31 January 2008

Scientists discover way to reverse loss of memory

By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Scientists performing experimental brain surgery on a man aged 50 have stumbled across a mechanism that could unlock how memory works.
The accidental breakthrough came during an experiment originally intended to suppress the obese man's appetite, using the increasingly successful technique of deep-brain stimulation. Electrodes were pushed into the man's brain and stimulated with an electric current. Instead of losing appetite, the patient instead had an intense experience of déjà vu. He recalled, in intricate detail, a scene from 30 years earlier. More tests showed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated.
Scientists are now applying the technique in the first trial of the treatment in patients with Alzheimer's disease. If successful, it could offer hope to sufferers from the degenerative condition, which affects 450,000 people in Britain alone, by providing a "pacemaker" for the brain.
Three patients have been treated and initial results are promising, according to Andres Lozano, a professor of neurosurgery at the Toronto Western Hospital, Ontario, who is leading the research.
Professor Lozano said: "This is the first time that anyone has had electrodes implanted in the brain which have been shown to improve memory. We are driving the activity of the brain by increasing its sensitivity – turning up the volume of the memory circuits. Any event that involves the memory circuits is more likely to be stored and retained."
The discovery had caught him and his team "completely by surprise", Professor Lozano said. They had been operating on the man, who weighed 190kg (30st), to treat his obesity by locating the point in his brain that controls appetite. All other attempts to curb his eating had failed and brain surgery was the last resort.
The treatment for obesity was unsuccessful. But, while the researchers were identifying potential appetite suppressant points in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain associated with hunger, the man suddenly began to say that memory was flooding back.
"He reported the experience of being in a park with friends from when he was around 20 years old and, as the intensity of stimulation increased, the details became more vivid. He recognised his girlfriend [from the time] ... The scene was in colour. People were wearing identifiable clothes and were talking, but he could not decipher what they were saying," the researchers write in Annals of Neurology, published today.
The man, who has not been identified, was also tested on his ability to learn lists of paired objects. After three weeks of continuous hypothalamic stimulation, his performance on two learning tests was significantly improved. He was also much more likely to remember a list of unrelated paired objects with the electrodes turned on than when turned off.
Speaking to The Independent yesterday, Professor Lozano said: "His performance improved dramatically. As we turned the current up, we first drove his memory circuits and improved his learning. As we increased the intensity of the current, we got spontaneous memories of discrete events. At a certain intensity, he would slash to the scene [in the park]. When the intensity was increased further, he got more detail but, when the current was turned off, it rapidly decayed."
The discovery surprised the scientists as the hypothalamus has not usually been identified as a seat of memory. The contacts that most readily produced the memories were located close to a structure called the fornix, an arched bundle of fibres that carries signals within the limbic system, which is involved in memory and emotions and is situated next to the hypothalamus.
Professor Lozano is a world authority on deep-brain stimulation who has undertaken 400 operations on Parkinson's disease sufferers and is developing the technique as a treatment for depression, for which he has performed 28 operations. He said the discovery of its role in stimulating memory had wide implications.
"It gives us insight into which brain structures are involved in memory. It gives us a means of intervening in the way we have already done in Parkinson's and for mood disorders such as depression, and it may have therapeutic benefit in people with memory problems," he said.
The researchers are testing the approach in six Alzheimer's patients in a Phase 1 safety study. Three have so far had electrodes surgically implanted. The electrodes are attached via a cable that runs below the skull and down the neck to a battery pack stitched under the skin of the chest. The "pacemaker" delivers a constant low-level current that stimulates the brain but cannot be perceived by the patient.
Professor Lozano said: "It is the same device as is used for Parkinson's disease. We have placed the electrodes in exactly the same area of the hypothalamus because we want to see if we can reproduce the findings in the earlier experiment. We believe the memory circuits we are stimulating are close by, physically touching the hypothalamus.
"It is a very effective treatment for the motor problems associated with Parkinson's disease and it has been used on 40,000 people. We are in the early stages of using it with Alzheimer's patients and we don't know if it will work. We want to assess if we can reach the memory circuits and drive improvement. It is a novel approach to dealing with this problem."
British researchers welcomed the discovery. Andrea Malizia, a senior lecturer in psychopharmacology at the University of Bristol who is studying deep-brain stimulation as a treatment for depression, said: "If they had said let's stick an electrode in the hypothalamus to modify Alzheimer's disease, I would have said 'Why start there?' But, if they have had a serendipitous finding, then that is as good. Serendipitous findings are how a lot of discoveries in science have been made."
Ayesha Khan, a scientific liaison officer at the Alzheimer's Disease Society, said: "This is very cutting-edge research. It is exciting, but the initial result is in one person. It will need much further investigation."
How deep-brain stimulation works
Deep -brain stimulation has been used for more than a decade to treat a range of conditions including depression, chronic pain, Parkinson's disease and other movement disorders.
It has been so successful in treating Parkinson's that 40,000 patients worldwide now have electrodes implanted in their brains driven by pacemakers stitched into their chests.
As the devices become smaller, requiring less risky surgery, and the target areas of the brain requiring stimulation are more precisely identified, demand for the treatment is expected to leap. Although it is expensive, the potential savings in care and treatment costs are immense. It does not lead to dependence on drugs and is reversible.
The electrodes are implanted under local anaesthesia while the patient is awake. Before the operation, the neurosurgeon performs an MRI scan and establishes the target location for the electrodes. He then carries out a craniotomy – lifting a section of the skull – and inserts the electrodes and leads. By stimulating the electrodes and checking the patient's response, the surgeon can check that they are positioned in the right place.
Different areas of the brain are targeted for different conditions. For Parkinson's disease, they are placed in the subthalamic nucleus; for depression, in area 25 of the cingulate cortex.
Deep-brain stimulation was developed in France and first licensed by the Food and Drug Administration in the US in 1997 as a treatment for tremor. In the UK, the surgery is performed at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, in Bristol, in Oxford and at a handful of other centres.
The name of the procedure is in some ways a misnomer as it often involves inhibiting electrical activity in an area of the brain rather than stimulating it. The technique is as much about restoring balance between competing brain areas which leads to the tremor characteristic of some types of Parkinson's disease.

