This blog is currently in comma, it is not dead, It micro-blogs on on twitter http://twitter.com/lebanesevoices and facebook http://www.facebook.com/lebanesevoices. The archive is below and on the right of the screen, you can check out what I’m reading on the right below (goodreads)
I will be blogging soon *fingers crossed* – yes there is a folder of drafts waiting to become posts lurking in the CMS.
Here’s a kitten to keep you company while waiting
Also this blog is 5 years old now! If it were a human, it would have witnessed, Protests across the region, the fall of three dictators, the emergence of opposition across more than 10 countries in the region and many more abroad. Dozens Genocides and assaults, three full fledged wars on Gaza from Israel, presidential gaps, a devastating decrease in literacy rates in the MENA region. Syrians becoming the largest refugee nation in the world. Israel faces war crime allegations. Lebanon still sinking in an abyss of the unkown. Smartphones dominating the world, and technology invading every aspect of our lives. This five year old is set for a very confused psyche.
May their souls rest in peace.
Soldiers betrayed by our disgusting failure of a parliament that is being hijacked by corrupt warlords are falling everyday.
Originally posted on A Separate State of Mind | A Lebanese Blog:
A lot of the Lebanese populace will be spending this weekend either skiing their days away at resorts or clubbing the nights at various parties across the country, or, ironically, watching the “heroics” of an “American Sniper” at our cinemas.
As that “joie de vivre” manifests, however, the country will be burying 8 soldiers that passed away yesterday defending everyone against a looming threat at our borders, and whose heroics will fail to register with most.
Why did those 8 army soldiers die? Well, for one reason it’s because they live in a country led by so-called leaders who aren’t up to their title as they fail every single moment they “lead” to make the much-needed decisions that such times require.
Today, Lebanon is in an official state of mourning. No, it’s not mourning any of these 8 heroes who gave up their lives, not thinking of their families, of their children and…
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“Knowledge economy” will probably overtake the “entrepreneurship” as the buzz word for the next decade. Not that i find either words bad for the economy!
Saying that one thing that continues to be an obstacle to nurturing impactful digital progress and increasing efficiency is the lack of document and open data.
I emphasize on documented, because in many scenarios the data itself does not exist, as it is sitting in physical archives, hand written and badly maintained.
The Global Open Data index currently features 97 ranks, of which Lebanon is #85. Frankly I’m surprised Lebanon is on the list to start with, so although some may find this a bashing point, it shows that we are at least trying. Good job ;)
The index measures based on the following metrics:
The #1 ranked country is the UK, they are definitely doing an amazing job with their Open Data programs. Other Arab countries on the list with their rankings are:
#79 Egypt & Morocco
#85 Lebanon (for reference)
I’m also surprised some “leading, world-class”-PR-manic countries are not even on the list. Well I’m not really surprised, but it goes to show…
Back to Lebanon:
The above shows us that we need more transparent government spending and budgeting is necessary, but also that there are problems hindering our progress, like functional addresses, postal codes and maps that work. (thank you Zawarib)
Jordan’s parliament is always entertaining (at least they show up ready, unlike the Lebanese) but they have been on the spotlight recently for insulting elected Women representatives.
This post on Facebook absolutely won it for me, because it says alot about the struggles that women continue to face in the region, alot of it is based on lack of education and inflicted by social norms imposed by women themselves and celebrated by men that are afraid of being sidelined.
(Post of the week: refers to the social post above, not this blog post)
I gladly missed the epilogue of “scandals” that MP Faour launched against the F&B industry in the Lebanon the past 10 days through every media channel with a pixel to spare (and there are plenty)
When I was back in town, and out with some friends bringing up options for dinner turned into a “was this on the black-list game” … which made me stop and review the evidence. Here’s my list of why I will take all the “savior” MPs words and actions with a sea of a salt!
1. Licensing: Almost two years ago a scandal erupted about how more than “705” of restaurants / F&Bs in Lebanon are not licensed. ofcourse the eventually faded in the Media (who wants to go against the corrupt lords).
So if we play down the numbers a little and say 50% of restaurants were not registered, it means they were not being monitored, nor are they aware of any safety guidelines / laws/ etc (given that these laws and guidelines exist). Yet they operate in broad daylight… tax-free?
A little story on that note. An extended family member runs a chicken shop in Saida, when he went to register the shop the employee at the ministry told him “We are not doing much surveillance these days, just open up and you can fix your papers when we officially start following up on licensing” (… no joke), they gave him a few pamphlets on some hygiene guidelines (basic knowledge, with no penalty guidelines) and he left. The guy decided to stick to all guidelines, such as packaging all food in transparent plastic bags since theses are least toxic, while alot of his competitors will serve you in black bags which stink of low quality recycling (and are also not hygienic)
Does the government care about licensing? Let’s toss a coin.
2. Ministries: I fail to understand the distribution of responsibilities and laws to ministries: It still baffles me why the #nosmoking174 law is implemented by the Ministry of Tourism? Isn’t that a health issue?
Why do you need to be licensed by the Ministry of tourism for an F&B institute, isn’t that a regular establishment and should be between ministry of health, economy, or something?
It always feels like there is no real reasoning or logic behind the way the government roles and responsibilities are distributed and when accountability becomes vague.. it disappears. Who is accountable for the F&B industry? slaughter houses? Imports / Exports of food products? Taxation of food and things that rot at the port because of un-bribed commissioners? Transportation of food vehicles and their regulations? (a personal rant, food rotting in your house due to lack of electricity!)
3. Guidelines: I spent a few hours on the ministry of health website trying to find guidelines and fines for restaurants / F&B institutes, no avail. anyone has a link? PDF? Audio file? book?
