Adonis Diaries

Archive for August 1st, 2015

Yalla, Bye: Departing letter of Tom Fletcher, British Ambassador to Lebanon

Dear Lebanon,

Sorry to write again. But I’m leaving your extraordinary country after four years. Unlike your politicians, I can’t extend my own term.

When I arrived, my first email said ‘welcome to Lebanon, your files have been corrupted’. It should have continued: never think you understand it, never think you can fix it, never think you can leave unscathed. I dreamt of Beirutopia and Leb 2020 , but lived the grim reality of the Syria war.

Bullets and botox. Dictators and divas. Warlords and wasta. Machiavellis and mafia. Guns, greed and God.

Game of Thrones with RPGs. Human rights and hummus rights.

Four marathons, 100 blogs, 10,000 tweets, 59 calls on Prime Ministers, 600+ long dinners, 52 graduation speeches, two #OneLebanon rock concerts, 43 grey hairs, a job swap with a domestic worker, a walk the length of the coast (Video).

I got to fly a Red Arrow upside down, and a fly over Lebanon’s northern border to see how LAF is enforcing Lebanese sovereignty.

I was even offered a free buttock lift – its value exceeded our £140 gift limit, so that daunting task is left undone.

Your politics are also daunting, for ambassadors as well as Lebanese citizens.

When we think we’ve hit bottom, we hear a faint knocking sound below.

Some oligarchs tell us they agree on change but can’t. They flatter and feed us.

They needlessly overcomplicate issues with layers of conspiracy, creative fixes, intrigue.

They undermine leaders working in the national interest. Then do nothing, and blame opponents/another sect/Sykes-Picot/Israel/Iran/Saudi (delete as applicable).

They then ask us to move their cousin’s friend in front of people applying for a visa.

It is Orwellian, infuriating and destructive of the Lebanese citizens they’re supposed to serve.

But this frustration beats the alternative – given potential for mishap, terror or invasion, there is no substitute for unrelenting, maddening, political process.

Kahlil Gibran said ‘you have your Lebanon, I have mine’.

When the Middle East was in flames, and its people caught between tyrants and terrorists, the Lebanon I will remember sent its soldiers to protect the borders; confronted daily frustrations to build businesses and to educate its children; and showed extraordinary generosity to outsiders, be they ambassadors or refugees.

The Lebanon I will remember is not asking for help, but for oxygen.

It is not arguing over the past, but over the future. It is not debating which countries hold it back, but how to move forward.

It is not blaming the world, but embracing it.

People will look back at what we have come through and ask how Lebanon survived?

But we already know the answer: never underestimate the most resilient people on the planet. A people that has, for millennia, beaten the odds. ()Next to the Palestinians and the Syrians)

I hope you will also look back and say that the Brits helped you to hold your corner.

Giving those soldiers the training and equipment to match their courage.

Giving those pupils the books to match their aspiration.

Giving those businesses the networks to match their ambition.

Building international conspiracies for Lebanon, not against it.

And above all, believing you would beat the odds. Four years: 100 times the financial support, ten times the military support, double the trade.

We even helped Walid Joumblatt join Twitter. (Ya rayto khere wa ma joined Twitter)

What could the West have done differently? Many of you have a long list.

We are at last feeling ourselves to a serious conversation with Iran, and a credible political process that leaves Syrians with more than the barrel bomber and the box office brutality of Da’esh.

I hope President Obama can deliver his aim of a Palestinian state with security and dignity.

I hope we can talk to our enemies as well as our friends – aka diplomacy.

I hope we rediscover an international system that aspires to protect the most vulnerable: the problem with an ethical foreign policy was not the ambition but the execution, and Syria must not be RIP R2P.

The driving quest of diplomacy is for imperfect ways to help people not kill each other.

Let’s not give up on the idea that the Middle East can find security, justice and opportunity. I hope other countries reflect on what they could do differently too.

They say that Lebanon is a graveyard for idealism. Not mine.

It has been a privilege to share this struggle with you. I believe you can defy the history, the geography, even the politics.

You can build the country you deserve. Maybe even move from importing problems to exporting solutions.

The transition from the civil war generation lies ahead, and will be tough.

You can’t just party and pray over the cracks. But you can make it, if you have an idea of Lebanon to believe in.

You need to be stronger than the forces pulling you apart. Fight for the idea of Lebanon, not over it.

And we need you to fight hard. Reading your history in a musty Oxford library over four years ago, I realised that if we cannot win the argument for tolerance and diversity in Lebanon, we will lose it everywhere.

That’s why we’ve helped – it is in our national interest too. This is the frontline for a much bigger battle.

The real dividing line is not between Christianity and Islam, Sunni and Shia, East and West. It is between people who believe in coexistence, and those who don’t.

So if the internet doesn’t work, build a new internet.

If the power supply doesn’t work, build a new power supply.

If the politics don’t work, build a new politics. If the economy is mired in corruption and garbage piles up, build a new economy.

If Lebanon doesn’t work, build a new Lebanon. It is time to thrive, not just survive.

I worried I was too young for this job. I discovered I was too old.

We experimented on Twitter – first tweet-up with a PM, with a diva, first RT of a Western diplomat by the President of Iran, online scraps with terrorists and satirists, #Leb2020 and much more.

