Friday 28 March 2008

Hariri killed by 'criminals'

So the Syrians did not kill Rafiq Hariri after all, says UN investigator Daniel Bellemare.

The UN investigation headed by Canada's former chief prosecuter found that a "criminal network" killed Hariri.

This gang is linked to other attacks against Lebanese figures carried out between October 2004 and December 2005.

The question of "motive" still needs explaining.

Food crisis—Lebanon

Lebanon's Al-Akhbar reports:

For the second time in two months, the southern suburb are facing a bread shortage. The reason for the crisis is that seven of the main furnaces have used up their quotas of subsidized flour.

Yesterday evening long queues formed outside the bakeries. There are fears that this latest shortage will trigger a new round of protests.

Food prices—Egypt

Al-Ahram reports on the impact of spiraling food prices in Egypt:

Laila Mahmoud, a housewife and mother of three, said that pasta is now beyond her budget since its price rose from LE1.6 to LE4.6 (£0.42) per kilogramme, while rice increased from LE2 to LE4 per kilogramme.

I can buy 20 loaves of subsidised bread at LE1, while one pound is not enough to buy 250 grammes of pasta," revealed Mahmoud. Hence, the demand on subsidised bread has jumped markedly and bread lines have become commonplace across the country.

Adel Fathi, a supervisor at one of Al-Masriyeen's bakeries in Al-Zeitoun, said sales there reach 23,000 loaves of bread daily. "We begin selling at 6am and run out of bread at around 4pm," stated Fathi.

The supervisor explained that this outlet is responsible for selling the production of one bakery in the district whose quota is 23 sacks of 100 kilos of subsidised flour, making 23,000 loaves of bread. But this output still seems too few.

Thoraya Ahmed, 50, came too late at 4:14pm and went home empty handed. "I just got back from work, so I missed my chance of buying bread. What can I do?" Ahmed pondered as she walked away.

But Islam Ali, another destitute bread hunter, was adamant in buying the staple food. Although he was turned away at the outlet, the young man hurried to another which had not run out yet.

Thursday 27 March 2008

Daoud Corm

Still life by Daoud Corm 1852-1930

Wednesday 26 March 2008


A devastated town recovers, in a way, writes Rebecca Murray:

Mohanna's house was bombed by Israel during the 34-day conflict in 2006, as were houses of most residents of Siddiqine— an impoverished village of 6,000, about 10km inland from Tyre.

Siddiqine resembled a flattened moonscape in the bitterly cold and damp winter that followed, with more than 700 homes out of a total 1050 hit, and half that number completely destroyed.

Mohanna lost two tobacco harvests from the bombardment and cluster munitions, and is now $10,000 in debt. Forced to give up supplementary work in construction after his heart surgery, the 62-year-old struggles to provide for his family and pay a monthly $100 medication fee for his son—who has violent seizures related to chronic meningitis.

During the fall of 2006, the Hezbollah and its reconstruction wing, Jihad al-Binaa, criss-crossed the south and Beirut's southern suburbs, surveying the destruction of up to 140,000 housing units valued at more than 1.5 billion dollars, and providing families up to 10,000 dollars for rentals while their homes were rebuilt.

More than a year and a half later, Mohanna still waits for the government's promised $8,000. He has only received $3,000 out of a potential $10,000 from Hezbollah.

Although Siddiqine's main road is now peppered with construction sites, and structures are slowly rising, there is a prevalent mood of pessimism.

Picture: A cluster bomb

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Arab bourgeoisie

Sursock's Top 5 members of the Arab bourgoisie.

1) Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal al Saud
Alwaleed's business empire, through Kingdom Holdings, stretches across four continents. It has held stakes in Apple Computers, News Corporation, Fairmont Hotels and Saks Fifth Avenue. His shareholding in the world's biggest bank, Citigroup, is valued at nearly $10bn.

He is also in line to snap up $200m of apartments in London's West End.

2) Mohammed Ali Alabbar, chairman of Emaar Holdings
The group's profits for 2006 were up a record 35 percent to $1.735bn, and there are now rumours of even greater expansion plans in China and South East Asia.

3) Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed al-Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Airline
Emirates has been in profit for 18 consecutive years, last year achieving $762m on a turnover of nearly $7bn.

4) Sultan Bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World
Having managed to complete the $7bn takeover of P&O, Bin Sulayem has seen his influence on the shipping world grow.

He also heads real estate giant Nakheel, the developer behind the World and Palm projects off the coast of Dubai.

5) Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, banker
Al-Rajhi holds the largest individual stake in his family's Al Rajhi Bank, which has consistently reported the most profitable operations among all of Saudi Arabia's banking groups.

A co-founder of the bank, he also boasts the country's biggest poultry farm, a building materials business and real estate.

The family have diversified family investments into gypsum, agriculture, steel and other industrial sectors. The Al Rajhi are Saudi Arabia's wealthiest non-royals.

Monday 24 March 2008

Abuse of Palestinians…

Returned with interest...

No war?

The IHT quotes Hassan Nasrallah's address to a mass rally in Dahieh, south Beirut.

"It is not simple for America to launch a war on Iran, or for Israel to launch a war on Syria or Lebanon.

"I want to remind you that an Israeli war is no longer a picnic. An Israeli war has become very costly because there is in Lebanon the strength, will and education of the resistance (Hezbollah) as well as the blood of the resistance's martyrs.

"The Israelis have been in a state of worry and fear, not only in Palestine but all in parts of the world," he said. "Let them be frightened and worried. Let them taste the fear and fright which they inflicted on our peoples."

"Can Israel be eliminated? Yes and a thousand times yes, Israel can be eliminated."

Sunday 23 March 2008

Age of modernism

Andre Trad on the impact of modernism on Beirut's skyline:

Modern architecture appeared in Lebanon with the appearance of new building techniques and materials, which revolutionized the conception of building, and namely with the introduction of concrete in the1920's, which was first imported, then locally produced, after 1930.

The course of modernism in Lebanon thus appears to gradually take off in the late 1930's, with some delay compared to European modernism, with the adaptation of new technologies and spatial concepts in design.

The period of its golden age, where many constructions that exhibit a mature modernist spirit begin to appear was during the 1950's, after Independence, when the new nation and its new capital, began to capitalize on the new social, political and economic dynamics which turned Beirut into the avant-garde capital of the Arab world.

This golden age would continue in the 1960's with a new generation of local architects and engineers who further developed and consolidated the appropriation of modern architecture.

Picture: Abdallah Kahil's exhibition Ceci n'est pas Beyrouth

Economic blow

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the economic impact of the destruction of Nahr al-Bared Palestinian camp in north Lebanon:

The past several months have been Lebanon's coldest winter in 25 years, and Hanin Rafae is struggling to keep her family warm. Since her home has no fireplace, she and her five sons and six daughters huddle nightly around a fire on the patio overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Yet even more foreboding than the bitter winter cold, Rafae says, is the nation's declining economy, which worsened here after a three-month conflict between the Lebanese military and a group of al Qaeda-linked militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp down the hill.

"I try to save money by shopping less," said the 60-year-old Rafae as she warmed her hands over a charcoal pit.

In Bibneen and other surrounding villages in northern Lebanon, Palestinian stores had been a safety valve during times of inflation. Since Palestinians are excluded from paying sales tax, they offered cheaper products, and camp merchants had used the sizable Palestinian diaspora in neighboring Arab states as a de facto trading network.

Many goods sold at Nahr al Bared were smuggled across the porous Syrian border, eliminating import duties.

Rafae would regularly walk down the hill and purchase a loaf of bread for half price, 5 kilos of cooking oil for $4.50 instead of $7 and a carton of cigarettes for $4 instead of $6.

But those days are over. "Many Lebanese were killed, so we won't buy there," said Rafae. "I prefer to buy from the Lebanese now - not from Palestinians."

But with the camp's cheap products gone, the reality of rising inflation and a 10 percent sales tax has forced many to rethink their opposition to Palestinians coming back to the camp.

Bibneen resident Abdal Qader Saad says his family's monthly food bill has increased from $200 to $330 since the Palestinians left. "My wife had to go to take a job to help make ends meet," he said.

As a result, Talawi says most residents want the Palestinians to return as soon as possible.