Atmospheric forecasts

‘The martyrs are our martyrs! The square is our square! They will not take over Lebanon!’, big billboards are screaming all over the city. Cars and coaches with huge sound installations are cruising the streets calling everybody to Martyr’s Square on Thursday. TV stations (well, some of them) are spouting the same message in commercials all day. This is the biggest advertising campaign I’ve seen yet in Lebanon. Makes you wonder how enthusiastic people are about the whole M14 thing, if it takes this much indoctrination to get them moving… Interestingly, weather forecasts predict temperatures of 15 to 16°C for every day of this week apart from Thursday, when the remembrance of Hariri’s assassination will command an appropriate chilling down to 11°C…

Meanwhile, in a highly symbolic gesture of nature, the huge poster celebrating the army’s victory in Nahr al-Bared, which had been covering the entire side wall of a high flat block beside the Hamra-to-Ashrafieh thoroughfare for over half a year, was torn down by storm gusts on the very night after the riots of Sunday 27th January, where the army shot and killed 9 shia protesters. Today, the military court announced that 16 soldiers and 3 officers are being charged with ‘involuntary manslaughter’. 60 civilians are also charged ‘for their role in the riots and for attacking the army’. Yesterday night, after a bright and sunny week, the storms have come back and intermittent showers combined with powerful blasts are continuing still. Also last night, the earth trembled in Tyre with a light earthquake, which caused no damage but got everybody running out of their houses in a panic. No idea what it all means – and I’m not gonna ramble along with the ‘impending doom’ scenarios the international press crowd in Beirut seems so fond of – but human, climatic and geological activity do seem to be conspiring to create a rather tense atmosphere of expectation….

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