Saturday, February 18, 2006

UAE Aims For Space While Lebanon is Lost in Space

Space Adventures - Ras El Khaimah

While the UAE has joined the space tourism race, Lebanon is lost in space and our educated and ambitious population is led by a bunch of aliens.

Here is what Gulf Daily News wrote today: "Space Adventures, the only company to have sent tourists into space, has announced plans to develop a commercial spaceport in the UAE emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

From the Ras Al Khaimah spaceport, the firm will operate suborbital flights, a newspaper report. The project will cost $265 million, officials said.

The Russian-built suborbital vehicle called Explorer will have the capacity to transport up to five people to an altitude of nearly 100km in space, but the project's schedule is yet to be announced.

The UAE spaceport, to be located less than an hour's drive from Dubai, already has commitments for $30m. "

Come to think of it Lebanon can also join the space tourism race.
Indeed we have our own version of Star Wars. Princess Leia is definitely not Neyla Moawad but Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah looks more like Darth Vader than Obi One Kenobi, and although Walid Jumblat is a taller and more murderous version of Master Yoda, he doesn't have his wisdom.
I am sure that the Ministry of Tourism can sell tickets to our local reality based science fiction show. After all we invested over $35 billion in it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Sheikh, the Sayyed, the Doctor, the General and the Beyk

Every Lebanese wants peace and prosperity. No Lebanese wants war. Every Lebanese wants Lebanon First, except our politicians who all say Lebanon First but what they really mean is “Me First”.

The Sheikh, the Sayyed, the Doctor, the General and the Beyk are inherently disturbed personalities that have absolutely no regards for any of us poor folk.

They are feudal lords and their word is heaven sent. They are freedom, independence, honesty, holiness and truth incarnated.

What about the end of the month salaries of Tarek, Hussein, Tony and Adnan? What about the school fees, the health and transport costs of more than four million Lebanese? What about the fear of another civil war that is in the heart of millions of Lebanese parents and children? What about the thousands of young men and women who are escaping unemployment and misery every month?

Do you think the Sheikh, the Sayyed, the Doctor, the General and the Beyk care? No there are more important things like the truth, Israel, Syria, the presidency and pure megalomania.

What I understand when I hear Lebanon First is an increase in productivity, employment opportunities, better education, affordable healthcare, equal rights, laws that are implemented and no corruption.

Lebanon First is a clean environment, public gardens, a public transport network, better roads, 24 hour electricity, theatres and museums.

Lebanon First is a society that cares for the downtrodden, for the refugees and for the less fortunate. A society that is not sectarian and racist.

Lebanon First is a policeman that respects himself and is respected and a government that serves the public.

Lebanon First is not against anyone but for everyone living in Lebanon.

Lebanon First cannot be founded by unrepentant warlords, spoilt children, fundamentalist clerics, trigger happy generals or any of their cronies.

We acted on instinct and we chose the Sheikh, the Sayyed, the Doctor, the General and the Beyk - egos with titles - as our leaders because we lost our democratic ways back in 1975. Our wounds chose them, our instincts elected them and our fears wants us to believe them.

We forgot that they do not know how to build nations. We forgot how they destroyed, murdered and stole. We forgot how good they are at making us fear, making us hate, making us poor and making us leave the country we love.

For the last 30 years we blamed the Palestinians, the Israelis, the Syrians, the US, Europe and every other Arab for our problems, when the real problem is deeply entranched in our Lebanese souls.

The Beyk, the General, the Doctor, the Sayyed and the Sheikh today are in every one of us Lebanese. We should learn how to free ourselves from them, learn how to trust one another and learn how to vote for people who can make our lives better and not for icons who make us miserable.

We should replace them with hope and inspiration. We should replace them with someone like us who actually likes us.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Nasrallah The Fireman

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah stubbed out the sparks of a civil war kindled during the February 14 demonstration by ex-warlords and current pyromaniacs Walid Jumblat and Samir Geagea.
In a very calm and collected manner, Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, replied today to some of Tuesday's fiery speeches denigrating the resistance, emphasizing national unity and national dialogue.
He asked whether the insults hurled on the day of the commemoration of Rafic Hariri were a wise approach to build national unity or to prepare for the Beirut One donors conference or were rather a precursor to civil war.
In a direct reply to Jumblat, Nasrallah stressed the "holiness" of the resistance and he criticized Samir Geagea, the leader of the Lebanese Forces an ex-ally of Israel, who said to hundred of thousands of people on Tuesday: "the sea is in front of you and the enemy is behind you".
Nasrallah also said that once the government is strong enough to protect Lebanon from Israel's daily affront to its sovereignty then the resistance would seriously think about the use of its weapons.
And he repeatedly said that Hezbollah is not in an alliance with either Syria or Iran and that its only concern is the protection of Lebanon.
In another note the Beirut Stock Exchange lost more than 10 percent of its value as a direct result of the February 14 demonstration.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The Future of An Nahar

An Nahar, the leading Lebanese newspaper, is at a crossroad and its future ownership structure will affect the Lebanese press, one of the most important industries in Lebanon.

