to help support Lebanon’s endangered glass blowing industry–one of the oldest trades (think Phoenician) that the country has ever known? And what if you could do something about this?

The good news is you can. You can help support this new project by simply sharing the crowd funding campaign, donating a few dollars or buying your holiday gifts online from Lebanese artisan glass blowers. The money will go toward purchasing a glass recycling truck and glass recycling bins to be placed around Beirut.

It’s called the Green Glass Recycling Initiative Lebanon (watch the video above) and it’s being spearheaded by Environmental Engineer Ziad Abichaker. His projects have already had a significant impact on Lebanon’s growing recycling industry. These include existing programs that process waste at several towns in Lebanon, used to produce fertilizer and building materials, such as those used to construct the country’s first recycled building and brewery, which I covered earlier this year.

You can also watch Ziad’s Ted Talk here.

Give this initiative some thought next time you are throwing away bottles or complaining about pollution in Lebanon.

 

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UPDATE 4/12/2014

There is less than one week left to support this campaign. According to an email from Ziad, they have received $18,000 in offline contributions, in addition to those on the Indiegogo site, leaving them just $3,270 short of their goal.

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A film I co-produced will be screening in Europe next week. Transit Game was shot in the mountains of North Lebanon and features a Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian cast and crew, including Syrian TV star Jalal Altawil. The film was directed by Anna Fahr, cinematography by Bassem Fayad and line production by Ginger Beirut Productions, which has made some of Nadine Labaki’s box office hits. Go see it if you are in Sweden next weekend at the Malmo festival. It will also be showing at the Beirut International Film Festival early next month. (Check links for listings and ticket info.)

Follow the Transit Game Facebook page for information about upcoming screenings in other cities and continents which will be announced shortly.

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The news has been a bit heavy lately, so I thought I’d let you know that joy still exists out here.

I’m pretty sure I have seen him perform in Beirut a few years ago. If anyone can name the star, please let me know.

The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban

A video has recently surfaced documenting police beating journalists this week. The reporters were covering the election of a new mufti and security agents decided they needed to teach them “a lesson”

The police even pressed charges against the journalists–accusing them of “slander”– but Prime Minister Tammam Salam intervened, promised an investigation. Now some of the officers have reportedly been “disciplined.”

It’s not immediately clear what is meant by this. Will it amount to more than a slap on the wrist? If anything, the punishment should be publicized so that other police know they are not above the law.

Journalists have often been beaten or intimidated by authorities in Lebanon. An Al Jadeed TV crew was also savagely punched, kicked and detained by customs agents last November for reporting on corruption. I too have had my share of experiences, both physical threats and verbal intimidation from high-ranking officials. The good news is these acts are increasingly caught on camera so the public can now have a role in demanding accountability by sharing and reposting.

Thanks to Rania for sharing the video on FB.

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The Al Jadeed journalists who were brutally beaten and detained by Lebanese customs agents have just published the video above explaining the tactics they chose yesterday. They had been investigating corruption allegations at Lebanon’s airport and resorted to using a bullhorn to ask the head of customs why he had refused an interview.

In the report above they explain that use of the bullhorn was inspired by a Michael Moore documentary, where the American filmmaker used the tactic in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The reporters make a reference to Moore and show a snippet from the film, “Capitalism, A Love Story.”

I wonder if Mr. Moore ever expected to inspire such brave action in a place like Beirut, where the price for standing up for the public’s right to know can be considerably more dangerous than in New York, as seen above.  Or the valiant fight waged by hundreds of supporters who chanted outside the courthouse where the journalists were held until their release hours later.

 

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That’s Riad Kobessi, an investigative journalist and one of three Al Jadeed TV crew members who were savagely beaten by Lebanese Customs security today.
A large crowd had gathered outside the Justice Palace this afternoon where all four were held and interrogated until being released around 9PM tonight. As you can see in the photo above, Kobessi has a large scare on his face following the beating he endured hours earlier. I took this shot moments after his release when he was quickly ushered into one of the Al Jadeed vehicles standing by.
I’ll have more on this tomorrow, but for now you can check my twitter feed for videos and pictures of the beating and the rally that pressured their release. Kobessi and his crew paid a price, but it was a victory for all journalists in Lebanon tonight, even those who might not have appreciated it.
UPDATE: Nov. 28
Lebanon’s internet is so slow that I couldn’t upload these videos last night. So here’s a taste of what it was like in the crowd. Moments before the journalists are released, supporters chant, “Freedom! Freedom”

Here is a shot from inside the crowd, showing both young men and women shouting in support:

Finally the moment of truth, as the gates are opened and the journalists released: