Friday, December 29, 2006

Lebanon in Snow

July Snow over Lebanon Mountains July Snow over Lebanon Mountains
Lebanon Sannine Mountain Lebanon Sannine Mountain
Cross & Snow. Annaya
Trees & Snow. Annaya
Snow. Annaya
Snow valley. Annaya
Cedar of Lebanon. Cedar of Lebanon - Annaya
Snow at the shrine. Monastery of Saint Maroun, Church of Saint Charbel
the cedars forest under snow,lebanon Cedars of Lebanon
Majestic Cedars of Lebanon3 snow capped Cedars of Lebanon
Mountains of Snow Moutains of Lebanon

Country reels in wake severe snowstorm

Country reels in wake severe snowstorm
Weather experts predict more bad weather over weekend

By Mohammed Zaatari and Maher Zeineddine
Daily Star correspondent

SIDON/CHOUF: The severe storm that struck Lebanon on Wednesday inflicted heavy damages, as a number of roads were blocked, areas flooded, and landslides occurred, due to the heavy snowfall and torrential rain. Although Thursday brought some sunshine and warm conditions, weather experts are predicting that another hailstorm will hit Lebanon by Saturday afternoon. Sources from the Civil Aviation Department at the Rafik Hariri International Airport told The Daily Star that Lebanon will not witness anything similar to the storm it saw over the past few days. One of the source added that the freezing air currents that hit Lebanon will not reoccur, as temperatures will be on the rise starting Friday morning.

"The storm [which is predicted to hit Lebanon on Saturday] will not be as severe as that of Wednesday; it will be like any normal storm Lebanon has long witnessed during the winter season," the Aviation Department said. The Aviation Department also said that the storm will not last for more than 24 hours, and snow will only fall at an altitude of 1,300 to 1,400 meters.

In the mountainous Chouf area, black ice forced many people to stay at home on Wednesday. Traffic was completely paralyzed, due to landslides caused by heavy rain. By Thursday morning the ice on the roads began to melt. But the Maaser-al-Chouf Kefraya road is still completely blocked, after the level of snow reached 30 centimeters. Bulldozers from the Civil Defense and the Lebanese Army worked around the clock to make the Dahr al-Baidar accessible to motorists. The town of Jezzine in South Lebanon is still covered in a thick coat of white snow, causing the Jezzine- Western Bekaa road to remain closed. Many of Jezzine residents stayed at home on Wednesday.

In the coming days, temperatures in Lebanon are expected to vary between 5 and 13 degrees Celsius along the coast, between -3 and 5 degrees in the mountains, and between -3 and 5 in the Bekaa Valley. Weather forecasts also predict that northwesterly winds will blow at speeds varying between 10 and 30 kilometers per hour, with poor visibility in the highlands.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Ana Loubnani - I am Lebanese...

Ad by Byblos Bank: Ana Loubnani (I am Lebanese)
Very nice and well done. It reflects the current situation...

Click on the link to view the video:

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A key player in Lebanon alters his part

A key player in Lebanon alters his part
Gen. Michel Aoun, a Christian, has hitched his star to Hezbollah

By Megan K. Stack, LA Times Staff Writer
December 20, 2006

RABIEH, LEBANON — In these days of fear and distrust in Lebanon, there may be no man who inspires more venom than Gen. Michel Aoun. Since returning from 15 years of exile to the joyful cheers of his followers last year, the Christian leader known simply as "the General" has frayed this fragile country's intricate network of allegiances. First he formed a surprising political alliance with Hezbollah. Then he sent his followers into the streets for massive antigovernment demonstrations. With rising religious and political tensions threatening to pitch the country into fighting, plenty of his embittered fellow Lebanese hold Aoun squarely to blame. But after decades of war and exile, Aoun is in no mood to apologize. Watching the country unravel from a fortified perch in Beirut's well-heeled Christian suburbs, he is calm and selfassured. He politely acknowledges his many, vociferous critics — and describes himself as a misunderstood savior of Christians and Lebanon. "A leader must be a leader. Sometimes he could make choices against the opinions of his followers because he has to go through a crisis and to save them. The vision is not for everybody," says Aoun, peering over his desk through round eyeglasses. "He has to make a choice, and maybe, after, the people will understand why he has done what he has done."

