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Morning Brief

Lira hits new low, comedian to be tried in Military Court, Mikati to meet pope: All you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, Nov. 25

Lira hits new low, comedian to be tried in Military Court, Mikati to meet pope: All you need to know today

An environmental committee yesterday raised concerns about the health impacts of quarrying in Lebanon. (Credit: AFP)

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The Lebanese lira tumbled to a new all-time low yesterday, reaching LL24,100 to the US dollar on the parallel market. The lira’s recent depreciation has been linked to political inertia. Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet, whose Sept. 10 formation saw the lira days later rally to just above LL14,000 to the dollar, has now not convened since Oct. 12. Meanwhile, there has been no progress on securing an International Monetary Fund financial rescue package for the country and rumors abound that auditing firm Alvarez & Marsal may cancel its contract with the state to audit Banque du Liban — a prerequisite for any IMF deal — for a second time, reportedly due to lack of cooperation on the central bank’s side. Yesterday, President Michel Aoun said he insisted on the audit taking place and gave a 12-week deadline for its completion, but his reassurance saw no let up in the lira’s loss of value.

Comedian Shaden Fakih was summoned to appear before Lebanon’s Military Court. Fakih will be tried, on June 24 next year, on the charge of “humiliating and harming the reputation of Internal Security Forces” with one of her social media posts. Fakih was summoned for questioning last year by the ISF’s Cybercrimes Bureau over the same post. According to Human Rights Watch, between Jan. 1, 2015 and Dec. 7, 2020, the ISF’s Cybercrimes Bureau conducted 4,154 defamation investigations.

The Kfar Hazir Environmental Committee yesterday demanded the closure of the nearby Chekka and Heri quarries, saying they increase the risks of serious illness for children living in the area. The committee described the quarries’ industrial activities as making the area “inhospitable.” It added that the work being done in the quarries releases an excess amount of “mercury and furan,” which cause asthma, birth defects and lung disease, according to pediatrician Col. Yaacoub Constantine Itani. According to a report by the think tank Triangle, the Chekka and Heri quarries are not state sanctioned areas for quarrying and the companies operating there are in open violation of Lebanese law. The report adds that those who skirt these laws are politically connected.

Australia yesterday designated Hezbollah in its entirety as terrorist organization. Previously, the Australian government only proscribed Hezbollah’s military wing, while leaving out its political one. In response to the move, Hezbollah denounced “the decision of the Australian authorities,” considering it “a humiliating submission to American and Zionist dictates.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati will meet Pope Francis in the Vatican today. Last week, rumors of this trip circulated but were only confirmed yesterday by Vatican officials. On Tuesday, Mikati took his private jet to Rome. During the one year anniversary of the Aug. 4, 2020, port blast, the pope signaled his desire to visit Lebanon soon: “Dear Lebanese, my desire to come to visit you is great. And I will not tire of praying for you so that Lebanon returns to being a message of brotherhood, a message of peace for all of the Middle East.” The last Lebanese official to meet with the pope was former Premier Saad Hariri in April, when he was trying to form a government as prime minister designate. 


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The Lebanese lira tumbled to a new all-time low yesterday, reaching LL24,100 to the US dollar on the parallel market. The lira’s recent depreciation has been linked to political inertia. Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet, whose Sept. 10 formation saw the lira days later rally to just above LL14,000 to the dollar, has now not...