Internet services in Egypt and India disrupted

CAIRO (Reuters) - A breakdown in an international undersea cable network disrupted Internet links to Egypt, India and Gulf Arab countries on Wednesday, and Egypt said it could take several days for its services to return to normal.

It was not immediately possible to gauge the impact of the disruption on financial institutions. Egypt's telecoms ministry said 70 percent of the country's Internet network was down and India initially said it had lost over half its bandwidth.

"This cut has affected Internet services in Egypt with a partial disruption of 70 percent of the network nationwide," the Egyptian ministry said in a statement.

Residents of Gulf Arab countries also reported a slowdown in Internet connectivity. The Bahrain Telecommunications Co said its services were affected after two undersea cables were cut near Alexandria, on Egypt's north coast.

The Egyptian telecoms ministry said it did not know how the cables were cut or if weather was a factor. Storms had forced Egypt to close the northern mouth of the Suez canal on Tuesday.

India also reported serious disruptions to its services and Rajesh Chharia, president of the Internet Service Providers' Association of India, told Reuters: "There has been a 50 to 60 percent cut in bandwidth."

Chharia told the Headlines Today news channel that a "degraded" service would be up and running by Wednesday night, but full restoration would take 10 to 15 days.

"The big operators have transferred their small broadband connectivity through the Pacific route, and that's the reason there's no hue and cry in the country," he said.

One Indian Internet service provider affected by the cut, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd (VSNL), said its service had been "largely restored" by diverting to another cable. Two outsourcing firms in Bangalore reported minimal disruption.

"There has been a small outage in the evening today. But it has been restored now," said a spokesman for Satyam Computer, India's fourth-biggest outsourcing firm.


AT&T Inc. said that a cable owned by a consortium of which it is part was affected. "We do know that one cable is disrupted," AT&T spokesman Michael Coe said, adding that the cable in question goes between France and Egypt.

"We are impacted on certain routes to the Middle East. The traffic is being rerouted," Coe said. "Multiple carriers are rerouting so we do expect some congestion."

Egypt said its call centres saw their services cut by more than 30 percent, and two Egyptian stockbrokers said market transactions were considerably slower and some international trading orders could not go through.

"It (the disruption) had a very negative impact on the stock market today," one Cairo-based trader said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "At times, we were trading blind."

Stock market officials were not available for comment.

Egypt's Deputy Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer, asked about the impact of the disruption on the banking system, said: "We are disappointed (with) the service and will consider alternatives for the banking system if this happens again."

In Cairo, much of the capital city was without access to the Internet for the bulk of the day, frustrating businesses and the professions.

"I can't do anything because I manage all my work by e-mail. It is very frustrating," said Egyptian lawyer Rebecca Mikhail. "As soon as I came in (to work) at 10 a.m. I didn't have access to the Internet ... If it goes into the next working week it is going to be a nightmare."