It's no secret that Aoun would like to emerge from Lebanon's political paralysis as president, a post reserved for a Christian under Lebanon's system of carving up the government according to religion. Many Lebanese believe that he made a Faustian bargain with Hezbollah in hopes of assuring his ascendance. His rivals say he is so blinded by ambition that he's willing to destabilize the country — and turn Christians against one another — to get the power he wants. But Aoun insists that he is working to secure a better government for Lebanon, and that the presidency is an afterthought. Whatever his motives, he has boosted Hezbollah's fortunes at a delicate time: As it pushes to topple the government, Hezbollah has minimized its image as an armed Islamist party of Shiite Muslims. Hezbollah now speaks of itself as a mainstream movement with a populist, cross-sectarian appeal. Critics fear Aoun is being used by Hezbollah, and warn that his newfound allies will toss him aside when they no longer need him. They call him a traitor to Christians and a tool of Syria and Iran, Hezbollah's main backers. "He's a destructive figure in recent Lebanese history," said Michael Young, opinion editor for Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper. "Lebanon has never been so divided, and the Christian community, since his return, has never been so divided. Like many a demagogue, he lives off division." This slight, 71-year-old leader with an office full of history books and an evident interest in Charles de Gaulle has gambled his legacy on Hezbollah. He argues that time will prove the wisdom of his choices. "Maybe it looks to somebody like a big gamble, but to me it's clear," he said. "The result will save this country…. The other choices we have right now threaten our own existence. What I am doing right now will preserve the existence of Christians in the Middle East."

But many of Lebanon's Christians are furious with Aoun. Tensions have led to scattered street fights among his followers and fellow Christians. Aoun shrugs off worries over the divisions, which he called predictable and unremarkable. "They don't have enough judgment to appreciate what I'm doing for the Christian community and Lebanon," Aoun said. "Those people are educated on hatred. "They are angry. They cannot conceive that a man from the people would become a leader," he said of his critics in government. "They are a factor of stagnation in our country. They won't accept any reform or change." Born into a poor family, Aoun worked his way up through the ranks of the military. He dismisses much of Lebanon's political elite as "remainders of political feudalism" who inherited both power and fortunes. Aoun's longtime, outspoken hatred of Syria has shaped an often isolated trek through war and politics. As the civil war wound down in 1990, the one-time prime minister was forced into exile in France. He pledged never to set foot in Lebanon until the Syrians relinquished their hold on the country. During the hard, repressive years that followed, Aoun's backers in the Free Patriotic Movement staged illegal street demonstrations, enduring jail, interrogations and abuse.

Meanwhile, many of Lebanon's other leaders went along with the Syrian government in Damascus, including some of the most outspoken members of the self-proclaimed "anti-Syria" coalition that now controls the majority bloc in Lebanon's parliament. Days after Syria was forced to withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon last year, the general charged triumphantly home to the delight of weeping, cheering fans. But his return proved bittersweet. He found himself usurped: Sunni leader Saad Hariri led a coalition of newly minted "anti-Syria" politicians who seized control of the parliament through national elections. When Aoun forged alliances with staunch allies of Syria, Lebanese began to whisper a startling rumor: Aoun had hammered out an understanding with Damascus before returning home. Aoun insists that this is a lie. To this day, he says, he has carried out no negotiation, direct or indirect, with Syria. "Hariri and his group were pro-Syrian. And they took advantage of that and made fortunes from the resources of the country," Aoun said. "So what's going on now is that these people collaborated so much with Syria that they have to show some hate, some extremism, in speaking of Syria." Aoun, who believes the government has succumbed to nepotism and corruption, pushed for an extensive audit of the government to find out who had profited illegally during the years of Syrian control. He called for an overhaul of Lebanon's election laws, and decried the system of apportioning power along religious lines. And then came the final stroke: This year, Aoun signed a document of common political strategy with Hezbollah, utterly confounding many Lebanese. The general brushed off criticism, insisting that Christians could not be secure in the Middle East unless they dealt pragmatically with the Muslim majority. "They can't be different, like they're imported from another area," he said.

