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Lebanon is running out of time to avert starvation

By MICHAEL TANCHUM — — As Russia’s two-week-old war against Ukraine has brought Lebanon’s wheat imports from the besieged Black Sea nation to a complete standstill, the government in Beirut is racing against the clock to avert a catastrophic food crisis. The conflict has set off a food security problem for many nations across the Middle East and North Africa – a region that relies on the Black Sea wheat-growing region as their bread basket – but Lebanon’s situation is uniquely precarious. Its severe lack of storage capacity combined with its economic state of hyperinflation is to blame. The situation is dire, and in the absence of immediate financial assistance, a food system collapse could happen in a matter of weeks or even days.
Lebanon needs to import about 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat each month to cover the nation’s demand for bread, and the government had relied on Ukraine to provide about two thirds of that wheat supply, amounting to more than 400,000 metric tonnes per year. Lebanon used to be able to store four months’ worth of wheat reserves, but the August 2020 Beirut Port explosion destroyed the country’s primary grain storage silos, removing 120,000 tonnes of storage capacity that has yet to be restored to this day. Lebanon’s other major port in Tripoli has no grain storage capacity, leaving the country to fend with only a one month’s storage by using warehouses owned by 12 mills.

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لقاء الجمهورية: طرح الميغاسنتر في هذا التوقيت ملتبس ونخشى ان ينسف مواعيد الاستحقاقات الدستورية

وطنية – عقد “لقاء الجمهورية” اجتماعه عبر تطبيق” زوم” برئاسة الرئيس ميشال سليمان واكد في بيان “ضرورة إجراء الانتخابات في مواعيدها، لانه عدا عن كونها حقا طبيعيا للمواطن وأحد الأعمدة الأساسية للنظام الديموقراطي، فإنها تشكل سدا بوجه تسلط الحكام والامعان في المحاصصة، لذا فلا يجوز وتحت أي غطاء أو عذر تأجيل مواعيد استحقاقها”، مشيرا الى ان” طرح تنفيذ الميغاسنتر على أهميته وضرورته في هذا التوقيت طرح ملتبس”، معربا عن خشيته من “ان ينسف مواعيد الاستحقاقات الدستورية”.

ورأى “في الحرب على اوكرانيا خروجا عن المألوف والمنتظر من الدول الكبرى”، واعتبر ان “حرية الدول تجسيد لحرية الفرد ويرفض اللجوء إلى القوة لتغيير نظام ما، أو فرض شروط معينة، وتشكل انتهاكا لحقوق الانسان ومواثيق الأمم المتحدة الملزمة للبنان وفق الفقرة “ب” من مقدمة الدستور وهذا الموقف لا يخرج اطلاقا عن سياسة الحياد”، مؤكدا  ان “الحوار هو الطريق الامثل لحل

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Minister Sejaan Azzi: لبنانُ مُلتقى العواصف















يَشعرُ اللبنانيّون أنَّ لبنانَ هو المحافظةُ الاحتياط في كلِّ دولةٍ من دولِ العالم. ما إِن تَندلعُ حربٌ، ولو في المرّيخ، حتى يهرَعَ اللبنانيّون ـــ قبل أهلِ البلدِ حيث تدورُ الحربُ ـــ إلى التساؤلِ عن انعكاساتِها عليهم. مُخزٍ أن يَربُطَ اللبنانيّون دائمًا مصيرَ بلدِهم بكلِّ أزْمةٍ أو حربٍ خارجيّة. هذه مُصيبةُ كلِّ دولةٍ يتولّى أحكامَها تَبعِـيّون ومحترفو هِوايات. وهذه بَليّةُ كلِّ وطنٍ يَتحوّلُ عددٌ من مكوّناتِه مستعمراتٍ لدولٍ أُخرى. وهذه مأساةُ كلِّ شعبٍ منقسِمٍ على ذاتِه وعاجزٍ، بالتالي، عن حمايةِ سيادتِه واستقلالِه. وحزبُ الله الذي يوهِـمُنا بأنَّ سلاحَه يَحمي لبنان، هو سببُ بقاءِ لبنان في عينِ العواصف، وهو عِلّةُ زيادةِ ارتباطِ مصيرِ لبنان بأحداثِ الشرقِ الأوسطِ والعالم. لا نُنكِرُ أنَّ القوّةَ هي ركيزةُ أيِّ استراتيجيّةٍ دفاعيّة، إِنما شرطَ أن تكونَ قوّةً شرعيّةً لأنَّ القوّةَ غيرَ الشرعيّةِ هي مصدرُ ضعفٍ ونذيرُ عدوان وتَفتقِدُ الشرعيّةَ الدوليّة.