29 January 2008

Pressure builds on SocGen chief to quit

SocGen denies insider trading as the French Finance Minister says the bank is in crisis and may need to 'change the captain'

France’s finance minster has put fresh pressure on Daniel Bouton, the embattled chairman and chief executive of Société Générale, by suggesting that he may need to quit and stating that the country's second largest bank is in "crisis".

In a television interview today, Christine Lagarde signalled that Société Générale needed a change of leadership to recover from the world’s biggest trading scandal, involving the increasingly infamous trader Jérôme Kerviel who notched up €4.9 billion (£3.7 biollion) in losses from share trades.

In a marked change of tone from yesterday when the Government backed Société Générale's assertion that Mr Kerviel had acted alone, Ms Lagarde said: “Société Générale is in crisis.

In a difficult moment, the board members are there to decide if the person in charge is the best placed to run the ship when it is pitching a bit, or whether they should change the captain.”

Mr Bouton’s departure would create a major succession problem for Société Générale. Jean-Pierre Mustier, his heir apparent, runs the investment division that employed Mr Kerviel. Ms Lagarde will submit a report on the trading scandal at Société Générale on Monday, at the request of Prime Minister Francois Fillon.

This morning, Société Générale issued a statement regarding the sale of shares worth nearly €100 million by one of its board directors, Robert A. Day, days before the scandal broke.

Documents released yesterday by the AMF, the French market regulator, showed that Mr Day sold €85.7 million in shares on January 10. Also, two trusts connected to Mr Day, offloaded large chucks of shares on the same day — the Robert A. Day Foundation sold €8.6 million in stock and the Kelly Day Foundation sold €959,066. The AMF is due to send a report on the events at Société Générale to Ms Lagarde on Friday.

Société Générale said today that Mr Day and his family trusts sold shares from December 2007 and up to January 18 when, according to the bank, Mr Kerviel's superiors were informed of the irregular share deals and in turn told the divisional management. The bank disclosed yesterday that "abnormal counterparty risk" was "detected several days earlier" than January 18.

The bank said that the period during which Mr Day sold his shares "was a window of time were such trades were permitted under Société Générale's trading policies for directors".

Société Générale added: "No inside information was used in any way with respect to these December and January sales.

"In particular, before these trades were made, Mr Day, like the other board members, was not advised of Mr. Kerviel's trading losses. Neither was he advised, like the other non-executive board members, that additional subprime-related write-downs or reserves would be made.

"Such writedowns and reserves were presented to the board for the first time on January 20, 2008. Mr. Day has pledged his cooperation into any inquiries of this matter."

A group of around 100 Société Générale investors have brought the suit against the bank.

Mr Day, 65, is the founder of TCW, a Los Angeles investment company which is a subsidiary of Société Générale's asset management group.

TCW, based in Los Angeles, has a portfolio of $66 billion in collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) of which $52 billion are under management for Société Générale Asset Management.

CDOs are complex financial instruments which are often backed by sub-prime mortgage debt. Société Générale revealed last week it has €4.9 billion in CDOs backed by US sub-prime mortgage debt.

Ms Lagarde's comment came just hours after Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, turned up the heat on Societe Generale’s top managers on Monday evening.

The President said that they would have to accept their share of responsibility for the trading loss run up by Mr Kerviel. Mr Sarkozy said: “When you have a fat salary, no doubt entirely legitimate, and then a big problem crops up, one cannot expect to wash one’s hands of responsibility.”

Mr Bouton offered his resignation when the scandal emerged last week but was asked to stay on by Société Générale's board. He said yesterday that his resignation remained on the table.

Mr Kerviel, freed on bail last night, has admitted concealing billions of euros’ worth of secret deals. However, he has accused others of breaking the bank’s rules by making traders that exceeded Soc Gen's parameters.

He was placed under formal investigation over accusations of falsification, computer abuse and breach of trust. Mr Kerveil’s lawyers were jubilant as being placed under investigation in France can lead to a trial but falls short of charges.

Christian Charrière Bournazel, Mr Kerviel’s lawyer, said late last night: “There is no fraud, sir. There is no fraud. The word fraud was used by Mr Bouton numerous times.

“Mr Bouton held this unfortunate man up for public vilification, threw him to the dogs ... and there was no substance to it.”