Aoun's pact raised eyebrows in Washington, which classifies Hezbollah as a terrorist group. He said his recent relations with Washington were "not good." But he insisted that it was unrealistic and counterproductive for the Bush administration to expect him to ignore Hezbollah. "That's one-third of the Lebanese people," he said. "We cannot isolate them. We cannot kill them." Many Christians simply cannot bring themselves to support an alliance with an armed Islamist organization they regard as a threat to their community's future. Others cheer Aoun as a visionary leader and praise his choice of Hezbollah over the pampered heirs and warlords they regard as corrupt. "There's only one reason I'm standing by somebody who's an extremist: It's a trust balance against all the hypocrisy on the other side," said Roy Saab, 29, a Christian magazine editor who has demonstrated against the government along with Hezbollah followers. "I know they have weapons and missiles. But I trust what they say, as opposed to everyone else." Saab acknowledged that his stance might seem bizarre. "No one can say the Middle East is not an absurd place to live," he said with a grin. But it remains to be seen how far Aoun will go to remain loyal to his newfound political allies. He stopped short of calling for Hezbollah's disarmament, a defining issue in Lebanese politics. "You cannot say to people, if you don't have another security system to defend them, 'OK, give up your weapons and go home,' " Aoun said. "Everybody will feel insecure and we'll have instability." That, he says, is where his project of Muslim-Christian alliance comes in. "We have to disarm their minds. The weapons don't make a crime by themselves. They are manipulated by man," he said. "So the pacification of the country starts by pacifying spirits and minds.",1,2981590.story?coll=la-news-a_section

Friday, December 22, 2006

Downtown sit-in hits retailers across capital

Downtown sit-in hits retailers across capital
Local customers are too nervous to spend much - and 'there are no tourists'

By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Presents under Lebanese Christmas trees this year could be a little scarce, judging by sales in major Beirut shopping districts. Retailers in Verdun, Hamra and Achrafieh told The Daily Star Thursday that sales had plummeted compared to last year's holiday season, with nearly all stores reporting a drop of more than 50 percent. The holiday malaise has infected vendors regardless of their wares - from toys to electronics, from clothing to carpets; their cash registers are just not ringing. "This is the climax of our work, supposedly, but however, due to the political situation, work is not going so well," said Khalil Hassoun of the Amichi clothing store in Verdun. "The economy's terrible right now," he added. Some retailers complain that the ongoing Downtown sit-in, which began December 1, has scared away shoppers. "Especially here in Hamra, we're near the Downtown," said Sevag Seferian of the Golden Crown clothing boutique. Receipts there were down about 70 percent from last year at this time. "It was better last year," he told The Daily Star. "It's a big difference."

While some shoppers steer clear of the neighborhoods close to the opposition demonstration, others have put away their wallets because of uncertainty how this round of political infighting will turn out. "People are kind of afraid of buying things," said Mohammad Moabi of Radio Shack in Hamra, estimating that income was down two-thirds from 2005's holidays. The holiday shopping crowd is also missing its traditional, injection of tourists, another casualty of the political chaos. Hotels vacancies are higher than usual, and incoming flights are bringing mostly Lebanese expatriates home for the holidays."There are no tourists," said Jean Mansour of the Houdoum men's clothing store at ABC mall in Achrafieh, where revenues are down about 60 percent. "Last year was very crowded." Sales collapsed almost to nothing in the days after the sit-in began, but some stores reported a slight bump in customer traffic in the past few days thanks to last-minute Christmas shoppers. A number of stores slashed prices not for the holidays, but because the disintegrating political scene has damaged business so gravely. "We're probably giving a little more on the discounts than we usually do, instead of waiting till after Christmas," said Youmna Asseily of Domtex in Hamra, where sales have fallen 50 percent despite the introduction of new goods brought in just to stir additional interest.

Some retailers are suffering more because this is their high season - for example, winter is the peak time to buy carpets and ski gear, but Kawtharani carpet store in Verdun and Sports Experts in ABC have not enjoyed their annual sales spikes. Merchants have been reeling since the July-August war with Israel, and some recalled that last year's Christmas was weaker than usual because Gebran Tueni was assassinated on December 12. Retailers expressed doubt that any store was prospering, and some still held out hope for a sales boom in the final days before Christmas. A couple of merchants said their expectations for the season were so low that they were thrilled by the feeble sales they were making. "In spite of all this mess, it's much better than we were expecting," said Karam al-Hariri at Sony World in ABC.

Al-Manar: Plane came to Beirut from Tel Aviv on day of Gemayel assassination

Al-Manar: Plane came to Beirut from Tel Aviv on day of Gemayel assassination
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Hizbullah's television channel reported on Thursday that a Portuguese plane coming from Tel Aviv, Israel, landed at Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport and remained on the ground for seven hours on November 21, the day that Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated. However, conflicting reports said the plane that landed had come from Cyprus, not from the Jewish state.

