Beirut Art Film Festival Goes Virtual

Beirut – By Vivian Haddad — — In the midst of lockdown that has been imposed on the Lebanese since January 14, 2021, museums, galleries, and even managers of film festivals are refusing to have their hands tied. Through weekly and monthly initiatives, they are trying to ease people’s stress and boredom. People are enjoying virtual tours of museums and exhibits, as well as film screenings. In this context, the 6th edition of the Beirut Art Film Festival (BAFF) will screen movies on a Sunday evening every month, starting off this upcoming Sunday, January 31, with a documentary film about Winston Churchill, titled “Churchill & the Movie Mogul.” Winston Churchill was mad about films, more than any other politician in history. The true extent of his use of films as a propaganda tool has not been previously explored, the group says about the film.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Alice Mogabgab, the director of the Beirut Art Film Festival, says: “We wanted to screen this movie to indicate the importance of cinema’s role in the world of politics. Churchill used it to achieve his political objectives and influence his colleagues inside and outside Britain.” “The movie will show how Churchill compelled the US to engage in the Second World War.” She adds that “the film also sheds light on the director Alexander Korda’s character. He produced many movies that had a great impact on modern cinema, like Gone with the Wind.” Mogabgab says that everyone needs to take a break from the situation of the pandemic that we are living today. “That is why we thought of holding the 6th edition of the festival virtually to screen famous works. After Churchill’s movie, we will share a list of new movies that will be screened once a month until next December, the date of the festival’s seventh edition.” After the movie ends, a roundtable discussion about it will be held.

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How hope is vanishing 10 years after the Arab Spring

<p>A man waves the Iraqi flag in Baghdad in January 2020 during a symbolic ‘funeral’ for a protester killed in clashes with security forces</p>

By Liz Sly — — Much of the Arab world erupted in jubilant revolt 10 years ago against the dictatorial regimes whose corruption, cruelty and mismanagement had mired the Middle East in poverty and backwardness for decades. Now, the hopes awakened by the protests have vanished but the underlying conditions that drove the unrest are as acute as ever. Autocrats rule with an even tighter grip. Wars unleashed by leaders whose control was threatened have killed hundreds of thousands of people. The rise of the Islamic State amid the resulting wreckage ravaged large parts of Syria and Iraq and drew the United States into another costly Middle East war. Millions of people were driven from their homes to become refugees, many converging on the shores of Europe and beyond. The influx fuelled a tide of nativism and anti-immigrant sentiment that brought populist leaders to power in Europe and the US as fears of terrorism eclipsed concerns for human rights as a Western priority. Even in those countries that did not descend into war, more Arabs are now living in poverty, more are unemployed and more are imprisoned for their political beliefs than a decade ago.

Only in Tunisia, where the protests began, did anything resembling a democracy emerge from the upheaval. The fall of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the Tunisian President, after a month of street protests in Tunis inspired demonstrations across the Middle East, including the mass protest on 25 January 2011 in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that fixated world attention on what was prematurely labelled the Arab Spring. On its face, the Arab Spring failed, and spectacularly so – not only by failing to deliver political freedom but by further entrenching the rule of corrupt leaders more intent on their own survival than delivering help. “It’s been a lost decade,” said Tarik Yousef, director of the Brookings Doha Centre in Qatar, recalling the euphoria he initially felt when the fall of Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi in August 2011 enabled him to return home for the first time in years. “Now we have the return of fear and intimidation. The region has experienced setbacks at every turn.”

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In 2018, Larry Ellison Quietly Acquired 1.7% Of Tesla… Here’s How That Turned Out

by — Larry Ellison is primarily known as the founder and former CEO of database giant Oracle. For those of you who are not aware, for much of the pre-internet 80s and 90s, Oracle was the dominate supplier of software for business systems. You know how Microsoft dominated personal computing with software like Excel and Word? Oracle had the same dominance with software that powered payroll systems, hospital records, hotel/airline booking services… etc. Today, Oracle is one of a few dominant “cloud” database companies. If you receive a paycheck from or fill out expense reports for a medium to large company, there’s a good chance Oracle is powering that software behind the scenes. Ellison took Oracle public on March 12, 1986, literally ONE DAY before his rival Bill Gates took Microsoft public.

Over the last 20 years Larry has cashed out at least $10 billion from Oracle through stock sales and dividends. He has used some of the proceeds generated by these sales to acquire arguably the coolest portfolio of toys, real estate, hobbies and endeavors in the world. He owns the entire Hawaiian Island of Lanai. He literally owns 99% of the island’s land and ALL of its buildings, including its two ultra-exclusive Four Seasons resort locations. He also basically owns an America’s Cup racing team, TWELVE homes in Malibu, the 249-acre Porcupine Creek Estate golf course in Ranch Mirage, California, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Coachella, California, several private jets, a Mig-29 fighter jet, an airline… I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there.