FRP piping standard published in Brazil

Two and one half years after initial meetings among raw material suppliers, manufacturers, users and representatives of the Brazilian Technical Standards Association (ABNT), standards for fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) pipes have been established. Published on November 26, 2007, NBR 15536 sets forth the inspection and performance parameters for FRP pipes and connections used in basic sanitation works – for example, water channeling system and sewage conveying, among other applications. The text, based on international regulation such as AWWA C-950 and ISO 10467 and 10639, also specifies methods for performing pipe tests.

“It is a great achievement, specially for the consumer market, which will rely on the piping performance”, states Macel Dal Posso, Amitech’s quality manager, the largest Brazilian FRP pipe manufacturer. The company operates in Ipeúna, 200 km from São Paulo, with a facility that has capacity to produce 120 km/year of pipes of 400 mm to 1,200 mm in diameter. In 2008, capacity will reach 300 km/year, with diameters between 300 mm and 3,000 mm. “We have taken part, in an efficient way, in the standard elaboration project, providing the committee with information supplied by our subsidiaries abroad”, he states. Amitech is under the control of two international groups: the Colombian Group Inversiones Mundial and the Saudi Arabian Group Amiantit.

In addition to the benefits offered to the basic sanitation agencies, such regulation will be advantageous to FRP pipe manufacturers themselves. “There will be a level playing field and everyone must comply with the same requirements”, states Dal Posso. Again, the pipeline users will be the primary beneficiaries: “They have wished for the standard publication for a long time”, states Amitech’s quality manager. The non-compliance with the standard implicates in penalties described in the Code of the Customer Rights.

Together with seven FRP pipe manufacturers, several representatives of water and sewerage agencies, such as Sabesp, Copasa and Sanepar, took place in the standard text process. Raimunda Maria Pires, Sanepar’s executive, believes that in certain conditions, such standardization helps to reduce the typical high-volume of water loss in Brazil. “As we demand strict tests, we are ensuring a better-quality product in both manufacturing and operating aspects, that is, during the installation and maintenance”.

27 January 2008

Memoire of US Democracy (Aug.2006)

One killed and 3 wounded in Beirut suburb

Beirut - Hezbollah and Amal supporters
protesters burned tires and blocked the road near the Mar Mikhael
church in the Chiah district east of Lebanon’s capital Beirut.

The fifth regiment of the army tried to intervene by trying to reopen the road but the protesters opened fire at the army

Other protesters burned rubber tires and also tried to block the road near Gallerie Samaan.

They were protesting against the power blackouts according to sources at the scene.

The Lebanese army arrested a number of young people, which led to considerable resentment among the demonstrators.

The shooting resulted the killing of one and the wounding of three .
Ahmad Hassan Hamze 35, a Shiite Amal official was killed …. The
identities of the wounded was not disclosed

Lebanon’s Minister of sport Ahmad Fatfat condemned the violent
protests and said ; “Is it fair for the protesters who are protesting
against power cuts and living conditions to shoot at the army ?”

Update : 6: 30 PM Protest expands into other areas of Beirut

Several young men bocked the Mar Elias road in Beirut , but the army intervened and reopened the road

More intensive shooting was heard in the Gallerie Semaan area.

Early reports indicate that Hamze was killed by sniper fire as he was trying to mediate between the protesters and the army

The explosion of the fuel tank of a car in Mar Mikhael church area created a a state of panic in the ranks of the demonstrators

The Amal movement has requested its supporters to be calm and called
on the Lebanese army to conduct an immediate investigation

Gunfire was heard near the al Hayat hospital , which is treating
many of those wounded during the protests. Many of the vehicles near
the hospital have broken glass windows as a result of the shooting
(tears of lebanon)

(#4) Hazmieh Explosion - update4

Rifi: Police Arrested 3 Suspects in Eid's Murder, Car was Packed with 75 kg of Explosives

National Police Chief Brig. Gen. Ashraf Rifi uncovered that the vehicle used in the assassination of Maj. Wissam Eid, one of Lebanon's top terrorism investigators, was rigged with 75 kilograms of explosives.

Rifi told the Jeddah-based Okaz newspaper that the amount used in Friday's bombing was the biggest to be used since the series of assassinations began in 2005 with the killing of former Premier Rafik Hariri.

He said investigators were able to determine the brand of the car and its chassis number.

Rifi said three suspects were arrested at the crime scene in the Chevrolet neighborhood of Hazmieh east of Beirut.

Meanwhile investigators were trying to determine if the latest bombing was part of a string of attacks that have targeted leading anti-Syrian politicians in the past three years, a security official said.

Eid was one of the country's top terrorism investigators who was probing assassinations of prominent anti-Syrian figures and a series of other attacks in recent years, including Hariri's murder.