I hope it amplified our impact in an authentic, engaging and purposeful way. I have banged on about how digital will change diplomacy.

Someone should write a book about how it will also change power, and how we can marshall it to confront the threats to our existence. Now there’s an idea.

You gave me Bekaa sunrises and Cedars sunsets.

You gave me the adventure of my life, and plenty of reasons to fear for it.

You gave me extraordinary friends, and you took some away. I loved your hopeless causes and hopeful hearts, shared your tearful depths and your breathless heights.

There are 8 stages of life as an ambassador here. Seduction. Frustration. Exhilaration. Exhaustion. Disaffection. Infatuation. Addiction. Resignation.

I knew them all, often simultaneously. I wouldn’t have swapped it for anywhere in the world.

I and the brilliant embassy team are still buying shares in Lebanon 2020. I’m finishing my time as an Ambassador to Lebanon, but with your permission I’ll always be an ambassador for Lebanon.

Many of you ask me why I remain positive about this country.

All I ever tried to do was hold a mirror up and show you how beautiful you really are. Shine on, you crazy diamond.

Please stay in touch.

3asha Lubnan (wa ta7ya Surya)

Yalla, bye

Andrew Bossone shared this link and commented:

Wealthy ambassador claims to live “the grim realities of the Syria war,” calls the country Orwellian but doesn’t mention he spread spy cameras across it (is that the “building international conspiracies” he refers to?),

Wealthy ambassador who mocks divas and wasta for visas but argued it should be easier to take his dark-skinned maid with him on travels.

Thomas of Arabia you did so much in so little time.

Nokia Tech’s Lebanese CEO:  Ramzi Haidamus

Taking Hollywood To The Next Frontiers

When Nokia Technologies was looking for a visionary mind to lead its way into the future, their choice fell on Lebanese Ramzi Haidamus a former Dolby Executive Vice President who has played a big role getting Dolby to where it is today.

During a small gathering with Ramzi in Beirut, one could tell from this man’s eyes that a hidden magic trick was up his sleeves and from the way he talked proudly about his Nokia team it was definitely going to be big!

Well the reveal started yesterday with two posts on Haidamus’ wall mysteriously captioned “nowhere”.

Nokia Ramzi Haidamus Ozo hollywood

As the event unraveled in Hollywood, the reason behind Nokia’s choice of location, became clear.

The tech company was taking the world into new frontiers of film making by releasing OZO, a futuristic new camera for filming virtual reality.

Intended primarily for non-consumer use (for now at least), the next-generation camera captures audio and video in 360 degrees giving users a full high quality immersive experience.

ozo ramzi haidamus nokia technologies virtual reality lebanon

The camera can also render, in a few minutes, a low resolution video of what is being shot thus allowing directors to fix and improve movie scenes without having to take the raw footage through long hours of post production.

The Verge, reporting on this big reveal, also spoke highly about the audio experience which is probably due to Haidamus’ long experience at Dolby:

“Audio is captured in three dimensions by eight microphones embedded in the camera, and the result is audio that helps to locate you in space. If you hear a dog barking behind you on in Ozo-produced VR, look behind you — you’ll see the dog.”



Kudos to Ramzi Haidamus and the Nokia team for proving that this company which once changed our lives through mobile technology is also able to lead humanity in a multitude of unpredictable fields and directions.

Until we get to witness this camera in action in movie theaters, you can check this video of OZO’s futuristic design!

Najat Rizk shared a link.
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 Ban on (artificial Intelligent) AI and autonomous weapons: Killer Robots?

Over 1,000 high-profile artificial intelligence experts and leading researchers have signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and calling for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”.

The letter, presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind chief executive Demis Hassabis and professor Stephen Hawking along with 1,000 AI and robotics researchers.

The letter states: “AI technology has reached a point where the deployment of [autonomous weapons] is – practically if not legally – feasible within years, not decades, and the stakes are high: autonomous weapons have been described as the third revolution in warfare, after gunpowder and nuclear arms.”

The authors argue that AI can be used to make the battlefield a safer place for military personnel, but that offensive weapons that operate on their own would lower the threshold of going to battle and result in greater loss of human life.

Should one military power start developing systems capable of selecting targets and operating autonomously without direct human control, it would start an arms race similar to the one for the atom bomb, the authors argue.

Unlike nuclear weapons, however, AI requires no specific hard-to-create materials and will be difficult to monitor.

“The endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting,” said the authors.

Toby Walsh, professor of AI at the University of New South Wales said:

“We need to make a decision today that will shape our future and determine whether we follow a path of good. We support the call by a number of different humanitarian organisations for a UN ban on offensive autonomous weapons, similar to the recent ban on blinding lasers.”

Musk and Hawking have warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat” and that the development of full AI could “spell the end of the human race”.

But others, including Wozniak have recently changed their minds on AI, with the Apple co-founder saying that robots would be good for humans, making them like the “family pet and taken care of all the time”.

At a UN conference in Geneva in April discussing the future of weaponry, including so-called “killer robots”, the UK opposed a ban on the development of autonomous weapons, despite calls from various pressure groups, including the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

The Guardian view on robots as weapons: the human factor

Andrew Bossone shared this link

No killer robots please

More than 1,000 experts and leading robotics researchers sign open letter warning of military artificial intelligence arms race|By Samuel Gibbs




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