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Lebanon launches online platform for vaccine registration

Demonstrations in Tripoli turned violent — a protester was killed and tens of people were injured during clashes with security forces that have continued for the fifth consecutive day. (AFP)

By NAJIA HOUSSARI — — BEIRUT: Lebanon on Thursday launched an electronic platform for citizens and residents wishing to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Meanwhile, protests over the full lockdown have spread to cities in the south of Lebanon, considered as pro-Hezbollah and Amal Movement. Demonstrations in Tripoli turned violent — a protester was killed and tens of people were injured during clashes with security forces that have continued for the fifth consecutive day. In a conference on Thursday, Lebanon’s Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan hoped citizens would “respond to the national plan to inoculate over 80 percent of the population and achieve herd immunity to protect society from the virus.” Registration began as soon as the platform’s launch was announced, with an average of 2,000 people visiting the site every five minutes. The Health Ministry said that “the official vaccination platform protects the privacy of beneficiaries as well as the database and was tested under the supervision of an IT team from the World Bank to ensure it cannot be hacked.” Hassan, who has recently recovered from COVID-19, said: “The vaccination plan requires the commitment of all institutions and administration to the principle of equality and justice above any other consideration, whether political, regional or sectarian.”

Caretaker Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said in a press conference: “The number of coronavirus cases in the productive sectors is extremely high, with 72 percent of the cases from the productive segments of society, i.e., those between 20 and 59 years old, which reflects the danger of this pandemic.” Abdel Rahman Bizri, head of the national committee for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, told Arab News: “Lebanon needs to vaccinate between 70 and 80 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity.” “The Pfizer vaccine that Lebanon has chosen for its vaccination plan is expected to arrive to the country between Feb. 7 and 15, to be followed by more doses in in March,” he said. The first phase of the vaccination plan is expected to cover medical staff and workers in the health care sector, as well as citizens and residents who are 75 and older, to be followed by younger groups in the next phases.

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Lebanese leaders condemn violence after Tripoli unrest

Demonstrators set a fire near the government Serail building, during a protest against the lockdown and worsening economic conditions, in Tripoli, amid the spread of COVID-19. (Reuters)

by reuters — TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister and its president on Friday condemned overnight violence in the city of Tripoli, where protesters angry over a strict lockdown clashed with security forces and set the municipality building on fire. Thursday was the fourth straight night of unrest in one of Lebanon’s poorest cities, after the Beirut government imposed a 24-hour curfew to curb a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed more than 2,500 people and compounded an economic crisis. “The criminals who set the municipality on fire and attempted to burn the court…represent a black hatred for Tripoli,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in a statement. “The challenge now is in defeating these criminals by arresting them one by one and referring them to the judicial system.” President Michel Aoun also condemned the violence. Flames engulfed the Tripoli municipal government building after it caught fire just before midnight on Thursday. Police had been firing tear gas at protesters hurling petrol bombs. A funeral for a man who died from a gunshot wound on Wednesday night had given fuel to protesters. Security forces said they had fired live rounds to disperse rioters trying to storm the government building.

Diab’s statement did not mention the killing; Human Rights Watch has called for it to be investigated. “We promise to work quickly to restore the municipality building of Tripoli so that it remains an expression of its dignity and pure heritage,” Diab said. The lockdown against the coronavirus, in effect since Jan. 11, is piling extra hardship on the poor, now more than half the Lebanese population who get little government aid. “We are demanding a state, we are demanding a country and we are demanding an improvement to the social and political conditions in Tripoli,” said Rabih Mina, a Tripoli resident who joined the anti-government protests. The financial meltdown gripping Lebanon could render people more dependent on political factions for aid and security, in a throwback to the 1975-90 civil war era of dominant militias. Some analysts have warned that security forces, their wages fast losing value, would not be able to contain rising unrest.

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‘Shameful’: Amnesty condemns use of French weapons against protesters in Lebanon

People protesting against a lockdown in Tripoli, Lebanon (27 January 2021)

Lebanese protesters gather outside the Serail, headquarters of the Governorate of North Lebanon, during ongoing demonstrations that marked the third consecutive night of protests [Fathi AL-MASRI/AFP]

by — Amnesty International urged France to halt weapons sales to Lebanon, saying French-manufactured rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and launchers had played a “shameful” role in quelling peaceful demonstrations in the country. In a report released on Thursday by Amnesty, along with the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Essex, a range of French ammunition from tear gas canisters and pepper sprays to grenade launchers, rubber bullets, and armoured vehicles were used to suppress protests between 2015 and 2020. Middle East Eye first reported in November 2019 that many of the tear gas canisters used against protesters in Lebanon were French-manufactured, with some being military-grade.

“France has for years been supplying Lebanese security forces with law enforcement equipment that they then used to commit or facilitate serious human rights violations,” the rights group said in a statement on Thursday. “We call on France to ensure that there are no further sales until the Lebanese authorities have acknowledged past violations,” said Aymeric Elluin, advocacy officer on arms transfers at Amnesty International France. “Lebanese security forces are operating in a climate of impunity.”

