The Insult – First Lebanese Movie to Get An Academy Award Nomination

Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri just earned today an academy award nomination for his movie “The Insult” in the Foreign Language Film category! This is big news for us because it is the first movie to ever get an official Oscar nomination since Lebanon started submitting films to the Academy Awards in 1978, and will compete with four other submissions from Russia, Chile, Hungary and Sweden.

Ziad Doueiri stirred much controversy a while ago by the way when he filmed a previous movie, The Attack, in Israel. However, I noticed that almost everybody seemed to agree on praising “The Insult” regardless of their stance on Doueiri and his political views, so I really hope it manages to clinch the trophy!

The Oscars will air on Sunday March 4th on ABC Network and Jimmy Kimmel is once again hosting the event this year. You can check the full list of nominees for all categories here.


All You Need To Know About The Lebanese General Security Cyber Espionage Campaign

My Facebook and Twitter feeds are infested now with news articles about the cyber espionage campaign dubbed as “Dark Caracal” involving the Lebanese Directorate of General Security, and so far I have seen all kind of comments from people who are oblivious about this revelation to others who now believe that every single Lebanese mobile phone is subject to the espionage campaign. So there you go, everything you need to know about Dark Caracal.


Mobile security firm Lookout, and digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, released a report yesterday attributing a global cyber espionage campaign that they called “Dark Caracal” to the Lebanese Directorate of General Security.

The attack carried out by the hackers apparently seized control of thousands of Android phones from around 21 countries and resulted in stealing hundreds of Gigabytes. Researchers were able to gain access to one of the servers used by the hackers and found that the stolen data included: SMS Messages, Account credentials, WiFi details, Call records, Bookmarks and browsing history, Messaging apps databases (WhatsApp, Telegram…), Contacts, Installed Apps, Personal documents, Images, Voice recordings, and Listing of the phone storage content.

It is worth noting that all attacks targeted Android phones and there was no evidence of targeting iPhones. On the other hand, files stolen from personal computers included full backup images of iPhone mobiles. Moreover, I found it a bit weird that users from neither Israel nor Iran were victims to this campaign.


In terms of hacking, the attackers did not utilize very sophisticated techniques to control the phones, they actually launched several campaigns that consisting of sending phishing links and fake applications to their victims in order to lure them into installing some malicious applications on their mobiles and computers which in turn uploaded their personal data to some remote server controlled by the hackers.

As to how these hackers were busted, the researchers claimed that they spotted several testing devices that were used by the hackers themselves to test their malware, and those devices had one thing in common which was a WiFi network called “Bld3F6”. Upon investigating a little, they were able to identify that this WiFi network was located very close to the General Security building in Mathaf.


The researchers found that the campaign was first launched in 2012 and was still active at the time of publishing their findings.

Are we all compromised?

Certainly not. Some people made it seem like the General Security have super powers now and are able to infiltrate all our devices. If you use trusted WiFi networks, double check each link you see on the web before clicking it, and make sure to install legitimate apps only on your mobile, then you are most probably safe.


I have mixed thoughts about this. Is it ethical to spy on people? Definitely not, but all governments do it anyway, and assuming that the General Security is really tied to this cyber campaign then our government is no different. I’d like to believe that what they’re doing is probably protecting us from terror attacks, but I also value personal privacy and would feel outraged if I knew someone had access to my personal data…

Anyway, if you feel like reading more about Dark Caracal, you can find more details in the 49 pages report prepared by Lookout and Electronic Frontier Foundation here. One thing that I thought the report lacked was more details on how the researchers gained access to the servers utilized by the hackers, otherwise it is quite informative.


Ponder Upon This

Switching to the newly rolled out license plates as the car owner did in the above picture requires passing the car inspection test at one of the mecanique centers. How on earth did this Renault 12 do it?!!

photo via Hamza Halabi


Hollywood Made a Bad Movie About Beirut – So What?!

Everyone and their mother seems to be upset about Jon Hamm’s new movie, titled “Beirut”, because of its bad portrayal of our Beirut city and all the stereotypes that appeared in the trailer.

