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The cabinet is meeting this afternoon with a 40-item agenda. On the agenda is a draft law that would prohibit universities and schools from setting fees in currency other than lira. The Ministry of Public Health is requesting $35 million from Banque du Liban to pay for medicines for incurable and chronic diseases, cancer medicines, milk and raw materials for the manufacturing of medicines. The cabinet will also consider monetary allocations from the general budget reserve to various ministries and directorates as well as an unspecified temporary exception for the country’s water establishments to increase their spending. The Energy Ministry will present a request from the rights holders in maritime blocks 4 and 9 to extend the exploration period for a period of three years, and will propose a licensing procedure for solar power plants. On the foreign affairs front, the cabinet will consider a draft customs cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia and accept gifts from France, the United States, Turkey and Germany.
The Beirut Municipality announced yesterday it would crack down on beggars, street vendors, and shoe shiners. In a statement, the city government said that the increased presence of beggars and street vendors as a result of the country’s economic collapse has “negatively impacted the movement of pedestrians, shop owners, restaurants and others.” The city vowed to dispatch members of the City Guard regiment to patrol the city’s intersections and highways around the clock. On the other hand, pedestrians continue to suffer from uneven and unlit sidewalks that are routinely used as extra parking by cars, but the city guards are seldom seen in such situations.
Madinati announced yesterday that it is withdrawing from the electoral competition in Beirut II, though it will remain in other districts. The party however urged its supporters in the Beirut II district to “go out and vote” for another list. But two Madinati candidates in Beirut II apparently are rejecting the decision from the party’s leadership. Sarah Yassine, a candidate in Beirut II district, told L’Orient Today that she and Paula Rabiyz, who is a candidate on the same list ,will continue to compete for the seats in the district. Withdrawals within 45 days of the election have no legal weight and the ballot has already been designed, meaning the decision to withdraw is mainly aimed at communicating to supporters that they should vote for other lists. Madinati remains in contention in Beirut I and has two candidates in South I and South III, respectively.
The families of the Beirut port blast victims marched from Mar Mikhael to the emigrant statue to commemorate the 21-month anniversary of the explosion yesterday. “After four and a half months, or 132 days, the judge’s hands are still tied from following up with the investigation into the largest crime against humanity [the port explosion],” the families wrote in a statement. MPs and former Ministers Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter, both of whom are being prosecuted as part of the investigation, filed complaints against Beirut port probe head Judge Tarek Bitar, and Judge Naji Eid, who is responsible for examining an appeal brought against Bitar, which have effectively brought the investigation to a halt. In order to clear the logjam, Finance Minister Youssef Khalil must sign a decree appointing judges to the heads of chambers of the Court of Cassation, which is the body with jurisdiction over the complaints against Bitar and Eid—but he has not done so. The protesters argue he is intentionally blocking the investigation.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: Voting and vote counting: What you need to know for May 15