Friday, May 16, 2014

Wealthy Syrian refugees fill the gentrified former neighbourhood of Istanbul’s displaced Romanies & more

Wealthy Syrian refugees fill the gentrified former neighbourhood of Istanbul’s displaced Romanies
Parading around the derelict salon of this decrepit house, Polat, not old enough to know the life his ancestors lived, bangs his family’s gold drum with gusto. His father Ali watches and, despite guarding his emotions, lets slip a smile.

A few years ago, a distinct ­music and dance emanated from the streets of Sulukule in Istanbul, once Europe’s oldest continuous settlement for 3,500 of Ali’s people, the Romanies. But now, the echoes of Romany culture have been silenced as well-to-do refugees from neighbouring Syria have filled the wood-panelled duplexes built atop the paved-over ruins of the historic Romany ­settlement.
A family from Homs sits in the small backyard of one of the houses. They are unregistered refugees. “We came here because we knew people in the area,” says the matriarch, a middle-aged lady in modest attire. The family pay 1,100 Turkish lira (Dh1,949) each month in rent to their Turkish landlord. “The neighbours are fine,” she adds. “They don’t speak Arabic and we don’t speak their language so we just nod at each other."

Ali, 42, was once a proud landowner who made his living by playing music, a trade he hopes to pass on to his sons Vurgun, 8, and Polat, 6. Ali and his family now live in a crumbling one-storey house just outside a new luxury condo complex in Sulukule, the setting of his former residence. His new “home” is separated from the place he was born and raised by a rickety fence made out of tin sheets. The view from his doorway is a constant reminder of his loss.

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Tsunami drill: not so hypothetical?

BYBLOS, Lebanon: A response training exercise aimed at dealing with a hypothetical tsunami inflicting heavy casualties and structural damage was performed Thursday in the coastal city of Byblos, north of Beirut.
Yet, although many scoffed at the prospect that such a disaster could strike Lebanon, which is bordered by the calm MediterraneanSea, experts believe the country faces a serious threat.
“A tsunami is very likely and scientifically certain to happen in the future in the eastern Mediterranean,” said Ata Elias, a geology professor at the American University of Beirut.
Thursday’s exercise simulated an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter scale striking 200 km from the Lebanese coast and causing a tsunami to arrive 20 minutes later. Funded by the Swiss Development Agency through the UNDP, the training is part of a larger program run by UNDP’s Disaster Risk Management Unit in coordination with the prime minister’s office since 2010.

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No identification? Stand at the back of the line
HALBA/Lebanon: While Lebanon was holding its last official census in 1932, Marwan Warideh’s grandfather, a native of the Wadi Khaled region located on Lebanon’s northern outskirts, went to his local mukhtar’s office in order to apply for identification.
When he arrived, however, he was told the census worker was taking a break. Unable to register himself or his family, all of them were left without any type of formal identification, effectively stateless, for the next 60 years.
At the time, Warideh said, it wasn’t such a big deal. These days, however, it is.
In Lebanon, stateless people tend to have a bleak future. They are deprived of a number of rights, such as receiving National Social Security Fund payouts when they get ill, and their chances of having a proper career are slim.

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Mayor pokes hole in Beirut bike path bid

BEIRUT: Beirut’s first bike lane was cast into controversy Tuesday, when the local municipality ordered its organizers to remove the bright blue paint from the sidewalk of the seaside Corniche area.
The bike lane was painted under an initiative put into action by G Association, a non-governmental organization that focuses on the environment and energy, but Beirut’s Mayor Bilal Hamad told The Daily Star that the NGO had not received the permission necessary to start their project.
“[The project] was authorized by the previous governor without taking the OK from the [municipal] council ... which is against the law,” said Hamad, adding that the Beirut municipality had been studying a request by the NGO to mark the lane but had not yet given the go-ahead.
Power plant under fire as water pollution mars beach hotspot

JIYYEH, Lebanon: The sea surrounding a coastal power plant in Lebanon is being polluted, according to a statement issued by the Professional Divers Union.
The statement, released by union head Mohammad Sarji Tuesday, said a recent surge in pollution had come from the Jiyyeh power plant, south of Beirut, and accused those behind it of being “careless and irresponsible” about cleaning the plant’s machinery and smoke pipes and allowing the runoff to enter the sea.
Locals said large sections of the sea had been covered in an unidentified black substance, initially thought to be an oil spill, last Sunday.
“The sea and the shore were all covered in black,” said Malaz al-Ali, 30, an employee at a local cement factory, while he stood on the litter-strewn Jiyyeh beach. He added that the waves had washed the sea and shore clean since Sunday.
Locals interviewed near the power plant Wednesday said they first noticed the pollution Sunday, likening it to oil spills that once frequently plagued the coast in the area.