Lebanese law prohibits any direct air navigation from Israel to Beirut.

But on the afternoon of November 21, Portuguese Foreign Minister Louis Amado arrived in Beirut on board a private plane on an official visit to meet the Portuguese UNIFIL troops stationed in the South. Ministerial sources told The Daily Star that the plane had come from Cyprus. However, Al-Manar said the plane came from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and landed in Beirut at 11.31 a.m. It added that the flight marked the first time "official and normal contact was made between the two airports." Al-Manar said the "plane headed from Lisbon to Tel Aviv and then to Lebanon, leaving Beirut at around 7 p.m. toward an unknown destination." "Eleven people were on board; 10 of them disembarked," the TV station said. Al-Manar added that "eight people, who were not on board originally, boarded the plane in Lebanon and headed toward an unidentified destination." Al-Manar also said that the 10 people remained in Beirut, adding that the television station's reporters were conducting investigations to discover who they are. Al-Manar also quoted "well-informed sources" as saying that the Civil Aviation Safety Committee had "hired four US experts who work on the airport's second floor and earn $120,000 per month in a secret mission under the slogan of airport reforms."

No official statements were made by the relevant authorities by the time The Daily Star went to press. Sources from the Internal Security Forces told local daily An-Nahar that Al-Manar's claims "were completely false." However, other sources in the Surete Generale were quoted by An-Nahar Thursday as saying that the plane might have arrived from Tel Aviv. The sources added that the issue is currently under investigation. - The Daily Star

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christmas! :)

I know it is a few days early
but I just wanted to be the first to wish everyone a
Very Merry Christmas!
and a Happy Birthday to meeeee! ;)

For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us,
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God Everlasting
Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

Business leaders put heads together to 'save' economy

Business leaders put heads together to 'save' economy
'We are shouting and screaming but no one seems to notice'

By Osama Habib
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: In what looked like a small political rally, hundreds of bankers, businessmen and merchants held a meeting at Beirut's Phoenicia Inter-Continental Hotel on Wednesday to condemn the standoff between the government and the opposition over he latter's demand for more influence in Cabinet. The press conference was held under the slogan "Save the Economy, Save Lebanon," and organizers distributed stickers saying "I Love Life" in English, Arabic and French. But despite a rousing speech by Adnan Kassar, president of the economic committee of the Federation of the Arab Chambers of Commerce, the mood in the hall seemed bleak. "I don't think the politicians will budge from their demands. We are shouting and screaming but no one seems to notice us," one trader told The Daily Star. He said a business delegation had met with different political groups to explain the magnitude of the economic problems caused by the massive siti-in in the capital, but that none of the groups showed signs being ready to solve the problem.

The opposition groups behind the sit-in are seeking a greater share of government power and early parliamentary elections. Their demands have been rejected by the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who has called for a new round of dialogue. Last month, business leaders called for a two-day nationwide strike in an attempt to drive home their point with the country's politicians. But most retailers and businesses did not comply with the call to strike, citing the cost of not working in an already difficult economic environment. The deep political division in the country became more visible at Wednesday's meeting when Adnan Fakahni, head of a commercial association in Mar Elias, grabbed the microphone to say that Beirut should not be the battlefront of factions who want to settle scores with the government. The comment prompted a sharp reaction from another participant, who advised Fakahni to keep his political views to himself.

Kassar made a passionate plea to the warring parties to set aside their differences for the sake of the economy. "The business community asks politicians to find a lasting solution to the crisis in Lebanon in a manner that will serve the interest of the homeland," he said in his speech. Kassar reiterated that the business community fully backs the initiative of the Arab League in finding an acceptable solution for Lebanon. He also called on the opposition to spare the economy and end the sit-in Downtown. "We have one message for the politicians: No to divisions and strife and yes for national dialogue," Kassar said. Meeting participants said that the volume of business had fallen dramatically since the sit-in began on December 1.

