The Ronny Karam Case

Opinion, sarcasm, ranting, nagging, and more

A couple of weeks ago, my younger brother decided to take his 2 three years old twins to the zoo. I was thrilled to be invited; I’ve never seen wild animals but on TV. So you can imagine my excitement… [more than the kids]

We arrived to Nahr el Kaleb, to visit the Animal City zoo;  you are immediately greeted by an awful smell as soon as you open the car’s door. But I couldn’t care less: I thought this was normal, since I’ve never visited a zoo in my life.
The tickets are 7000 L.L. ($4.67) for the adults, and 24,000L.L. ($16) for the kids, who also got 2 free small bags of rotten apples to feed the animals. That wasn’t cheap, so my expectations got even higher; I started imagining dragons in cages, breathing fire to hotdogs sticks you point at them.

And we got in.
The first cage was… chicken! 2 roosters and around 10 hens in a 2 x 2m cage that smells like a dead body.
We immediately skipped it to the next one: pigeons. Same smell. Skipped again.
3rd cage: Peafowl (white peacock). Those were nice, but the smell kept getting stronger. It felt like the cages were never cleaned before. So we took a very short look at them, and kept walking.
Donkeys? Ok. We’re in Lebanon. I don’t know about today’s kids, but I’ve seen too many donkeys in my life, and I wasn’t impressed.
I skipped those to see the lamas; the picture was on the cage’s door. But the lamas were sleeping.
A few meters away, gazelles… those were nice. But they were too afraid. So I left them alone and kept moving.

Hyenas… Woohoo… finally something new. The kids rushed to feed them apples, same way they did with every animal they’ve encountered so far. I immediately jumped in to inform them that hyenas are carnivorous animals (animal channel), as the first apple landed in the cage; one of the hyenas jumped over it and started devouring the fruit. I was completely shocked. So I picked up my phone: “Ok Google…”
Apparently, when hungry, hyenas eat anything.
We moved on, from cage to cage. Cows, monkeys, sheep, bears… wait. Bears? Excited again. A big male and female light brown bears. They were fighting for the apples.

Animal City - Brown male bear

Animal City – Brown male bear

 

Left to the bears’ cage, *drum roll*… lions; 2 males, probably dead, cause they didn’t move a muscle, and were sleeping (dead) on their side with their butts towards the visitors. And 1 female, laying on the floor, watching kids, like lambs, throw apples at it.
I’ve never seen real lions before, but those looked sick to me. One apple landed 2 cm away from the lion’s head: it didn’t move.
Same thing with the 2 tigers in the next cage; they didn’t move.

Those are the animals I was really looking forward to see. But for some reason it wasn’t exciting anymore. It felt disappointing. I didn’t want to see rugs. I wanted to see animals that are alive, running, jumping, roaring…

Animal City - Lions' cage - Animals half dead

Animal City – Lions’ cage – Animals half dead

 

The rest of the visit, I was worried about the safety of the kids, and the well-being of the animals; the zoo was so dirty. Flies everywhere. Animals looked sick. The zoo keepers were untrained, and couldn’t tell the difference between a hyena and a wolf. Electric wires were popping out of the walls.

Animal City - Electric wires popping out of the walls

Animal City – Electric wires popping out of the walls

 

The rest of the trip turned into a shocking scene, when we reached the ducks and geese; the water was green. Not blue, nor transparent. Green. Potato chips bags and tissues were floating on the surface.
I know the Lebanese visitors are to blame for the trash, but it’s part of the Zoo keepers job to keep the animals, their environment and their cages/pounds clean.

Animal City - Goose in green pound

Animal City – Goose in green pound

 

What started as an exciting day, turned into a nightmare. The animals of Animal City zoo were living the Lebanese life as well; dirty and unsafe facility, poorly fed animals (remember hyenas eating apples), and untrained staff.
We skipped the rest of the cages and pounds, and rushed to the exit as flies and the unbearable smell kicked us out.

It’s up to you to visit Animal City zoo, but it’s better if you don’t expose your kids to such scenery and risk; it’s not worth it.
If you’ve watched any reports about Lebanese jails and how prisoners are treated, you wouldn’t expect zoos to be any better, or animals to be treated well. It’s a real disaster.