Eid, 31, worked for the police intelligence agency which is closely tied to the government and had survived two previous assassination attempts. Friday's attack also killed his bodyguard and three passers-by and wounded around 40 people.

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora, whose government is locked in a fierce power struggle with the Hizbullah-led opposition, vowed to pursue "the criminals who planned and carried out this crime which is aimed at destroying the state security institutions."

"The road to independence is fraught with dangers and filled with sacrifices," Saniora said.

Police investigators on Saturday collected fingerprints and bits of shrapnel and debris from the car at the explosion site in an effort to discover clues, including the vehicle owner.

Rifi also vowed to continue the fight against terrorist groups.

"Our choice is to defend this country. Our decision is to continue our march to confront the empire of death and terror," Rifi.

As a senior officer in the intelligence department, Eid had handled "very important" files including "all those having to do with the terrorist bombings," Rifi said.

His work in the technology field was believed to include sifting through millions of telecommunication tips and cellular phone contacts as part of those investigations.

The police intelligence department Eid worked for is close to the anti-Syrian majority that controls Lebanon's government and parliament and it and has been often criticized by the pro-Syrian opposition.

Syria has been blamed for many of Lebanon's recent bombings, including that of Hariri. Damascus has denied the charges.

25 January 2008

Brazil publishes FRP inspection, performance standard

SÃO PAULO, Brazil, Jan. 23, 2008 -- Two and a half years after the beginning of meetings among raw material suppliers, manufacturers, users and representatives of the Brazilian Technical Standards Association (ABNT), fiberglass reinforced polyester (FRP) pipes have been standardized. Published in November 2007, NBR 15536 sets forth inspection and performance parameters of FRP pipes and connections used in basic sanitation works, such as a water channeling system and sewage emissary, among other applications. The text, based on international regulations such as AWWA C-950 and ISO 10467 and 10639, also specifies methods for performing pipe tests.

"It refers to a great achievement, specially for the consumer market, which will rely on piping performance," states Macel Dal Posso, Amitech's quality manager, the largest Brazilian FRP pipes manufacturer. The company operates a FRP pipes manufactory in Ipeúna, 200 km from São Paulo, which has the capacity to produce 120 km/year of pipes 400 mm to 1,200 mm in diameter. In 2008, production will increase to 300 km/year, with diameters between 300 mm and 3,000 mm.

"We have taken part, in an efficient way, in the standard elaboration project, providing the committee with information supplied by our subsidiaries abroad," he states. Amitech is under the control of two international groups: the Colombian Group Inversiones Mundial and the Saudi Arabian Group Amiantit.

In addition to the benefits offered to basic sanitation agencies, the regulations will be advantageous to the FRP pipes manufacturers themselves. "There will be a leveling of quality and everyone must comply with the same requirements," states Dal Posso. Again, pipeline users will be the main beneficiaries. "They have wished for the standard publication for a long time," states Amitech's quality manager. The non-compliance with the standard implicates in penalties described in the Code of the Customer Rights.

ABNT's Support
Together with seven FRP pipes manufacturers, several representatives of water and sewerage agencies, as Sabesp, Copasa and Sanepar, have taken part in the standard text process. Raimunda Maria Pires, Sanepar's executive, believes that the support given by ABNT is the main advantage of such standardization. "They came to be one more available alternative for the agencies after the standard publication," she states.

In certain situations, such standardization helps to reduce the typical high-volume water loss in Brazil, believes Raimunda. "As we demand strict tests, we are ensuring a better-quality product in both manufacturing and operating aspects, that is, during the installation and maintenance."

(#4) Hazmieh Explosion - update2

(#4) Hazmieh Explosion (75kg) - update

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- An explosion in a Beirut suburb has killed Lebanon's top anti-terror investigating officer and his driver, sources with the Lebanese Internal Security Forces and a government minister told CNN.

The Lebanese Red Cross said four other people were killed and 20 wounded, the state-run National News Agency said, according to The Associated Press. CNN has yet to confirm a final death toll though.

"It was a powerful blast," CNN's Anthony Mills said. "I was less than half a mile away when it occurred and I felt the shock waves in the car I was traveling in.

"I arrived on the scene several minutes later and there was widespread damage -- several vehicles that had been reduced to hulks of burning, twisted metal ... debris scattered over a wide area."

The explosion killed Capt. Wissam Eid, the sources said.

Hazmiyeh is a Christian neighborhood northeast of the capital.

Attacks of this nature have escalated as Lebanon has been in the midst of a political crisis as pro- and anti-Syrian lawmakers in parliament are locked in a battle to elect a president.