Leila Karameh, the head of the Women's Business Association, proposed that a group of traders visit the sit-in to attempt to persuade the protesters to call off their strike. "I am not calling for a demonstration, but it would be great if we showed the protesters that the sit-in is harming business activity all over the country," Karameh said. Kassar tried in a diplomatic way to brush aside the call. "This is a good idea but we should adopt other realistic ways to solve the crisis in the country," he said. Kassar later read from a statement issued by the economic committee. Among his points were calls to convene an economic conference that would address all issues pertaining to the Lebanese economy. The committee also said the Paris III donor conference should be held on time to salvage the economy. Some of the participants expressed fear that the political situation may force donor states to delay the Paris III conference. Officials are hoping grants from the conference will provide relief from Lebanon's yawning public debt.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Irrelevant to Lebanon but soooo worth reading!

Stanford Report, June 14, 2005 '
You've got to find what you love,' Jobs says
This is the text of the Commencement address by Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios, delivered on June 12, 2005.

I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college. And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.
Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating. I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes. I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept: No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions. Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.
Thank you all very much.

Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple Computer and of Pixar Animation Studios

Downtown demonstrators turn to creative pursuits

Downtown demonstrators turn to creative pursuits; Canvases on view in the parking lot near Riad al-Solh Square express dreams of unity and a desire for change
By Iman Azzi
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Two blue tents stand in the foreground flanked by a dozen human forms. In the background, a crescent moon tops a minaret next to a cross on a steeple. An endless number of tents are lined up toward the horizon. Pan out to the edges of the painting, one of many on display in a parking lot adjacent to Riad al-Solh Square. The scene portrayed on this canvas represents an artistic representation of the current reality in Downtown Beirut. Since December 1, anti-government protesters have pitched tents, ditched their jobs or classes and settled into temporary digs in Downtown with hopes of overthrowing the government or at least securing greater political power. After two successful mass demonstrations - the last on December 10 was dubbed the largest in Lebanon's history - the numbers have dwindled and some of the protesters who remain have turned to art to pass their time. Some of the paintings are part of organized efforts, others have been thrown up illegally, and all of them are inspired by dreams of change. As a bid to keep the demonstrators entertained, organizers have scheduled a series of events and designated certain areas as "activities tents." Debates, concerts, guest lectures - along with loudspeakers blasting Hizbullah's greatest hits on repeat - have joined nargileh smoking, card playing and backgammon on the list of popular demonstration downtime hobbies. Last Thursday, the first "art night" in the tent city was held. A crew of young women artists donated canvas, paint and time to express their ideas on the crisis. "It was open to everyone but only women participated," says Zeina, a graphic design student who declined to give her last name. "Here we all share a united vision but through art we can express it differently." Over 20 local women gathered in the activities tent in the parking lot across from the Buddha Bar. "The paintings are not for sale. They're on display to show others that there are unlimited ways to express support for the demonstrations," Zeina explains, taking a break from a lecture she was attending on the political scene in Lebanon since the July-August war with Israel. Zeina points to the paintings and says people are free to paint how they feel. Some have chosen to depict scenes of the tent city itself, while others have delved into the abstract.

One particularly morbid canvas shows six gray corpses acting as pallbearers carrying the coffin of Lebanon. Their hearts have been torn out and replaced by bloody holes. Another canvas features a Lebanese flag placed out of the reach of a grasping hand that is trapped behind a wire fence. "I painted a cedar tree surrounded by the colors of different political parties. The cedar is a symbol of standing and perseverance," says Fatmi Najdi, 20. An art student at the Lebanese University, Najdi used her canvas to express unity. "Everybody has the right to participate. I chose to paint all the colors to bring them together around the symbol of Lebanon." Across the parking lot toward the Serail is a 3-meter banner covered in colorful ink cartoons and scrawled messages. The banner was erected as another activity, a blank space open for individual opinions. Some people signed their names, others wrote messages and some drew the symbols of the Marada Party, that of the Free Patriotic Movement or the cedar tree from the Lebanese flag. There is an image of the US flag with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's name inside. Another image depicts a bird. Others still seem to relish in the incoherent art of finger painting, replete with wide colorful swirls. While not exactly on the fast-track to fine art museums around the world, the works of the anti-government protesters express the intimate dreams of their demonstrations - a celebration of many colors representing many parties at once.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Deja Vu?