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Blinken downplays reports of Saudi, UAE distrust of Biden admin

By Caitlin McFall | Fox News — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday downplayed the suggestion that the Biden administration was snubbed by oil-leading nations in the Middle East as the U.S. looks to counter surging oil prices amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. “We’re all talking regularly,” the secretary said. “I spent a fair bit of time on the phone with my Emirati counterpart,” he continued. “I regularly met with my Saudi counterpart, including in Munich, just a few weeks ago. President Biden spoke with King Salman of Saudi Arabia last month in a discussion that set out a very expansive agenda.”

The question was posed following a report Wednesday morning by The Wall Street Journal that claimed leaders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declined calls with Biden in recent weeks. The report also said Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the UAE’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyanspoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite declining to talk with Biden. “There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,” a U.S. official reportedly said of the planned discussion between the Saudi Prince Mohammed and Biden. “It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil].”

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Will the debate over ‘mega centers’ delay Lebanon’s parliamentary elections?

By NAJIA HOUSSARI — — BEIRUT: The Lebanese government is expected to make a decision on Thursday on whether to set up so-called mega centers to make it easier for people to vote in the country’s upcoming parliamentary elections. The aim of the facilities, which are favored by President Michel Aoun, is to allow voters to cast their ballots outside their area of registration, meaning they would not have to return to their hometowns to do so. However, it has been suggested that if the centers are created it could lead to the elections, currently scheduled for May 15, being delayed. After a ministerial committee completed a report into the issue, the Cabinet must now decide how to proceed based on its findings. If it approves the idea, a draft law would have to be submitted to parliament to allow the centers to be created. While Aoun’s camp said that “no legal measures were necessary to adopt the mega centers. It is very easy if the political intent is there,” the opposition said that “the issue requires legal amendments and will result in a very high financial cost.”

In the committee’s report, Tourism Minister Walid Nassar said: “The cost of establishing eight mega centers … does not exceed $2 million and they can be completed in no more than three weeks.” But Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said the technical requirements of setting up the facilities would lead to disruption. “The ministerial committee is against postponing the elections and insists on holding them on the designated date without any delay,” he said. The disruption would be caused by the need for the centers to have the “necessary principles and requirements in order to have a sound election,” he said. “It is not a tent that can be set up in neighborhoods with a ballot box on top of a table. It is way more complicated. “Mega centers without electronic connection, fiber optics and a central server that provides the necessary linkage are not actual mega centers, unless they want them to be like tents.” He added: “The company that will be in charge of this project will need up to three months to complete the task and link the main electoral centers to the mother server. Moreover, what applies to the Lebanese voters living outside the country should apply to voters residing in the country.”

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What Google, Amazon and Microsoft revealed about Ukraine’s cyber situation

by — Kyle Alspach — With limited information coming out of Ukraine about cyberattacks hitting the country, findings from tech giants Google, Amazon and Microsoft disclosed in recent days have provided a window into the cyber conditions in Ukraine as Russia’s brutal assault continues. All three companies have said they are providing cybersecurity support to Ukraine, whose government said on Saturday that it has been seeing “nonstop” distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks by “Russian hackers” since Russia’s invasion on February 24. However, as evidenced by the latest reports from Google, Amazon and Microsoft, Ukraine’s computing infrastructure has been the victim of more than just DDoS attacks amid Russia’s unprovoked military campaign (though we still have yet to learn of a crippling cyberattack against electricity, water and communications infrastructure).

Google, Amazon and Microsoft have a view into the security threat landscape through operating massive cloud computing platforms, applications used by many governments and businesses and a number of security solutions. AWS continues to maintain its lead in the market for cloud infrastructure services, according to Synergy Research Group, followed by Microsoft Azure at No. 2 and Google Cloud at No. 3. What follows are the latest details that Google, Amazon and Microsoft have revealed about Ukraine’s cyber situation.

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Hezbollah chief blasts Lebanon’s response to Russia-Ukraine conflict

By In response to Hezbollah speech, where is Hezbollah about their intervention in all of the gulf countries and neutrality policy?  Instead of blasting the Lebanese, giving lessons and imposing an Iranian State in Lebanon, Hezbollah should start respecting the Lebanese constitutions.

by Lorientlejour — BEIRUT – Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah Tuesday criticized Lebanon’s formal stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which demanded a stop to the war, saying “we should have told the United States we don’t want to be your slaves.”

Here’s what we know:

• The Lebanese Foreign Ministry had said in a statement the day the Russian invasion began that it condemns the “invasion of Ukraine” and “calls on Russia to immediately stop military operations.”