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Why Microsoft’s self-driving car strategy will work

By Ben Dickson – — Self-driving car startup Cruise has just gotten a $2 billion infusion from Microsoft, General Motors, Honda, and institutional investors, according to a joint statement by Cruise, its owner GM, and Microsoft on Tuesday. The investment will bring Cruise’s valuation to $30 billion and make Microsoft an official partner. Per Tuesday’s announcement: “To unlock the potential of cloud computing for self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Azure, Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, to commercialize its unique autonomous vehicle solutions at scale. Microsoft, as Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, will also tap into Cruise’s deep industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.” So Cruise will get the much-needed funds to conduct research and (possibly discounted) access to Microsoft’s cloud computing resources and move closer to its goal of launching a purpose-built self-driving car.

But in the long run, Microsoft stands to gain more from the deal. Not only will it get two very lucrative customers for its cloud business (Azure will also become GM’s preferred cloud provider, per the announcement), but when seen in the broader context of Microsoft’s self-driving car strategy, “Cruise’s deep industry expertise” will possibly give Microsoft a solid foothold in the future of the still-volatile self-driving car industry. At a time when most major tech companies are interested in acquiring self-driving car startups or launching their own initiatives, Microsoft’s hands-off approach could eventually turn it into an industry leader.

Self-driving cars from the AI business perspective

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Two Works by a Great Lebanese Filmmaker on Netflix

A woman looks out onto a vast landscape.

By Richard Brody —Netflix is a cinematic rummage sale: some authentic treasures gleam enticingly atop a pile of junk, within which even rarer gems lurk—but it requires some digging. Reader, I dug—and found that Netflix is offering a batch of several dozen Lebanese films from the past fifty years, at least two of which are extraordinary fusions of imagination and observation. Both of those films, “Whispers,” from 1980, and “The Little Wars,” from 1982, are by the same director, Maroun Bagdadi; the first is a documentary and the other is a work of fiction, but both, remarkably, prominently feature the same person—the photojournalist Nabil Ismaïl, who is a subject in “Whispers” and an actor in “The Little Wars”—in an overlap that exemplifies Bagdadi’s original approach to both forms.


The documentary follows the poet Nadia Tueni as she travels through Lebanon, which at the time was physically and emotionally devastated after five years of civil war. The format is something like a virtual, fictional road movie, albeit one in which the drama lies not in a specific narrative but in the question of Lebanon’s immediate future. From the start, there’s death in the air—at a gathering of young people, a man sings a melancholy ballad of a mother’s grief for a son killed in war, and the song continues on the soundtrack as Bagdadi shows images of a city’s bombed-out buildings and rubble-strewn streets. Tueni and Ismaïl wander through the desolate cityscape, the labyrinth of Beirut’s ruins, as Ismaïl takes photographs. Then, on his own, Ismaïl plunges into the busy heart of a market street, in an extended and exciting handheld shot that’s accompanied by his voice-over, which—like the voice-overs in Claude Lanzmann’s “Shoah”—creates a virtual image of the past, which, fused with present-tense observations, renders the past seemingly more present than what’s seen on the screen.

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Lebanese in impoverished north protest virus lockdown

Copy of 2021-01-25T205745Z_684810169_RC28FL9K593H_RTRMADP_3_HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS-LEBANON-PROTESTS-1611674918849

by — NAJIA HOUSSARI — BEIRUT: The closure and curfew period in Lebanon has been extended for two more weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prompting people in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon to take to the streets. The protests were spontaneous, considering that the neighborhoods from which they started are poor, where the residents work for daily wages. The Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism in the caretaker government Ramzi Musharrafieh said on Tuesday that “230,000 families in Lebanon benefit from aid and have been receiving 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($263) per month since the beginning of the crisis.” He added that “25 percent of the Lebanese people do not need aid.” Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy and the failure to provide people with alternatives.

One of the protesters said: “Contracting COVID-19 and dying of it is easier than having my family and myself starve to death.” Protesters in Tripoli took to Al-Nour Square on Monday after days of expressing their impatience and protesting outside the houses of the city’s officials. One of the protesters said: “COVID-19 does not scare us. We cannot tolerate this life of humiliation anymore. The officials in power have starved and robbed us.” The protesters clashed with the security forces — the army and the Internal Security Forces — hurling stones and water bottles at them. Their chants demanded financial compensation for the poorest families, who have not been able to work for two weeks and must wait a further two weeks before they can return to their jobs, resulting in a whole month without any financial income.


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Godiva makes bittersweet decision

The pandemic has taken its toll on shopping destinations worldwide and the latest chain to shutter is Godiva by the end of March. The chocolate maker is closing all of its stores in North America, that includes 117 in the U.S. and 11 in Canada. The company will, however, keep its brick-and-mortar locations in the […]

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