60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises

60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises
Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education organized exams around where invigilators live to reduce transport costs. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 25 June 2022

60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises

60,000 students take exams as Lebanon grapples with crises

BEIRUT: On Saturday, 60,933 Lebanese students took their intermediate certificate exams (Brevet) amid severe power cuts, water shortages and inflated transport costs.
However, the security forces provided a peaceful environment inside the exam centers while the Lebanese Army was deployed outside.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education organized exams around where invigilators live to reduce transport costs. It also ensured that exams were only taken in centers that students and teachers could efficiently access.
Lebanon’s worsening financial crisis and the local currency’s depreciation meant that the ministry faced several challenges for holding the exams.
The ministry canceled the exams last year during the pandemic and struggled to organize them this year amid a teachers’ strike and parents grappling with the high costs of driving their children to centers.
Making matters worse for the students, an unusual end-of-June thunderstorm hit Lebanon on Saturday morning. Given the cloudy weather, the ministry had to plead with private generator owners to provide exam centers with power so students can clearly see their exam sheets.
In some centers in Diniyeh, northern Lebanon, exams were delayed for over two hours due to the power outage and the storm.
The second part of the Brevet exams will be held on Monday; just two days of exams are now required after subjects were reduced to five instead of nine.
The official exams of the Lebanese Baccalaureate Certificate of Secondary Education, which 43,000 students will take, are scheduled to start on Wednesday and last for three days.
A total of 12,000 teachers are supervising the official exams as the official education associations decided not to boycott exams at the last minute despite their demands to raise the allowance.
Imad Al-Ashkar, director general at the ministry, who heads the examining committees, said the suspension of studies as a result of the teachers’ strike and online schooling have been taken into account while setting exam papers.
The ministry has resorted to donors to secure additional funds to pay teachers for supervising and correcting official exams.
The teachers were promised an increase in financial allowances for supervisors and heads of exam centers; 160,000 LBP ($6.34) and 200,000 LBP respectively. They were also promised a $20 daily allowance provided by donor countries.
The currency depreciation means that the supervisor’s allowance is only enough to buy them a sandwich and a soda. Meanwhile, the price of a 20-liter gasoline canister is almost 700,000 LBP.
The struggle of education workers is being replicated by all the Lebanese, who are facing a living crisis that has reached unacceptable limits, as bakeries are running out of bread and water is barely reaching households since the Water Establishment cannot afford diesel to run its pump.
Power cuts are ongoing and more medicines are expected to go missing from pharmacies as subsidies will be lifted on more chronic disease medicines next week.
Traders are taking advantage of the crisis to make illegal profits; the cost of 10 barrels of household water has doubled to 1 million LBP.
Some bakery owners have reported that people in the southern suburb of Beirut are buying all the flour from the mills at a subsidized price before setting up stands near bakeries, selling flour bags at double their price while the security services stand idly by.


UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
Updated 26 sec ago

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey

UK police seek urgent help locating boy last seen in Turkey
  • 4-year-old George Jack Temperley-Wells visited Antalya with his mother to see his father

LONDON: Police in the UK have asked for help to locate a 4-year-old boy who is thought to be missing after traveling to Turkey.

George Jack Temperley-Wells is believed to have gone to visit his father Scott Nigel Wells in the city of Antalya on June 29 with his mother Brogan Elizabeth Temperley. Antalya is a popular summer holiday destination for Britons.

Durham Police said anyone in contact with Temperley should notify authorities in Turkey or the UK immediately with information on her whereabouts, adding that they have serious concerns for the welfare of her son.

The police said the boy has red hair, a pale complexion and dark eyes, while his mother is described as being slim with long dark hair and dark eyes.

The force released two images of the trio dining in the area at a restaurant recently, where they were seen smiling together.

People in Turkey with information should visit their nearest police station or call 112/115. Anyone in the UK with information should contact Durham Constabulary on 101, and quote the incident number 325 for June 30.


Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank

Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank
Updated 6 min 41 sec ago

Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank

Armed man demanding frozen deposits takes hostages at Lebanese commercial bank
  • The gunman entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon branch in the Hamra neighborhood in west Beirut with a firearm, security source said

BEIRUT: An armed man demanding deposits frozen by his bank took an unspecified number of hostages on Thursday at the Federal Bank of Lebanon, a security source said and a Reuters witness said.
Lebanese banks have limited withdrawals of hard currency for most depositors during the country’s three-year financial meltdown, which has left more than three-quarters of the population poor.

 


The man entered the Federal Bank of Lebanon branch in the Hamra neighborhood in west Beirut just before noon on Thursday with a firearm, the security source told Reuters.
Some customers in the bank managed to flee before he shut the doors on the rest, said the source, who was not able to specify how many clients or employees were in the branch.

 


Two shots were subsequently fired, according to Lebanese media station Al-Jadeed.
A Reuters witness could see a bearded man in a black shirt behind the gated entrance to the bank speaking to several men in plainclothes on the outside.
“Let them give me back my money!” he was heard telling them.

 

The following is a live update of the events as they unfold. All timings are GMT:

09:30am - Al Jadeed Television confirms that Basem Al-Sheikh Hussein, 42, has taken hostages in a branch of Federal Bank Lebanon in Hamrah Street in Beirut, demanding his money back.

He has $210,000 and his brother has $500,000 in accounts in the bank. Direct negotiations are ongoing between the families of the hostages and Hussein.


Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton

Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton
Updated 37 min 13 sec ago

Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton

Iran says ‘fiction’ US’s claim of plot to kill former White House official John Bolton
  • ‘The US Justice Department has made allegations without providing valid evidence, creating a new work of fiction’
  • US Justice Department: Plan likely in retaliation for the killing of Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020

TEHRAN: Iran dismissed as “fiction” Thursday US allegations it had plotted to kill former White House national security adviser John Bolton in retaliation for the assassination of one of its top commanders.
The US claim comes at a crunch moment in talks on reviving a nuclear deal between Iran and major powers that Washington had abandoned in 2018 but has said it wants to rejoin, with Iran now considering what European Union mediators have called a “final” text.
“The US Justice Department has made allegations without providing valid evidence, creating a new work of fiction,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said.
“This time they have come up with a plot involving individuals like Bolton whose political career has failed,” Kanani scoffed.
“The Islamic republic warns against any action that targets Iranian citizens by resorting to ridiculous accusations.”
The US Justice Department said Wednesday that it had indicted a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards over allegations he had offered to pay an individual in the United States $300,000 to kill Bolton.
The plan was likely set in retaliation for the US killing of top Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in Iraq in January 2020, the department said.
Guards member Shahram Poursafi is also alleged to have dangled the possibility of a second target he said would earn the ostensible assassin $1 million.
The court papers did not identify that alleged target, but according to US media outlet Axios, it was former secretary of state and CIA director Mike Pompeo.
The person Poursafi was dealing with was actually an informant for the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to the court filings.
Poursafi was charged with the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, which carries up to 10 years in prison; and with providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot, which carries a 15-year sentence.
The Justice Department said Poursafi remains at large and is believed to be in Iran.
“Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences,” current White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned after the charges were announced.
Soleimani, a revered figure in Iran, was killed in a US drone strike just after he landed at Baghdad’s airport on January 7, 2020.
Since his death, Tehran has vowed to take revenge, and the United States has ramped up security for prominent current and former officials, including Pompeo, who was leading the State Department when Soleimani was killed.
Bolton, like Pompeo a strong critic of Iran, was national security adviser in the White House of former president Donald Trump from April 2018 to September 2019.
He was strongly opposed to the 2015 deal putting limits on Iran’s nuclear program, and supported the Trump administration’s unilateral pullout from the pact in May 2018.
Bolton blasted Iran’s government as “liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States” in a statement on Wednesday.
Kanani said the US Justice Department’s “baseless claims” were a smokescreen to “avoid being held to account for the numerous crimes in which the US government has been directly implicated, like the cowardly assassination” of Soleimani.


Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry

Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry
Updated 11 August 2022

Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry

Student in Egypt held for killing girlfriend who refused to marry
  • Salma Baghat was stabbed 17 times in Zagazig city
  • Latest in a string of ‘revenge’ murders by men

A man has been arrested for killing his 20-year-old girlfriend in a stabbing frenzy after she refused to marry him, in the latest case of femicide that has shocked the nation.

In a statement, Egypt’s Public Prosecution said that it had detained 22-year-old Islam Mohammed pending an investigation into charges of the premeditated murder of Salma Baghat, which took place in Egypt’s Zagazig city.

The prosecution said the young woman and her family rejected his offer to marry her due to his “bad behavior, abnormal beliefs, and his addiction to drugs.”

Mohammed, who attended Al-Shorouk Academy with Baghat, admitted to authorities that he killed her on Tuesday because she had rejected him and refused to comply with his demands to stop seeing her friends and quit her job.

Mohammed stabbed Baghat 17 times as she was leaving a building in the city, according to local media reports.

The prosecution said the man then posted a picture online of the victim’s body after the attack.

Baghat’s killing is the latest in a string of “revenge” murders.

The murder of 21-year-old Nayera Ashref outside her university campus in broad daylight in June this year sparked outrage across Egypt. Prior to her murder, Ashraf had repeatedly refused the advances of Mohamed Adel.

According to the Erdaak Foundation for Development and Equality, an estimated 7.8 million girls and women in Egypt have experienced some form of gender-based violence.

In 2020 alone, there were 415 violent crimes reported against girls and women in the country, the organization said in a report published last year.


Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’

Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’
Updated 11 August 2022

Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’

Japan welcomes Gaza ceasefire, stresses ‘violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East’
  • ‘Japan hopes that this ceasefire will contribute to a stabilization of the situation in Gaza’

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi on Wednesday welcomed the Gaza ceasefire and said that the problems between the Palestinians and Israel “cannot be resolved through violence.”

Following a fierce series of bombings by Israel and a response by Palestinians in Gaza, tensions have grown in the region, although a ceasefire has been agreed to.

“Japan hopes that this ceasefire will contribute to a stabilization of the situation in Gaza and lead to an improvement of the socio-economic situation locally. We call on all stakeholders to comply with the agreement and call for maximum self-restraint.”

Hayashi said the many casualties amongst the general public that have resulted from the clashes “is a big and deep concern for us, and I’d like to express my condolences to the victim’s families.”

The foreign minister expressed Japan’s official position on the Palestinian cause saying, “Violence will not solve the issue in the Middle East. We believe that it can only be resolved through negotiation and efforts to build confidence between the parties. Therefore, we call on all those involved to make the strongest efforts possible.”

Hayashi made his remarks in reply to Arab News Japan’s question in a press conference at the ministry held right after participating in the inauguration of the new cabinet of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. Hayashi was retained as Foreign Minister in the new lineup.

This article originally appeared on Arab News Japan