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Baabda forests burned - May 2014

Baabda’s forests,… or what’s left of them
Original photo by: Rony Kahwach

Tragedy…
Nothing describes the scene of flames devouring what’s left of the green spaces in Baabda, but the tears of the very few people who actually care.

Today, fires erased what construction haven’t reached yet; thousands of square meters of “air filters”, the closest to the over polluted capital, Beirut, were wiped off in a few hours.

Every forest in Lebanon is under threat [or what's left of the 7%]. And every time, it’s the same lame excuse: our firefighters are not well equipped.

I’m sorry. But I’m not buying this shit anymore; our firefighters are never ready, are not well trained, and are not well equipped. Equipment is the addition that makes their jobs easier, faster and more efficient. But it’s not always the cause for their failure.

I’ve been living in the area for 33 years. Every time a fire starts nibbling a forest, we immediately contact the fire departments; trucks arrive 3 to 4 hours later. What was a small fire, that can be handled easily, becomes a raging sun storm.

And where are those planes we supposedly bought to fight fires? The army helicopters… were helping. But that’s all they can do. Help. It took a helicopter 5 runs to put down the fire raging on a single tree.

Sad. It’s a really sad day for Baabda, and its surroundings.
As our politicians fight to hold on to their piece of the pie, our forests lost the fight against the fires, and soon, against the buildings which now have the right to exist where the green trees exist no more.

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Blue & Red nebulas

Red and Blue Nebulas: captured in a star-forming region of the Large Magellanic Cloud
Original image credit: ESO: eso.org

When you find time to free up your mind, and escape from your daily routine, drive to the nearest mountain, walk to the highest point you can reach, away from humans and their lights, throw a blanket on the ground, sit back and look up at the sky.

If you’re lucky, you can catch a few shooting stars passing by.
If you’re curious, research a space event to observe [ NASA SKYCAL - NASA Space Calendar - Sea & Sky Calendar of Celestial Events ], get a telescope, and enjoy the ride.

It’s simply amazing.
It might not be as romantic as a sunset at the beach, calm, colorful, and relaxing. But it’s definitely mysterious and attractive.

There are billions and billions of objects around us in the universe. And maybe billions and billions of universes.
We know very little, yet, we feel strong enough to ignore that vast “endless” black dotted matter, our tiny, very tiny planet, swims in.
Yes. Space is not empty, quite, nor safe. But we don’t really have time for it right now; we’re killing each others.

Meteors, Solar storms, Gamma rays, and other surprises await Earth on every orbit, from every angle. NASA, through the NEO program, is tracking around 3,000 objects heading towards Earth; those are the ones we know of.
But don’t forget the “oops we didn’t see that one coming” incidents [ near miss - September 2013 ] [ hit - February 2013 - Russia ]. There’ll be a lot of those. And a meteor or gamma ray blast can hit us at any moment [ Modern Era Impacts ].
What’s our plan to ensure the survival of the species?
Well, we don’t have much to offer but theories [ Asteroid Impact Avoidance ]. Humans are investing more in their destruction than in space programs and preventive plans. So until we have time to define what’s more important for us, we’re completely exposed and under constant threat.

It happened before, and it will happen again; it’s a matter of time.
It could be tomorrow, it could be in a 100 years: are we prepared?

That’s the question we should be asking ourselves the next time we look up.

Lebanon

The Trash that binds us

Trash People of Cologne

Trash People from HA Schult in Köln / Cologne 2006
Original photo from: Bluehifi.de

The Lebanese people realized, after years of neglect, that nothing is accomplished by itself. If you want something done, you have to block a road, burn some tires or start a war [or occasionally kidnap some Turks].

For as long as I can remember [20 some years], our politicians have completely turned their eyes away from every problem facing this country; if the media doesn’t shed light over a misery [mostly for political reasons], a building collapses over its habitants, or hundreds die from food poisoning, no one would even mention anything about what the citizens of this God forsaken country are facing daily.

While Lebanon is a typical 3rd World country, and whatever happens here is completely expected [and accepted], some of its people [very very few] just had enough [the rest just nag about it].

