Adonis Diaries

Archive for June 2nd, 2014

News stories this week

Samir Ayach's photo.

Here’s some of the most important news stories you might have missed from the past week.

1. Citizens Urged to Reduce Water Consumption

(Photo via Daily Star)

The Environment Ministry urged citizens to reduce water consumption on account of the massive decline in rainfall, The Daily Star reported Thursday.

The ministry released a water conservation guide and urged Lebanese NGOs to promote it.

Lebanon witnessed a drastic decrease in rainfall this year at just 40% of the yearly average, raising the threat of possible future drought problems.

(Last year it rained a lot. Still, no water reached the homes and we relied of the water trucks at the cost of $60 per shipment every two weeks)

2. Twenty Five People Arrested After Brawl in Bourj Hammoud

(Photo via Daily Star)

A catcalling incident escalated into an ethnic brawl Saturday in Bourj Hammoud.

According to The Daily Star newspaper, a Syrian Kurdish man made provocative comments to a woman walking with her fiancée, prompting a group of Lebanese and Lebanese-Armenian citizens to try and break into the home of the Syrian-Kurdish man and his four brothers.

As the confrontation escalated, one of the Syrian Kurdish men threw a gas canister, causing one victim to faint. The row ended when security forces intervened. In all, 25 people were arrested.

(Apparently, Syrian refugees rent a room and live 6 in the room)

3. Lebanon Faces Presidential Vacuum

(Photo via Naharnet)

The 5th round of the presidential elections on Thursday ended in failure as lawmakers were unable to reach a quorum to vote (two third of the deputies or 68 of them).

The country’s top Christian spot will remain vacant after President Michel Sleiman leaves Baabda Palace on Sunday.

The session was boycotted by the March 8 alliance, whose members claim that a consensual candidate must be agreed upon first before heading to parliament.

(The March 14 coalition put forth a warlord criminal, Samir Jaaja3, as their preferred candidate to be President. Samir Jaaja3 served a 11-year prison term for assassinating scores of people, including Prime Ministers, and was liberated politically after the withdrawal of the Syrian troops in 2005. Apparently, candidates to the presidential post don’t need to submit  clean judiciary records as members of city councils)

(Read note on the President The Void)

4. Refurbished Sanayeh Park to open on June 1

(Photo via Daily Star)

The Rene Mouawad Garden, commonly known as Sanayeh Park, will reopen to the public on June 1 after a year-long $2.5 million renovation.

A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on May 31 by the Beirut Municipality and the Azadea Foundation, the retail holding company that funded the renovations. According to CEO Marwan Moukarzel, the garden will remain free and open to the public for 12 hours a day. It will close in the evening.

5. Snake Causes Crash in South Lebanon

A file photo of a Lebanese Red Cross ambulance. (Image via The Daily Star)


Eleven people were wounded in South Lebanon after a mother, identified as Fatmeh Daoud Yassin, swerved the SUV she was driving to avoid a snake in the road.

According to The Daily Star, the vehicle overturned, injuring everyone inside including Yassin’s four children, all between the ages of two and six-years-old.

Also wounded were Amal Rida Nasser, Yassin’s friend, and her three children. Two other unidentified people in the vehicle were also injured.

Note: President Suleiman https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/president-the-void-the-insipid-vacated-palace-warmed-an-empty-chair-and-left-it-vacant-account-in-banks-by-the-millions/

 

Get in touch with your MPs

One of the best ways to hold government accountable is to get in touch with your representatives and let them know how you feel.

Let them know what concerns you. Most of all, let them know you are listening and watching what they are doing.

In many “democratic” and developed countries, representatives coordinates and emails are officially available to contact.

In Lebanon, you have to do your due diligence in order to investigate “how to contact your representative“.

Even if you manage to link up with your representative, it is hardly likely that you will get any response.

Actually, your deputies don’t give a hoot about your opinion or your inkling to vote for him: They automatically vote to extend their tenure in the Parliament “two more years“. In due time, it is the leaders of the “political” parties and warlords who round up the chattel to vote for the representative.

Four years is not enough to amass millions and to trample your rights and dignity.

 posted this May 30, 2014:

Screen Shot of Nouweb site
 
 
 
 
Now thanks to a great new tool developed by local groups SMEX and Lamba Labs, you can actually contact your members of Parliament.
As I reported last year most MPs don’t even have email–which goes a long way toward explaining why our internet is among the world’s slowest.
But fortunately most, if not all of them, still have phone numbers, office numbers and secretaries and they are now available on Nouweb (deputies).
This is a really great tool, which could help spark something we desperately lack in Lebanon and much of the world: representative government. Remember, no matter where you live in the world, government will rarely work for you unless you let them know you are listening.
As my mom always says, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
So if you see something wrong, if the police are not enforcing laws–if people are dumping garbage in the valley, if you want 24 hour electricity, if you want traffic laws, if you are sick of being almost run over by reckless drivers, call your MP. Be civil. Be polite. Be clear and concise.
If they don’t answer, call again, leave a message. Make your voice heard, because no one is going to make it heard for you. No one is going to give you rights unless you demand them. And everyone has a right to speak to their MPs.
Don’t forget, we are paying their salaries!
Finally if the good folks that developed Nouweb can make this list possible, then it is also definitely possible that you can do something with it!

For non-Arabic speakers the site’s name is a clever play on words combining Nuweb– the Arabic term for parliamentarians–and web)  

 

Urban decay: The peril of Hipster economics?

Fighting Urban Blight With Art

When urban decay becomes a set piece to be remodeled or romanticized.

On May 16, an artist, a railway service and a government agency spent $291,978 to block poverty from the public eye.

Called psychylustro, German artist Katharina Grosse’s project is a large-scale work designed to distract Amtrak train riders from the dilapidated buildings and fallen factories of north Philadelphia.

The city has a 28 % poverty rate – the highest of any major US city – with much of it concentrated in the north. In some north Philadelphia elementary schools, nearly every child is living below the poverty line.

Grosse partnered with the National Endowment of the Arts and Amtrak to mask North Philadelphia’s hardship with a delightful view. The Wall Street Journal calls this “Fighting Urban Blight With Art“.

Liz Thomas, the curator of the project, calls it “an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurtle through every day”.

The project is not actually fighting blight, of course – only the ability of Amtrak customers to see it.

“I need the brilliance of colour to get close to people, to stir up a sense of life experience and heighten their sense of presence,” Grosse proclaims.

“People”, in Grosse and Thomas’s formulation, are not those who actually live in north Philadelphia and bear the brunt of its burdens. “People” are those who can afford to view poverty through the lens of aesthetics as they pass it by.

Influx of hipsters

In February, director Spike Lee delivered an impassioned critique – derisively characterised as a “rant” by US media outlets – on the gentrification of New York city. Arguing that an influx of “… hipsters” had driven up rent in most neighbourhoods – and in turn driven out the African-American communities that once called them home – he noted how long-dormant city services suddenly reappeared:

“Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every day when I was living in 165 Washington Park… So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!”

Lee was criticised by many for “hipster-bashing”, including African-American professor John McWhorter, who claimed that “hipster” was “a sneaky way of saying ‘honkey'” and compared Lee to television character George Jefferson.

These dismissals, which focus on gentrification as culture, ignore that Lee’s was a critique of the racist allocation of resources.

Black communities whose complaints about poor schools and city services go unheeded find these complaints are readily addressed when wealthier, whiter people move in.

Meanwhile, long-time locals are treated as contagions on the landscape, targeted by police for annoying the new arrivals.

Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.

Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it “cleaned up the neighbourhood”. This is often code for a literal white-washing.

The problems that existed in the neighbourhood – poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services – did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location.

That new location is often an impoverished suburb, which lacks the glamour to make it the object of future renewal efforts. There is no history to attract preservationists because there is nothing in poor suburbs viewed as worth preserving, including the futures of the people forced to live in them.

This is blight without beauty, ruin without romance: payday loan stores, dollar stores, unassuming homes and unpaid bills. In the suburbs, poverty looks banal and is overlooked.

In cities, gentrifiers have the political clout – and accompanying racial privilege – to reallocate resources and repair infrastructure. The neighbourhood is “cleaned up” through the removal of its residents.

Gentrifiers can then bask in “urban life” – the storied history, the selective nostalgia, the carefully sprinkled grit – while avoiding responsibility to those they displaced.

Hipsters want rubble with guarantee of renewal. They want to move into a memory they have already made.

Impoverished suburbs

In a sweeping analysis of displacement in San Francisco and its increasingly impoverished suburbs, journalist Adam Hudson notes that “gentrification is trickle-down economics applied to urban development: the idea being that as long as a neighbourhood is made suitable for rich and predominantly white people, the benefits will trickle down to everyone else”.

Like trickle-down economics itself, this theory does not play out in practice.

Rich cities such as New York and San Francisco have become what journalist Simon Kuper calls gated citadels: “Vast gated communities where the 1% reproduces itself.”

Struggling US cities of the rust belt and heartland lack the investment of coastal contemporaries, but have in turn been spared the rapid displacement of hipster economics.

Buffered by their eternal uncoolness, these slow-changing cities have a chance to make better choices – choices that value the lives of people over the aesthetics of place.

In an April blog post, Umar Lee, a St Louis writer and full-time taxi driver, bemoaned the economic model of rideshare services, which are trying to establish themselves in the city. Noting that they hurt not only taxi drivers but poor residents who have neither cars nor public transport and thus depend on taxis willing to serve dangerous neighbourhoods, he dismisses Uber and Lyft as hipster elitists masquerading as innovators:

“I’ve heard several young hipsters tell me they’re socially-liberal and economic-conservative, a popular trend in American politics,” he writes. “Well, I hate to break it to you buddy, but it’s economics and the role of the state that defines politics. If you’re an economic conservative, despite how ironic and sarcastic you may be or how tight your jeans are, you, my friend, are a conservative …”

Lee tells me he has his own plan to try to mitigate the negative effects of gentrification, which he calls “50-50-20-15”. All employers who launch businesses in gentrifying neighbourhoods should have a workforce that is at least 50 percent minorities, 50 percent people from the local neighbourhood, and 20 percent ex-offenders. The employees should be paid at least $15 per hour.

Gentrification spreads the myth of native incompetence: That people need to be imported to be important, that a sign of a neighbourhood’s “success” is the removal of its poorest residents.

True success lies in giving those residents the services and opportunities they have long been denied.

When neighbourhoods experience business development, priority in hiring should go to locals who have long struggled to find nearby jobs that pay a decent wage.

Let us learn from the mistakes of New York and San Francisco, and build cities that reflect more than surface values.

Sarah Kendzior is a St Louis-based writer who studies politics and media.

 


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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