The nation has been without a president since November 23, when the pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud stepped down at the end of his term.

Last week, a car bomb struck a U.S. Embassy vehicle as it traveled along a coastal highway north of Beirut, killing at least three Lebanese civilian bystanders. The driver of the embassy vehicle sustained minor injuries, and the sole passenger walked away unscathed.

(#4) Explosion near Chevrolet - Hazmieh

Around 10am this morning, an explosion occurred near Hazmieh, Chevrolet highway. A big fire erupted. At 10:15am it has been put down.

Update 10:35am : At least one casualty, and many wounded. Last news is that the car that was targeted belongs to the security forces.

Update 11:17am : 10 casualties so far (AFP), the person who was targeted was Captain Wissam Eid. News confirm that he is dead and so is his bodyguard, and a by-passer.
NTV says that the Car#61118 and Wissam Eid was with his bodyguard or companion soldier.
He was on his way back from a meeting about the Hariri investigation (as reported on Zentv/Ftv) where top secret files were discussed. TV reports said that he knew the top secret results from these investigations. Wissam also escaped assansination attempt on 11 February 2006.

Later reported that the death toll climbed from 3 to 11...



This disaster comes in coincidence with the Arab League initiative:
Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said after a four-hour meeting between the warring political camps that the Arab plan was clear such as it does not give the majority half-plus-one government seats nor does it give the opposition veto power.

Moussa told reporters on Thursday after the meeting with opposition representative Gen. Michel Aoun, majority negotiator ex-President Amin Gemayel and al-Mustaqbal Movement leader Saad Hariri, that he has scheduled another round of consultations to be held after his return from Syria.

The daily An Nahar said the quartet meeting was likely to take place on Sunday when Moussa arrives back from Damascus.

The Arab League chief was expected to visit the Syrian capital on Friday.

After the meeting at the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Moussa told reporters they discussed topics related to the Arab initiative aimed at electing a new president and forming a national unity government.

He refused to go into details of the discussion, saying the meeting dealt mainly with implementing the Arab initiative.

In answering a question about differences in interpreting the initiative, Moussa said: "there is a clear interpretation of the initiative's second clause …the majority does not get half plus one (government seats) and the opposition does not take one third plus one."

He did not say whether such an interpretation was accepted during the talks, the first between the opposition and the majority in three months.

"There were some agreements on some topics and this makes me optimistic," Moussa said.

Hariri and Aoun held several meetings last year, including one in Paris in October. The Hizbullah-led opposition has named Aoun as its representative in any meeting with the majority -- a move that was rejected by the pro-government March 14 alliance.

"The horizons are opening up," Moussa said after a Thursday meeting with Prime Minister Fouad Saniora. "We are doing all we can to reach a solution."-(lebanontoday)

Talk about horizons!!!

24 January 2008

Army on high alert but strike was relatively peaceful

Beirut - Lebanese army and security forces were deployed throughout the country since early morning and put on high alert in order to face possible fresh riots as the farmers and transport unions observed a one day strike to protest against the worsening living conditions.

Checkpoints were set up throughout the country and troops were constantly patrolling the streets to prevent trouble.

Up until 9: 40 AM the strike was going smoothly with no reports that protesters blocked any roads
At 9: 40 protesters in Baalbeck , Hezbollah stronghold blocked some roads and burned rubber tires, but the Civil Defense volunteers were able to put out the fire and Lebanese troops reopened the roads.

Around 10:00 AM A nine-year-old protestor was wounded by gunfire from Haidar Mustafa a member of the Security forces who fired his pistol at demonstrators blocking the road to Nabi Osman in Baalbek. Mustafa, turned himself in to security authorities later on in the morning

In Musharafiyeh , a southern suburb of Beirut , protesters burned tires and tried to block the roads but were later dispersed by the security forces with the help of Hezbollah security

There were other minor incidents but overall nothing major was reported

At about 3: PM Drivers Union leader Abdel Amir Najdeh declared the end of the strike and called upon all drivers and citizens to go to their homes.

The Union did promise that the strike will be peaceful and no demonstrations or road closures will take place during the one-day strike.

The trade unions are divided along political lines and cannot therefore agree on the issues and actions required to resolve them and for this reason not all the taxi drivers will join the strike

Trade unions that are closely associated with the ruling majority rejected the call for the strike and called instead for use of dialogue to resolve the issues

School buses are participating in the strike

But the universities and schools remain open as usual today according to Mr. Kabbani, Minster of Education

Separately the Catholic schools have also declared that they will be open on Thursday as usual.