A few days ago, people, living near by the Naameh trash dump, decided to take matters into their own hands, after 15 years. 15 years! 15 years!? [repeated intentionally, because this is how long things take in Lebanon]
After 15 years of random dumping, the toxic gases [ landfill gases ], released in the air, are causing lung cancer, especially among children [not to forget the horrible odors, the bug invasion, and the polluted water].
The “temporary” [15 years !!!] dump, which was set to only bury non recyclable materials [approx. 10% of all garbage in Lebanon], is being filled with everything; it’s the main final destination to all types of garbage collected [approx. 90%], including organic and toxic non treated material.

For once [since March 2005], Lebanese, from all types, religions, and beliefs, joined the movement; while this is excellent, it took Trash for us to agree on something useful. It took Trash to open our eyes to what Sukleen is doing to our health, soil, water and forests. It took Trash to make us realize that nothing is more important than… us; people still ignore their rights. People still praise their leaders, and believe they need them to survive.

Let’s hope, that for once, things go the way the habitants, of Naameh and its surrounding, hope.
The garbage problem in Lebanon is not just that of Naameh, and everyone is invited to join and support the movement.
If you don’t fight for your rights, no one will.

Syrischer Maler um 1210 001
Illustration from a Kalila wa Dimna Manuscript, 1200–1220 CE
By Syrischer Maler um 1210 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

For as long as Humans roamed this earth, the Middle East has always been part of History. Long before the contemporary “civilized” world even existed, inhabitants of this waste land created civilization.
You can turn your blind eye to this truth, but it’s a fact. A fact that only us Arabs have forgotten.

Between the 8th & 13th centuries, Arabs were more focused on education, philosophy and science than any nation around the globe. While America wasn’t even drawn on maps [and its inhabitants were still sacrificing humans and eating their hearts], and Europe was more into chivalry, poetry, polygamy and witch hunting, Arabs [in addition to what the rest of the world was doing] were researching, translating and pushing the boundaries of science; the advancements in medicine, math and education are the building blocs of the world we know today.

But that was just part of the past.
Abu Nasr Al Farabi, Ebn Sina, Ebn Battuta, Al Khawarizmi [a.k.a Alghorithmi], and many others are just names of great scientists of the Golden Age (read more here). Their work and writings occupy our libraries and bookshelves, only for their historical value.

So how did we get here? How did we flip from pioneers to end consumers?
Simple… RELIGION.

In a research article published on the New Atlantis [2011], under the title: “Why the Arab World turned away from Science“, Hillel Ofec links the decline in Arab scientific research and advancement to the rise of the “Ash’arites”.

In its place arose the anti-rationalist Ash’ari school whose increasing dominance is linked to the decline of Arabic science. With the rise of the Ash’arites, the ethos in the Islamic world was increasingly opposed to original scholarship and any scientific inquiry that did not directly aid in religious regulation of private and public life. While the Mu’tazilites had contended that the Koran was created and so God’s purpose for man must be interpreted through reason, the Ash’arites believed the Koran to be coeval with God — and therefore unchallengeable. At the heart of Ash’ari metaphysics is the idea of occasionalism, a doctrine that denies natural causality. Put simply, it suggests natural necessity cannot exist because God’s will is completely free. Ash’arites believed that God is the only cause, so that the world is a series of discrete physical events each willed by God.

It makes perfect sense when you see the effect of Religions in everything [side effect]. God & his representatives on earth have so much power on this side of the planet [promised land?].

300 Million Arabs hardly contribute to anything else than death tolls, crime statistics, terrorism and sectarian genocides. We forgot that we’re people with potential and lots of riches.
Why do you think, that after all this time, we’re still fighting useless wars against each others? [perhaps the world is afraid of what we can do in peace]
Why instead of investing in our youth, we’re allowing a few “money worshipers” to manipulate their minds with fairytales of Heaven, 72 virgins and eternal life?

بإسم الله الرحمان الرحيم

[translation: in the name of God all merciful]
Where’s “mercy” in what’s happening in the Arab world? Muslims killing each others [and the rest along the way], in the name of God. The same God they all worship. So who do you think God is supporting in this battle?

300 Million Zeros. And the few Ones, either left, or died trying, in vain.

The only bright light, in all this darkness, [little bit of hope] is the UAE; Dubai and its ruler Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and the other emirates’ rulers, have managed to combine the traditional and modern, making the UAE the most evolved Arab country. And the fact that the Emirates Institute for Advanced Science and Technology is planning the build of the first Arab made satellite is just proof of the potential this nation has (read more here).

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