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Activists assaulted after trying to remove Soleimani poster at Beirut Book Fair

By Najia Houssari — — BEIRUT: A scuffle broke out on Monday at the Beirut International and Arab Book Fair taking place at the Seaside Arena after activists demanded that the displayed pictures of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani be taken down. The activists, among whom were Shafiq Badr and Nelly Qandil, were severely beaten up after chanting “Beirut Free, Iran Out!” Soleimani’s huge picture was displayed at one of the book fair’s pavilion that kicked off last Thursday, angered social media activists and mocked the exhibition as the “Tehran Book Fair.” A squad from the Internal Security Forces Intelligence Branch later arrived on the scene and launched investigations as a number of other activists arrived in solidarity. Badr is part of the “Lebanon Rises Up” group, while Qandil is part of the “Lebanese sovereign opposition” group.

The book fair, organized by the Arab Cultural Club, was launched in its 63rd session under the slogan “Beirut cannot be broken” after a three-year forced hiatus due to the economic crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Beirut port’s explosion. Traditionally, the exhibition takes place in January each year, which has confused some participating publishing houses. Ninety Lebanese publishing houses – from Syria and Egypt and 10 from Iran – are taking part in the exhibition.

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Scoop: Biden advisers weigh Saudi Arabia trip for more oil

By Hans Nichols — — President Biden’s advisers are discussing a possible visit to Saudi Arabia this spring to help repair relations and convince the Kingdom to pump more oil, Axios has learned. Why it matters: A hat-in-hand trip would illustrate the gravity of the global energy crisis driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden has chastised Saudi Arabia, and the CIA believes its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was involved in the dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The possibility also shows how Russia’s invasion is scrambling world’s alliances, forcing the U.S. to reorder its priorities — and potentially recalibrating its emphasis on human rights. Biden officials are in Venezuela this weekend to meet with the government of President Nicolás Maduro. Some Republicans and Democrats in Washington suggest Venezuela’s oil could replace Russia’s, according to the New York Times.

Any visit to the Persian Gulf would come amid a busy presidential travel schedule during the next few months. Biden will likely take trips to Japan, Spain, Germany and, potentially, Israel, Axios has also learned. What they’re saying: A White House spokesperson told Axios: “We don’t have any international travel to announce at this time, and a lot of this is premature speculation.” Zoom out: President Obama visited Saudi Arabia more often than any of his predecessors, a total of four trips, but relations frayed over the wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as differences about how to deal with Iran.

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Rubio: No-Fly Zone Declaration Over Ukraine ‘Means WW III’

By Fran Beyer — — Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Sunday said declaring a no-fly zone over embattled Ukraine “means World War III.” In an interview on ABC News’ “This Week,” Rubio said he’s “generally supportive” of providing fighter jets to Ukraine as it pushes back at Russia’s invasion. “A no-fly zone means World War III,” he said. “I think there are a lot of things we can do to help Ukraine protect itself both from air strikes and missile strikes. People need to understand what a no-fly zone means. It’s not a rule you pass that everybody has to oblige by. It’s the willingness to shoot down the aircrafts of Russia which is the beginning of World War III.”

According to Rubio, President Joe Biden is right to refuse a ban on Russian oil imports — and said the United States has to produce more American oil and buy less “or none at all” of Russia’s oil. “I think that’s something you can construct a plan to phase that in rapidly,” he asserted. “You could use reserves to buffer that. We have more than enough ability in this country to produce enough oil to make up for the percentage we buy from Russia.” Rubio declared the idea that banning Russian oil would raise prices on American consumers “is an admission that this guy, this killer, this butcher Vladimir Putin has leverage over us.” “Why would we want someone like him to have the power to raise gas prices on Americans?” he said. “I think we have enough of [U.S. oil].”

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Supermodel Adriana Lima visits school damaged by Beirut port blast

By — DUBAI: Just 48 hours after Adriana Lima debuted her baby bump and showed off her maternity style while sitting front row at the Balmain fashion show in Paris, the Brazilian supermodel jetted off to Lebanon for an advocacy mission in collaboration with the Education Above All Foundation, an international organization founded in 2012 by Qatar’s Sheikha Moza bint Nasser that aims to improve the lives of poor and marginalized children, youth and women. On Sunday, Lima, 40, was photographed at the site of the Beirut port explosion, which tore through the Lebanese capital city on Aug. 4, 2020, killing over 200 people, injuring thousands and leaving 300,000 without a home. The model went to Lebanon for an advocacy mission. Supplied The explosion caused widespread damage, destroying much of the capital and leaving homes, schools and shops decimated. The former Victoria’s Secret model, who is expecting her third child with partner Andre Lemmers, also visited a school damaged by the blast and rehabilitated by UNESCO with the support of the EAAF and met with children and teachers who were victims of the devastating explosion.