Banks and all financial retail outlets are open as usual on Thursday

Pharmacies are also all open

The bakeries union is not participating in the strike and will therefore operate the bakeries as usual and therefore there is no need to rush to buy bread according to the Union of bakery owners.

Last November GLC chief Ghassan Ghosn called on the government to raise the minimum monthly wage from LL300,000 ( $200) to LL950,000 ( $633), due to the high cost of fuel.

"I am not asking the government to subsidize the prices because it will only help the oil cartels in Lebanon. However, the government can alleviate the misery of the citizens by increasing the minimum wage," Ghosn said.

Ghosn headed a labor union delegation today and met with Finance minister Jihad Azour

On Wednesday a delegation from the GLC visited Premier Fouad Siniora at the Grand Serail to discuss their demands.

Ghosn, told reporters that the strike would serve as a warning to the government and threatened to take similar steps in the future in the event the government fails to respond to the union demands

According to Ghosn a Committee comprised of government and private sector representatives plans to recommend an increase in the minimum wage from LL300, 000 ($ 200) to LL450,000 ( $300) , but Ghosn wants more and in addition wants all wages ( not the minimum only) to be increased across the board

The government officials could not confirm or deny the raising of the minimum wage . Azour did confirm they planned to meet the union representatives on Thursday to take up this matter , but cautioned that this will not be a government decision only since the private sector is affected and should therefore be consulted.

Whatever the government and unions agree to , any increases in wages will have to wait to take effect after the parliament ratifies the agreement according to legal experts . Speaker Nabih Berri has not convened the parliament for over 15 months.

23 January 2008

Fibreglass cos gung-ho over 25% growth

MUMBAI: With the rise in steel price and focus of the government towards infrastructure, wind energy projects, construction — the Rs 5,000-crore plus composites industry expects a 25% growth in the next 5 years. Composites are produced by combining polymer and glass fibre and are lighter than steel having low maintenance cost.

These are also exposed to volatility in price due to resins (polymer) that form over 50% part of the material. However, Chennai-based FRP Institute chairman Satish Kulkarni said that volatility in composites is less compared to metals.

Speaking to media persons on Wednesday, Mr Kulkarni said that the sector has also attracted foreign investments and many companies including Amiantit, Pentair, Georgia Pacific and Fibergrate have entered Indian markets. Also, there are many other companies that are expected to make big investments in this sector in the coming few years.

The present domestic capacity of composites is 140,000 tonnes and Mr Kulkarni feels that there is a potential to reach a capacity of one million tonnes in the next ten years.

Some recent cases where composites have been effectively used are pipes for water and sewage transportation, wind mill blade for wind turbines, street light poles for roads and highways, under-bonnet applications for automobiles, telecom cables and also in defence applications.

To further create an awareness about applications and use of reinforced plastics, the FRP Institute is also organising an international conference next month in the city where around 500 national and international delegates would be participating and deliberating on the issue.

Dubai-Sharjah Roads - Rain Floods

21 January 2008

(#3) Violence escalates in Lebanon

Beirut - The car of the wife of Judge Ahmad Oueidat was set ablaze by a grenade on Monday, but no one was injured according to Lebanese security sources.

Judge Oueidat is an assistant military prosecutor.

The grenade attack took place while her car was parked outside their home in Musaitbeh in west Beirut.

The grenade also destroyed a car belonging to a relative of General Mustafa Hamdan, former head of the Lebanese presidential guard. Hamdan is currently in jail along with 3 other security officials over the assassination of former PM Rafik al Hariri.

The security source could not determine which car was targeted, but as a rule it is easy to figure this out in Lebanon….all the assassinations and related crimes that took place during the past 3 years were against the anti-Syrians

Yesterday the car of Aziz el Matni, editor and director of the al Anba’a newspaper was set on fire . No one was injured. The attack outraged the press community.

Melhem Karam , Chief of the Lebanese Editors Syndicate condemned the attack on the car of Matni.
Karam said : “Those who think they can intimidate the press are only dreaming”
Karam described the attack on Matni as an attack against the free press and freedom of speech in Lebanon

His car was set on fire today in front of his house in Qornat Shahwan,

Al Anba’a is owned by the Progressive Socialist Party ( PSP) which is headed by MP Walid Jumblatt, a leading member of the anti-Syrian ruling majority . Jumblatt , considered one of the most outspoken leaders of Lebanon writes a weekly column in this paper

Police are investigating all the above attacks

Today was set earlier to be the election day of Army General Michel Suleiman to replace former president Emile Lahoud who stepped down on November 23 rd after his term expired . But the opposition has demanded a basket of preconditions before they agree to vote. The basket was rejected by the ruling majority as extortion and blackmail.