The movie is written by Tony Gilroy (author first four films of the Bourne series) and tells the story of Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm a former U.S. diplomat who is called back into service to save a colleague from a terrorist group that was responsible for the death of his own family 10 years earlier.

As the trailer shows, the movie is gonna give quite a gloomy picture of Beirut, and with everything bad going around us in the region right now,western people will unconsciously associate us with terrorism after watching it. But then again, you can’t just blame this movie for the bad publicity we have abroad… We have been ruining our country for over 40 years now and have made enough headlines so far for the whole world to judge us without the need to watch any movie about Lebanon!

And what are you expecting from Hollywood in the first place? A promotional tourism movie about Lebanon? In a world where everyone has a different point of view, why can’t we take their side for a second? We treat them as invaders but they simply regard themselves as our white saviors… Ever knew about the 1985 TWA Flight 847 that was hijacked by Lebanese people and rerouted to Beirut with 85 American passengers on-board? How about the 1983 barracks bombings in Beirut? Regardless what your political views might be, these are acts of terrorism to them and the average American had every reason to think of us as terrorists back then…

Even worse, back to our side, how do you label 15 years of civil war? We butchered each other, mass killings were nothing unusual over that period, and minors did join militias back then. Go read or watch some Lebanese war documentary to learn all about it… Do you only feel butthurt because an American is mentioning it now?

Instead of whining about the movie, just let it be and move on, if it’s really bad then it will eventually be a box office flop. If anything, you can probably brighten the country’s image by simply replacing the warlords that have been ruling the country since the civil war era and are the ones responsible for Beirut’s bad publicity everywhere!


Surprise Gifts For Child Beggars in Beirut

Child beggars have increased around Beirut over the past few years and at times can be quite irritating due to their aggressive attitude. I personally usually just avoid giving them any money because I know they’re certainly part of a scheme that exploits children and I never want to end up supporting such thing.

This guy however roamed around Hamra during Christmas time and randomly gave toys to some of the kids he found there on the street.

What caught my attention the most is that they all kept asking for more toys for their brothers and sisters. Not sure if they really meant it though or if they were just acting smart to get more stuff, but either ways the smile on their faces was absolutely priceless!

Needless to say, the government definitely needs to address this issue because no kids deserve to grow up this way on the streets.


Raising Cane’s Now Open at The Spot Choueifat

I’m lately becoming a less fan of fried food but the minute I saw Raising Cane’s open at The Spot Choueifat last week I felt curious to try their chicken finger after hearing about it from a friend living in the US.

For those who are not familiar with the name, it is a fast growing restaurant chain in USA serving one single item, chicken fingers. Their menu is quite minimalist with only 3 meal options, 1 sandwich, and a kids combo.

I ordered their most popular options which is the Box Combo (13,250L.L) with the purpose of comparing it to KFC, and despite the limited offering, it didn’t really take a lot to notice how much better Raising Cane’s is.

I don’t really need to go all poetic about how tasty the chicken fingers are, but they’re really GOOD! Freshly fried, tender, juicy, and best of all they’re not oily so your fingers won’t feel sticky when you’re done. The cane’s sauce that comes along is pretty good as well, just make sure to order an additional sauce on the side because you will definitely be double dipping. I know I did.

As for the sides, the fries are just average but the texas toast is tremendous! Bread lovers will surely appreciate it. It is grilled after being lightly brushed with garlic butter, so beware if you’re allergic to garlic.

All in all, Raising Cane’s is definitely recommended if you’re into that kind of fast food. And with two more branches soon opening in Hamra and Zahle (as I was informed by their staff), KFC better be prepared for some good competition in the coming months.


Can Nejmeh Square Be Brought Back To Life?

Speaker Nabih Berri ordered yesterday the removal of all barriers and cement blocks around Nejmeh square in order allow pedestrian access again to it. This comes after many years of locking down the area in order to prevent any protest taking place around Riad El Solh or the Martyrs’ Square from reaching the parliament. The decision is of course much needed to pump some life into the now dead square but I’m not really sure it is enough to return things as they were in the early 2000s.