Lima, who is celebrating 25 years in the fashion industry, is also a humanitarian who often uses her platform to advocate for disadvantaged groups. She met with children and teachers who were victims of the devastating explosion. Supplied Among the causes she supports is the St. Luke Foundation for Haiti, which provides expectant mothers with medical care and facilitates education in disadvantaged communities. She also gives back to orphaned children in her native Salvador, Brazil, through Caminhos da Luz (or Paths of Light). In 2009, she appeared on “Var mısın? Yok musun?,” the Turkish version of reality television series “Deal or No Deal,” and her prize money was donated to a hospital in Istanbul for children fighting leukemia. The expectant mother of two is among a long list of celebrities who have shown support for the Levant nation following the Aug. 4 blast.

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Visa, Mastercard Stopping All Russian Transactions

By Sandy Fitzgerald — — Visa and Mastercard announced Saturday they will stop all credit card transactions connected with Russian clients and financial institutions in the upcoming days over the deadly invasion of Ukraine following a plea made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to members of the Senate earlier in the day. “We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” Al Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer of Visa Inc., said in a press release posted on Business Wire. “We regret the impact this will have on our valued colleagues, and on the clients, partners, merchants, and cardholders we serve in Russia. This war and the ongoing threat to peace and stability demand we respond in line with our values.”

The credit card giant said this means that effective immediately, Visa will be working with clients and partners inside of Russia to stop all Visa transactions, including through merchants and ATMs. Once complete, all transactions that are initiated with Visa cards that were issued in Russia will no longer work outside the country, and cards that were issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will not work within the Russian Federation, the company said. Mastercard, in a separate statement Saturday, said they are also ceasing all operations in Russia over the invasion. “For more than a week, the world has watched the shocking and devastating events resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the company said. “Our colleagues, our customers, and our partners have been affected in ways that most of us could not imagine.  Just after the invasion, Mastercard blocked multiple financial institutions from its payment network, while saying it was continuing to work with regulators to abide by compliance obligations.

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Saudi prince tries damage control, says murdered Jamal Khashoggi wouldn’t make ‘top 1,000’ on his hit list

By Douglas Perry – — By Douglas Perry | The Oregonian/OregonLive 00 Mohammed bin Salman continues to insist he did not order the 2018 murder of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. In an interview with The Atlantic, the 36-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia, widely known as MBS, said Khashoggi wasn’t important enough to kill. “I never read a Khashoggi article in my life,” he said. He added: “If that’s the way we did things, Khashoggi would not even be among the top 1,000 people on the list. If you’re going to go for another operation like that, for another person, it’s got to be professional and it’s got to be one of the top 1,000.”

The Atlantic reporter Graeme Wood writes that, throughout the interview, MBS “gave relaxed, nonpsychopathic answers to questions…” But Wood makes plain that he believes MBS is, indeed, a psychopath. He also suggests that the crown prince is transforming Saudi Arabia in ways that are, in many respects, good for the people of the oil-rich nation, turning it from “one of the world’s weirdest countries into a place that could plausibly be called normal.” The crown prince, needless to say, agrees that his reforms are a boon for his country. “Where is the potential in the world today?” MBS said, directing his comment to U.S. politicians and companies. “It’s in Saudi Arabia. And if you want to miss it, I believe other people in the East are going to be super happy.” When asked about the Biden Administration’s concerns about political repression in Saudi Arabia — and its public release of the CIA assessment that MBS was directly responsible for Khashoggi’s brutal murder — the crown prince said President Biden should worry about his own country. “We don’t have the right to lecture you in America,” he said. “The same goes the other way.” — 

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Ukraine’s IT army is doing well, hitting Russia with ‘cost and chaos’

By Kyle Alspach — — Whatever you might think about the risks involved with Ukraine’s IT army — and there are some big ones — available data shows that the initiative is, in fact, making an impact against Russia. The Ukraine IT army is also starting to expand beyond basic attacks, known as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS), and into cyberattacks that may prove more difficult for targeted Russian sites to defend against. My source on this is security professional Chris Partridge, who has been tracking the status of Russian internet properties targeted by Ukraine’s IT army. On GitHub, Partridge has been posting data every day since Sunday — the day after the initiative was announced — about what percentage of targeted Russian sites were still online. The bottom line for the findings: More than half of the Ukraine IT army’s targeted sites have faced partial or total outages in Russia, based on the samples collected.

In other words, Ukraine’s IT army is so far a success — at least as far as what it’s aiming to do. “IT Army’s stated goal is simply that people should use whatever force they can to disrupt these sites,” Partridge said in a message to VentureBeat. “In that sense, they’ve galvanized a massive number of people to action, and I believe the data shows the galvanized mob can clearly impose cost and chaos on many targets.” Outside of Russia, the percentage of targeted sites that have gone offline is “much higher,” he noted. While the potential impact of doing that is smaller, it’s still no doubt disruptive.

Building an army

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