In history that reads like yesterday, not even the names have changed
Claude Boueiz Kanaan's 'Lebanon 1860-1960' chronicles eerily familiar political era

By Paige Austin
Special to The Daily Star


BEIRUT: Forget taking a stroll down memory lane. By the time "Lebanon 1860-1960: A Century of Myth and Politics," by former St. Joseph University history professor Claude Boueiz Kanaan, reaches its crescendo in a detailed analysis of the political crisis of 1958, it reads like a veritable time warp. The crisis of 1958, says Kanaan, "is like a symbol, an example, of all the crises we have lived through and are living with now [in Lebanon]. And if sectarian troubles continue like this, of the crises we will always be living." Kanaan's careful discussion of Lebanese social history during the 100-odd years before, written originally as part of her doctoral dissertation in history, is really just a lead-in to her discussion of the 1958 conflict. That crisis, a milestone in Lebanon's post-independence history, refers loosely to the summer when the United States deployed 14,000 troops to Lebanon to shore up support for the country's embattled Christian president, Camille Chamoun. At the same time, the US administration dispatched a special envoy to the country, Robert Murphy, who eventually brokered a settlement. Chamoun ultimately stepped down. Kanaan's account of all this is lucid and well-documented, a rich historical account of how the inter-communal tensions underlying the crisis formed, festered and finally erupted among both the politicians of the day and the masses who elected them. If all this doesn't leave readers in Lebanon with a slight sense of deja vu, it is hard to imagine what would.

History seems to repeat itself in every country, but in Lebanon the continuities are uncanny. Even the names are the same. In "Lebanon 1860-1960," published late last year by Saqi Books, Kanaan makes frequent reference to the editorials of Gebran Tueni and the political dictates of Pierre Gemayel. Whether those men ever imagined that a book on their history, published half a century later, would so tragically yet neatly coincide with the assassination of their grandsons and namesakes - whose work also helped to mold the country's political scene - is anyone's guess. The parallels do not end there. In 1947, notes Kanaan - who left her academic post to become vice president of the National Bloc party in 2004 - Lebanon's Constitution was amended over widespread objections in order to allow a Christian president, Bishara Khoury, to serve a second term. It was arguably the 1951 assassination of the wildly popular Sunni politician, Riad al-Solh, that dealt Khoury's controversial presidency its final blow. Khoury's replacement, Camille Chamoun, would serve until a looming political crisis and deepening sectarian strife forced him out in 1958. In the heat of that crisis, the Maronite patriarch, Boulos Boutros Meouchi, labored for a compromise. A proposed UN fact-finding mission to the country, meanwhile, was welcomed by Christians but greeted with rank suspicion by Muslims, who felt it would act with a pro-government bias.

The conclusions that the scholar-turned-political leader draws, too, have lost little of their relevance. Throughout her book, Kanaan lays the blame for Lebanon's political turmoil squarely on the Lebanese people, using newspapers and diplomatic correspondence to show that it was Lebanese Sunnis and Maronites themselves who polarized the situation. Other accounts, she writes, have assigned too much responsibility to external events, like the Cold War or the rise of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. In what Kanaan herself calls the most provocative part of her book, she argues that Nasserism in Lebanon was essentially a "gloss" for more local concerns, which had been consistently ignored by Christian and even Muslim politicians. In this rendering, Sunnis embraced the Egyptian president because they thought he would strengthen their hand domestically. Maronites, in turn, rallied around their embattled and increasingly corrupt president. Exacerbating it all, Kanaan argues, was both sides' reliance on outside support, from Syria and Egypt on the part of Lebanon's Sunnis, and Europe and the US on the part of its Christians. This patronage, she says, entrenched both sides, thwarting any chance for compromise - until American troops showed up to force one through. "The history of Lebanon is so recurrent in Lebanese politics today," says Kanaan, seated in her office at the National Bloc's headquarters in Gemmayzeh. "Even today, with what is happening, you are dealing with history and politics as well."

The final note Kanaan sounds in her book is a relatively positive one. With Maronites increasingly comfortable with their Arab identity, and Muslims with their Lebanese one, a new, cohesive national identity seemed well on its way to forming, she wrote. In person, though, she adds that the old myths die hard. One illustration of that, she says, comes from the continued Maronite perception that Lebanon's Shiites are a better ally than the Sunnis. "There have always been better relations between the Maronites and Shiites than the Shiites and Sunnis," says Kanaan, whose party is allied with the pro-government March 14 coalition. "Syria was Sunni-ruled before Hafez al-Assad, so the Sunnis of Lebanon found Syria to be their ally in the 1950s." By comparison, the Shiites' traditional allies of Iraq and Iran seemed more distant and, on the whole, less threatening to Maronite power in Lebanon. "The remnants of this you see now in this crisis," she says. "A big part of the Maronites feel more secure, whatever Hassan Nasrallah says, because of this myth."