What are the requirements, guidelines, safety procedures and precautions, etc, that institutions need to abide by, and what are the attached penalties…. this needs to be public and basic knowledge. For the Minister to go on TV so blatantly and confidently bashing people left and right based on nothing… is a pure reflection of this moronic government that declares itself God, no questions asked, just selective penalties on the average citizen that doesn’t swing to a war-lords mercy.
Something like this would help: “All kitchen staff should wear gloves made of approved, non-toxic, material while handling food and surfaces (detailed list of approved materials) – no complying equals fine of $5,000″
There should be at least 500 pages of these, detailed for these “campaigns” to have an legitimacy!
4. Inspections: … ah the beautiful pile of dung that protects us: Health and Safety inspectors. A minority of which depend on their salaries, and a majority of which own castles and Ferraris (and not from bonuses for their hard work). No need for further elaboration.
Inspectors, there has been complaints about the way food was removed from restaurants / institutions for inspection and the criteria used.
5. Media: So Faour the savior is trying to convince us that he is looking after our safety and best interest. Let’s start with the basics: quit the crap.
The F&B industry is one of the most lively segments of the Lebanese economy, it employees alot of students, and affects all sectors (agriculture, transportation, machinery (fridges, stoves, etc), dairy, marketing, and much more). Putting the reputation of a whole segment on the line without much thought is irresponsible. To all of our knowledge none of these institutes have received any warnings prior to exposing them on international TV, radio, print and media! International!
Look, no one likes to be put of business. If inspectors came in and fined / warned institutions without being bribed, restaurants and other institutes would have (if needed) got their act together. Unless Faour was trying to threaten the inspectors that he is over-riding them? … there’s a Lebanese saying “عم إحكيكي يا جارة لتسمعي يا كنة” (Translation: “I sharing with my neighbor so my daughter-in-law can listen” – it’s something used when the Mother-in-law (or anyone) wants to get the message across to their daughter-in-law in-directly). In the F&B industry, reputation is a killer, would you go to a place you’ve heard bad things about? Would you step into a shop you saw nasty pictures of on Twitter / Facebook?
On the other hand, some factories and institutions have been battling in court for a few years over unaccredited material that they use in their products, but somehow our media has not picked up on that… is it not the right of consumers to know that there are question markets about food brands they consume on daily basis?
6. Consumer Protection Authority? … uhm, hello? *echo*
7. The Slaughterhouse (maslakh) has been a political battleground for the past decade. It is no secret that the neighboring residents do not want the Beirut slaughterhouse to stay in their surroundings, while those responsible for it, are refusing to move. As the alliances clash (Slaughterhouse vs. Mayor (elected by people in area)) the slaughterhouse has been rejected the budget for renovation for the past years.Workers are aware of the problem, they want to fix it, but conflicting alliances are key to making the slaughter house bad beyond recognition and salvation to have a good excuse to close it down. the kinda sick world we live in.
…. this could go on for alot.
I want to clarify a few things. I personally believe that Lebanon’s fines are among the cheapest you can find, which is kind of dumb, fining those that break the law should be a major source of income for all governments. But for you to be able to fine people, they have to be well-informed of their liabilities and penalties.
There are supermarkets that have been under the spotlight for bad hygiene and storage for more than 5-6 years now with very little interference from the ministry. If you have every lived abroad, (or been to supermarkets that run on their international standards) you will notice that many of the other supermarkets are too warm (even for dry foods), humid, and the fridges sections are as cold as they should be, the meats and cheese section usually have a light smell, which they shouldn’t. It’s not the most inviting experience.
If this “campaign” (and minister) are legitimate about their concerns; the following steps should be at least the below and preferably more:
1. Very clear and ridiculously detailed guidelines for every thing F&B related (from purchase origin, shipping, import, taxation, handling, transportation, storage and cooking, etc) need to be developed. And need to be disseminated to all F&B stakeholders.
2. Unlicensed restaurants and F&B institutions need to be shutdown, or given a grace period to obtain licenses before penalties are enforced.
3. Times have changed, alot of guidelines need updating. Maybe restauranteurs need a fresh whim of education, a series of workshops, running year-long by the syndicates to inform owners, workers, chefs, etc on the latest laws and procedures, safety and hygiene?
4. Customer awareness; Inspectors can’t be the only ones monitoring the health of citizens, customers should be aware of what could harm them. There are at least a few dozen red-flags that citizens can look out for while buying food or eating out that could help keep us all safe.
5. Collaborating with the health-care providers and hospitals to provide ongoing reports on diseases and illness reported by patients after eating from/at places. There will be alot of nuances for sure, but if the occurrences are frequent enough… that’s a definite red flag (and wax)!
Campfire Night at Ramlet Al Bayda – by Nahnoo
Reclaiming Public Space in Beirut
The program includes:
TaiChai at sunset (5-6pm)
See you then!
من ضمن حملة بيضا .. رملتنا لاستعادة وتفعيل رملة البيضا كشط عام شعبي تدعوكم جمعية نحن والإئتلاف المدني للحفاظ على المساحات العامة والتنقل الحضري الى سهرة نار على شاطئ رملة البيضارفضا لتسييج رملة البيضا واحتججا على عدم ازالة السور عن دالية الروشة بالاضافة الى عدم فتح حرش بيروت حتى الآن برغم الوعود المتكررة.
إنضمو إلينا في سهرة نار على شاطئ رملة البيضا
إنضمو إلينا من أجل الحفاظ على حقنا بمساحات عامة مكرسة لمصلحتنا.
تاي شي عند الغروب من الساعة الخامسة حتى السادسة
مراسيم سهرة النار