The newspaper always had heavy financial commitments that Gebran Tueni, its ex-Chairman and General Manager, somehow managed to alleviate. But after his murder the equity he held in the company was parcelled out among his wife, daughters and father.
Gebran’s shares were divided mainly between his wife Siham and her daughters and Neyla and Michelle, his daughters from a previous marriage.
He also held an important portfolio of An Nahar shares that were bought with the promise of later payment from ex-PM Rafic Hariri. However, after he was assassinated, the Hariri family got back their shares in An Nahar.
Other owners include Prince Waleed Bin Talal (10 percent) and the Greek Orthodox Diocese, and Issam Fares (5 percent).

The current Chairman of An Nahar and Gebran's father, Ghassan Tueni, 80, has chosen Neyla to be a member of the board of An Nahar. Neyla also got the backing of the Hariri family.

Being close to the Tueni family, Antoine Choueiri has proposed to create a holding company for the family’s shares thus keeping the Lebanese newspaper of record safe from possible takeovers. Antoine Choueiri is the multi-millionaire chairman of the Choueiri group, the largest advertising representative in the Arab world. His company Press Media sells advertising space in An Nahar.

Under the leadership of three generations of Tuenis, An Nahar has become a Lebanese institution with great influence on our country’s affairs. Therefore its ownership is a question of national interest.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

PM Displeased by Speeches

I took these pictures at the demonstration today

Coming back from Saudi Arabia, PM Fouad Seniora is reportedly displeased by the overzealous language used by some politicians at today's vast demonstration, (1 million according to Naharnet and 500,000 according to Reuters), commermorating murdered PM Rafic Hariri.
Indeed Saudi Arabian officials have been pushing for moderation, unity and good neighbourly relations with Syria, while Jumblat and Sabaa used a civil-war like speech.

[I guess PM Seniora is one of the few politicians in Lebanon that is responsible, mature and has the interest of our country at heart.
The free, independent and prosperous Lebanon that I am dreaming of is free from the "lords of war", (Aoun, Geagea, Jumblat, Nasrallah, etc.), that are haunting and taunting us.
The Lebanese, who gathered today in great numbers for a noble cause, need more politicians like Seniora, Nassib Lahoud and Hussein Al Husseini.]


I am ashamed to have believed in the March 14 movement. I am ashamed at the insults hurled by Walid Jumblat, MP Bassem El Sabaa and others.
The language that some politicians used today to remember murdered PM Rafic Hariri was violent, vulgar and obnoxious.
None of them had a vision for Lebanon. None of them talked about rebuilding Lebanon's economy and political system.
It was shocking and I was there to witness it.

The politicians addressing the vast crowd of Lebanese who were there today for Hariri shouted messages of hate and division. None of them gave us hope.

None of them realized that emigration from Lebanon is principally for economic reasons. None of them realized that their obsession with the Syrian regime is as ridiculous as Hezbollah's obsession with Israel. None of them realized that coarse words and fear do not develop a country. None of them realized that their speeches could destroy my country.

And all of them proved that they are petty and they are not worthy.

They are not worthy to rule us, the Lebanese. They are not worthy of our ambitions. They are not worthy of our hopes.

Hate and fear is what they fed us today. I feel disgusted. I feel ashamed.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Tourists Are Back

I took these pictures from the mountains surrounding the "cabane" slopes in Faraya yesterday

Tourists are back. The Phoenicia and Vendome hotels in Beirut have witnessed 100 percent occupancy rates for weeks. The riots in Acharafieh on "Black Sunday" have not changed this fact.
Yesterday, Gulf Arabs, Iraqis, Jordanians and Europeans were all over Faraya's slopes and hotels. Rooms at the Mzaar Intercontinental and at the Chez Michel Hotel were full.

If only Lebanese politicians could stop their dangerous bickering and concentrate on development and wealth creation in their areas, then Lebanon would be better off economically.

After being absent for a year, a Bahraini friend of mine who has just bought an apartment in Greater Beirut told me a couple of days ago that there is no country like Lebanon in the region. And Dubai could never offer what Beirut offers.