Speaker Nabih Berri, who is a key member of the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah -led opposition decided to postpone the election till February 11. this was the 13th delay in the presidential election.

Today former president Amine Gemayel accused the opposition of blocking the presidential election to create a void at the top , in order to make way for creating a Hezbollah mini state He also accused the opposition of conspiring to change the regime in Lebanon, which he described as a coup against the institutions and the Taef accord .-(yalibnan)

Blazing Tires Protests Strike Again

Angry demonstrators protesting against repeated power failures blocked traffic with burning rubber tires in two Hizbullah strongholds in Beirut Monday, but army patrols dispersed them and no acts of violence were reported.

Two separate groups of about 50 people each blocked traffic for about 20 minutes in the seaside southern suburb of Ouzai and the Beirut district of Zokak Blatt, but army patrols rushed and reopened both roads, a police source said

What is next?

Three possible scenarios might emerge:

* Status Quo
* Civil war
* Regional war

Status Quo

That is the favorite option for Syria and Iran. Status Quo means no government (period). They want that so none of the United Nations agreements (1701, 1559) will be applied in Lebanon. Nevertheless, they want to make sure that the International Tribunal will face every single possible obstacle that their imagination can get.

One major consequence of that will be the rift between Lebanese people will be bigger.

Civil War

This option I think Syria will get to it if the International Tribunal started to work without any effective obstacle that they tried. Chaos will be a good way to make sure that some of the suspects will be unreachable in Lebanon. But, I wonder what they will do about Syrian suspects? Will they be moving them to the Syrian parts of Lebanon?


* War will be very chaotic. No known zones are available yet between different rivals. It might take a year or more to establish new stable war zones.
* Massacres will be everywhere especially between Sunnis and Shias.
* There is a big possibility that the regional forces will not allow a party to win.
* Possibility for the war to last 3o years or more.
* Rift between the Lebanese will be bigger than ever.

Regional war

Iran, Syria, Hezbollah Israel and the US will engage in a very messy war. The question will be: who will be starting that war? And, how it will end? How much damage we will be facing in the region?

Why I am writing this?

But, why I am writing this to you is not because of my analysis of the situation. It is because of the rift between the Lebanese people. I hate March 8 leaders. But I should not say that about their followers.

The concept of the soccer team is how we are affiliated with our leaders. Most followers of Aoun will be following him regardless where he will be taking them just because they hate Jaajaa. Most of Sunnis, if not all, are supporters of Hariri regardless. Most of Shias are followers to Nasrallah regardless, and so on….

Where are we going as Lebanese people? Do you know that people are avoiding each other’s because of that? Do you know that, in a Union representatives election for the taxi in one major Canadian city where 95% of the driver are Lebanese, the drivers approximately killed each other’s to avoid having a Aoun supporter representing LFers. And vice versa.

Is this the end of the Lebanese people? Before, I used to be asked about being Muslim or Christian. Now I am being asked clearly if I am a March 8 or a March 14 supporter? Do you know that people are not doing business any more with each other’s because of that?-(beirutspring)

19 January 2008

(#2) Car of Anba’a newspaper director set on fire

Beirut - Melhem Karam , Chief of the Lebanese Editors Syndicate condemned the attack on the car of Aziz el Matni , director & chief editor of al Anba’a weekly . His car was set on fire today in front of his house in Qornat Shahwan.

Al Anba’a is owned by the Progressive Socialist Party ( PSP) which is headed by MP Walid Jumblatt, a leading member of the anti-Syrian ruling majority . Jumblatt , considered one of the most outspoken leaders of Lebanon writes a weekly column in this paper

Karam said : “Those who think they can intimidate the press are only dreaming”

Karam described the attack on Matni as an attack against the free press and freedom of speech in Lebanon

Karam urged the Lebanese authorities to investigate this crime and to bring to justice those who are behind this ‘cowardly act ‘

Lebanese security rushed to scene of the incident and firefighters quickly extinguished the fire.

The attack was denounced by many Lebanese leaders :
Saad Hariri called the incident : An attack against Democracy and Freedom in Lebanon”

Information Minister Ghazi el Aridi phoned Matni and condemned the incident . He urged the investigative authorities to find the criminals and bring them to justice as soon as possible.-(yalibnan)

Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.