Sources that undercut the old myths, she adds, can be hard to come by. With so many politicians in Lebanon still trading on the family name, many archives - like those of Charles Malik, Amin Gemayel or, most challengingly, the Maronite Patriarchate itself - have yet to be opened to the public. Others, like those of Camille Chamoun, were destroyed in the 1975-1990 Civil War. With so many challenges to the writing of a cohesive national history, the conflicting narratives and myths developed by each of Lebanon's sects may seem too entrenched to refute. But Kanaan, whose father once served as an MP, has a different vision for the country's social and political future - and it is one that finds considerable support in her book, with its damning conclusions about sectarianism in Lebanon. In the National Bloc, she explained, "we want to do away with the confessional system. We know this is impossible right now, so we work within the present system. But our ultimate goal is another thing."

Claude Boueiz Kanaan's "Lebanon 1860-1960: A Century of Myth and Politics" is out now from Saqi Books

Monday, December 18, 2006

Serious accusations...

Hizbullah helped defuse spat, club owner says

Hizbullah helped defuse spat, club owner says
By Iman Azzi
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: A verbal confrontation between a Downtown reveler and anti-government protesters over the weekend undercut hopes that area businesses might operate as normal while the protests continue. After several days of negotiations between the owners of Taboo nightclub, Hizbullah security and the Lebanese Army, the club opened its doors on Saturday for the first time since anti-government protesters set up camp in Downtown Beirut on December 1. Over 300 regular customers came to Taboo as Hizbullah "discipline men" patrolled outside. "Hizbullah and the Lebanese Army were all very co-operative. This was a sign of good faith. Hizbullah even told us: 'We're not here to stop you from working,'" Haytham S., co-owner of the nightclub, told The Daily Star. Haytham, who refused to give his full name, said they worked to reopen the club for both financial and "goodwill" reasons.

"But the incident happened between one man who was going into the club and demonstrators outside and they had a verbal clash. Hizbullah security had to let the customer back in and they tried to calm down the crowd as the crowd multiplied," he explained. By 2 a.m., Hizbullah security had created a human shield between the crowd of demonstrators and Taboo. "They secured a path and let everyone out safely and protected the customer who first started this the most as they wanted no one to get hurt. There was no physical abuse to anyone," Haytham said. He denied earlier television reports that Hizbullah had forced the nightclub to close or disapproved that the club served alcohol. "They asked us if we wanted to stay," Haytham said. "And we said no." "We wanted to see what would happen if we opened for business, but it didn't turn out the best way," he said, adding that although Hizbullah security had been very co-operative and helpful Taboo has no plans to open as long as the demonstrations continue.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Downtown Beirut moves to salvage holiday season

Downtown Beirut moves to salvage holiday season
Promotional campaign aims to bring customers back by promising deep discounts
By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: As the anti-government demonstrations in Downtown Beirut enter their third week on Friday, embattled businesses from the hospitality, trade, and tourism sectors are striking back with a campaign aimed at boosting consumer spending and luring shoppers back to the commercial centers of the capital. Some of Lebanon's leading luxury retailers convened at the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel on Thursday morning for the launch of the seasonal print, billboard, and television advertising blitz-"Bhebak bil Chiteh" (I love you in Winter) - conceived by H&C Leo Burnett. Some stores, especially those in the Beirut Central District (BCD), are also offering discounts at locations in neighborhoods particularly hard-hit by the demonstrations in the hopes that shoppers might loosen their purse strings in honor of Christmas, the New Year, and Eid al-Adha. Aishti chairman and CEO Tony Salame, Middle East Airlines (MEA) president Mohammad Hout, Lebanese Hotel Syndicate president Pierre Ashkar, and ABC director Robert Fadel each spoke at the event - and each pleaded for a political truce so that the economy could recover.