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(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Civil defense criticized for Baabda fire response time

Efforts to fight a massive fire that engulfed swathes of forest area in the Baabda region Monday were called into question by locals who complained the response was slow and inefficient.
“We saw a small fire far away so we called the fire department and the municipality, but no one came to put it out,” said Elie Meshab, a resident of the area. “If they had come, it wouldn’t have grown as big as it did.”
Many residents said that Monday’s fire was the biggest they’ve seen in years. Plumes of thick, dark smoke and bright orange flames filled the air in the morning, burning through large sections of the thick, green forest of Betshai and leaving behind only piles of grey and black ash. Many residents temporarily left their homes to stay with relatives or in hotels, as firefighters and the Army’s engineering unit struggled to fight back the flames.
Cedars tracks hopes to raise awareness
Cedars: The Remix’ may not be topping the charts yet, but a new initiative hopes tracks produced using the rhythm of the ancient trees will raise awareness about the need to preserve conifers. “3,000 Years' is the first track in history created using a rhythm extracted from inside a Lebanese cedar tree. Composed by Beirut-based DJ ESC (Ribal Rayess), the track is the focal point of the 'Save the Music' campaign for cedar conservation in Lebanon,” reads the information on the website where three tracks, the original mix and two remixes, are available for download. The tracks were released by VL Records.
Experts: Prevention key to addressing drug abuse
Often cited by authorities and experts as the most effective defense against abuse and addiction among adolescents, methods of prevention are underfunded in Lebanon despite the rise in drug use among youths.“Experts suggest that when tackling substance use among adolescents primary prevention is the best choice,” read an assessment released in 2013 by Sagesse Universityin coordination with World Vision and Australian AID. “The earlier prevention is introduced into adolescents’ lives, the better chance they would have to stay away from substance use and other risky behaviors.”
 Citizens, like politicians, divided over president
With Wednesday’s parliamentary presidential election session looming, several Lebanese described to The Daily Star what qualities the next president should embody.As has been the case throughout Lebanon’s history, the population is divided over what characteristics President Michel Sleiman’s successor should possess. Most, however, agreed on one universal principle: The next president should be able to lead Lebanon away from instability.
“Everyone has his own opinion, but I think we need someone to stop the economic, security and political crises,” said Samir al-Asmar, a 62-year-old taxi driver from Hadath.
 The unusual suspects in the presidential race
While a known political figure is widely expected to fill the soon-to-be-vacant post of Lebanese president, the lack of selection criteria has given rise to a number of nonpolitical candidates as well, including a few looking for a change from the usual suspects. When a Lebanese citizen decides to run for Parliament, they must meet certain criteria. They must be a Lebanese citizen for more than 10 years, hold a clean judicial record and pay an LL10,000,000 registration fee to be eligible to run. The post of president however, only requires that the candidate be a member of the Maronite sect. If this prerequisite is satisfied, then the candidate only needs to hold a news conference to announce their candidacy.
Drug industry insiders allege dubious practices in sector
Pharmaceutical industry insiders say dubious business practices are widespread in the Lebanon’s drugs sector following an announcement by a British company that it was investigating bribery allegations in Jordan and Lebanon. GlaxoSmithKline is the United Kingdom’s largest drug firm and has recently been beset by controversy for allegedly bribing doctors in exchange for favoring their pharmaceutical products. Pharmaceutical industry insiders interviewed by The Daily Star said that while full-on bribery was uncommon in Lebanon, a number of shady strategies are employed by pharmaceutical companies to push their products both locally and abroad.
“I believe that at least 90 percent of pharmaceutical companies offer certain kinds of, I wouldn’t say bribes, but sponsorship,” said a nine-year veteran of the pharmaceutical industry, speaking on condition of strict anonymity. All industry insiders requested their names be withheld for fear of losing their jobs or hurting their chances at future employment.