Friday, 21 March 2008

Saida's stink

The UN news agency reports on the toxic stink generated by Saida's mountain of rubbish:

Established in 1975 as a temporary municipal tip, the rubbish mountain has grown over three decades of civil war, invasion and government neglect to become an open air dump for hundreds of thousands of tonnes of refuse from homes, factories, hospitals and slaughter houses, as well as debris from buildings destroyed in the 1982 Israeli invasion.

The mountain has repeatedly caught fire and at least three times partially collapsed into the sea, prompting complaints from Cyprus, Syria and Turkey after currents swept rubbish onto their beaches.

A collapse last month, following strong winds and an earthquake, sent about 150 tonnes of rubbish into the sea, snaring fishing lines and choking sea turtles which, environmentalists say, mistake the white plastic bags for jellyfish, their favourite food.

Air pollution from the mountain, located near schools, hospitals and apartment blocks in Lebanon's third biggest city, has meant Sidon's children suffer more from asthma than children anywhere else in Lebanon, which doctors say is directly linked to the dump.

Organically rich effluent leaching from the mountain into the soil and the sea has destroyed marine life across a radius of 500 metres out to sea.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Hariri's new crime


Dr. Joseph Hitti is furious at the demolition of the last Jewish homes near the wonderful Magen-Abraham Synagogue in the Wadi Abu-Jamil distirct of Beirut—on the orders of Saad Hariri.

Hariri has committed a great crime. These buildings survived the ravages of civil war, Israeli bombings and the elements.

The Synagogue was used as a first aid station during the civil war, and despite all the anger and hatred, was treated with some respect.

Myself and a Jewish friend were shown round the building a few years ago by activists from the Communist Students. We were both taken aback when we found the Star of Davids untouched.

I would like to take this opportunity to appologise on behalf of the country for this act of vandalism and spite.

What a shame they have gone. These were not just buildings, but a symbol of Lebanon's history, and future reconciliation.

Here are Hitti's words:

"Saad Hariri, the much flaunted US ally in the Lebanese corrupt political and financial establishment, has finally laid his hands on the last architectural gems of pre-war Beirut. Not to preserve them, turn them into a Museum, and definitely not to return them to their rightful owners.

"But to demolish them and turn them into yet another disgusting skyscraper in which to house more corrupt businesses beholden to the Hariri empire and its company Solidere.

"In one of the most egregious crimes against Beirut's historic legacy, Saad Hariri just tore down the last three standing Jewish buildings in Beirut's old Wadi Abu-Jmil district, gems of Beirut's 19th century architecture."

Picture is of the Synagogue

Growing poverty

DPA news agency reports:

Street children are becoming a common sight in Beirut, some begging at traffic intersections, others wiping off dirty car windows, and others just hanging around with searching eyes that clearly show the kind of life they are living.

Zeina, 10, is one of the unfortunate ones, who due to family circumstances are forced to try to sell some chewing gum before nightfall so she can return home with something to feed her sister, brother and sick mother.

Zeina, with her green eyes, taps on a car window wither dirty little hands, begging to sell her chewing gum before nightfall. "So please buy one, I have to sell them all in order to buy bread for my family," Zeina pleads, with tears in her eyes.

The little blonde girl said she has mainly lived on the streets since she was eight to help her family survive.

"I have been begging, selling roses, chewing gum, or washing windows since I was eight," she said. "My father left us because my mother got sick."

Zeina is only one of thousands of children who try to eke out a living on the streets of Lebanon's cities these days. A few of the street children are forced to beg by their parents, while the rest are victims of some notorious gangs who push them towards flesh trades and slavery.

Monday, 17 March 2008