I used to work in Beirut Downtown when the lockdown was first imposed and have witnessed shops closing one after the other with the crowd rapidly moving to other areas that quickly boomed like Hamra and Mar Mkhayel. And I don’t think it will be easy for the Nejmeh Square to win the people again, let alone convincing business owners to resume operations there especially that no one can guarantee that the area won’t be closed anytime later on.

I myself for example currently prefer to go to Beirut Souks or Zaitunay Bay instead since many food and coffe places are within reach there, not to mention the convenience of the car parking space as opposed the case with the Nejmeh Sqaure where the nearest parking space is a few hundred meters away.

That being said, I believe that unless the Municipality of Beirut and Solidere put some serious effort to attract people, then chances are Nejmeh Square will most probably remain deserted.


Beautiful Rendition of Warda’s Batwanes Beek by Anghami

Check out this cool rendition of Warda’s Batwanes Beek by Anghami.

For their 5th anniversary, they recently gathered several musicians such as Jean-Marie Riachy, Guy Manoukian, and Jose Fernandez among others at their premises in Beirut to produce this cover.


Marvel Movies Free Screenings in Beirut

If you’re a fan of Marvel or superhero movies in general, then here’s your chance to re-watch or catch up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe films for free. The people at a production company called “Monkey Business Dreams” are planning host screenings for 18 Marvel movies each Tuesday at 7PM starting January 2nd 2018 until “Avengers: Infinity War” is released on May 4th 2018. Each screening will be followed by a discussion and a Q&A on plot and production.

If you’re interested to attend, you can find the screening location coordinates here and below is their schedule:

  • Jan 2: Iron Man
  • Jan 9: The Incredible Hulk
  • Jan 16: Iron Man 2
  • Jan 23: Thor
  • Jan 30: Captain America – The First Avenger
  • Feb 6: The Avengers
  • Feb 13: Iron Man 3
  • Feb 20: Thor – The Dark World
  • Feb 27: Captain America – The Winter Soldier
  • Mar 6: Guardians Of The Galaxy
  • Mar 13: The Avengers – Age Of Ultron
  • Mar 20: Ant-Man
  • Mar 27: Captain America – Civil War
  • Apr 3: Doctor Strange
  • Apr 10: Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2
  • Apr 17: Spider-Man Homecoming
  • Apr 24: Thor – Ragnarok
  • May 1: Black Panther

No snacks or drinks are sold on location by the way, so feel free to bring your own stuff.


No, You Can’t Lose Your Mobile Credits By Answering a Phone Call

I’ve seen several Facebook posts and even received numerous voice notes on WhatsApp over the last few days warning people from answering phone calls from numbers starting with “+7” or “007”, because they can steal all your credits if you a have a prepaid line or overcharge you in case you’re on a postpaid plan, and even get hold of all the data stored on your phone…

Now I know a thing or two about GSM networks and let me tell you this, THE ABOVE IS ALL WRONG. There’s no way someone can steal your money or phone stored data by simply making you answer a phone call, it is probably possible in movies but this is not how “smartphone hacking” works in real life.

In order to transfer credits to another phone line you should input a special command on your phone or send an SMS I guess. On the other hand, the protocol you phone uses to make a phone call is meant to transport voice data only, so a calling party can never send your phone special commands to execute over a voice call, and is also never able to view or steal your phone data.

However, some people are indeed losing money and it’s because they are sometimes calling back these numbers when noticing a missed call. The reason is simply because these numbers are premium rate numbers so calling them may cost up to $20 or $30 in some countries (same applies for sending an SMS). As for data theft, it is only possible by tricking you into visiting some malicious link or installing a malicious app.

To protect yourself against such incidents just make sure to stick to the following:

  • Never call back a suspicious number.
  • Avoid installing apps from outside Google Play for Android or App Store for iOS.
  • Avoid clicking on links you receive by e-mail or messaging platforms from unknown senders.

So there you go… there’s absolutely no need to panic if you get a call from these numbers, just be careful what you do with your smartphone.


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