Merchants will request VAT exemptions from the government, Salame said in his speech, in an attempt to give consumers a stronger reason to spend. Hotels and MEA will be offering package deals to woo foreign visitors back to Lebanon to celebrate the holidays, and the Ministry of Tourism has agreed to exempt foreigners from temporary visa fees. According to a statement released after the press conference, a delegation of businesspeople will soon meet with President Emile Lahoud, Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, Speaker Nabih Berri, Finance Minister Jihad Azour and Central Bank Governor Riyadh Salameh to ask that they "live up to their historic responsibilities." "The business operators will also ask all political parties and forces in Lebanon to prevent any negative repercussions on commercial establishments due to their actions and to actually support economic activities in Lebanon," the statement added. "The commercial establishments also plan to give special offers and major economic incentives to Lebanese customers and foreign visitors throughout the duration of the campaign." The details of the particular incentives will be released later by individual retailers. Indeed, many BCD merchants give every appearance of not being able to sustain poor business for much longer. The owner and manager of the Lina's sandwich franchise, Sammi Hochon, said he will give the situation three or four months to recover before he shuts the Downtown branch. "None of my locations are doing as well as they should because people just are not spending much right now," Hochon told The Daily Star on the sidelines of the press conference. "But business in Solidere has dropped 80 percent from this time last year. Lunch is just starting to pick, but for the rest of the day we are empty."

In 2003 and 2004 consumer traffic was consistent enough to offset the high rents in Solidere, but things have not picked up since their decline two years ago, Hochon explained. Virgin chairman Jihad Murr told Agence France Presse last week that if the situation persists he may have to close his flagship location in Martyrs Square, which reopened last Monday after more than a week of remaining shut due to the opposition demonstrations. Murr said he has laid off 20 percent of the total staff since the July-August war with Israel, and estimated that each day of closure costs the company $50,000 in losses. Red streamers now hang from the windows of the former movie theater, presumably in place to offset the coils of barbed wire blocking off access to the site of slain former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's gravesite. Though protesters are still forbidden from erecting tents in the designated demonstration zone of the capital, consumers are welcome to bypass army checkpoints to do some Christmas shopping. Virgin circulated a mass email this week to this effect. "In an effort to revive our beloved Virgin and all other stores and restaurants at Downtown striving to overcome this dire situation that threatens the very stability of our country's economy, we invite all of you to visit Downtown on the 14th of December starting 5:00 pm and participate in restoring life to the heart of Beirut," the email read.

City Mall in Dora hired advertising firm BBDO Impact for an outdoor campaign of its own to promote the mall during the holiday season. Mall manager Rony Aoun insists that the Christmas-themed billboards - depicting a scantily clad, elfish women spraying perfume into an already blazing fireplace, and emblazoned with the slogan, "X-Mas Folly," presumably an ironic take on the current conflagration gripping the country - are part of a purely commercial campaign. "There is nothing political about it," Aoun said of the image in question, which also carries the words, "dreaming of a warm Christmas." "The fireplace gives the feeling of warmth," he said. "We tried to recreate the mood last year by decorating, putting up children's animation, and offering some holiday activities."

I concur!!! where do I sign?

Protesters make novel pick from array of party options: none of the above. 'I'm somebody with nobody' campaign grew out of wartime humanitarian movement
By Iman Azzi, Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: As anti-government protesters concluded their second week of camping out in the city center on Thursday, another - albeit smaller and shorter - protest arrived in Beirut. Not only was it a demonstration against the demonstration, but it was also a demonstration against the government, and the 20 people who participated took their anti-status quo sentiment to the streets - or one street. The "I'm somebody with nobody" campaign kicked off Thursday evening on Hamra Street with hopes of uniting Lebanese citizens who feel isolated by the polarized politics plaguing the country.

"We came out to say that we're not supporting any side. Since silence is often related to cowardice we came forward to say that some people are taking a third opinion," said Arwa Saleh, 24, one of 20 students and young professionals to take part in the third-party initiative. "No party in Lebanon expresses my thoughts," said Saleh. "I'm somebody with nobody" was conceived after the start of the anti-government protests on December 1. Most of the participants were former volunteers with the humanitarian aid organization Samidoun, which formed during the July-August war with Israel. After many discussions, these like-minded individuals decided it was necessary to share their opinions with the city. "I'm not with the left, I'm not with the resistance, I'm not with the authority but I am with freedom," one poster read.
The group of 20 tried to expand their base and spread their message by distributing flyers at the intersection of Hamra Street where Wimpy's restaurant is located. "I'm somebody with nobody. I'm with civil rights. Social justice, canceling privatization, secularism = equality," the flyer read. Some gathered on the sidewalk, holding signs to assume the role of human advertisements for their message. Others darted between cars and pedestrians, handing out flyers or coaxing others to sign a poster in support for the campaign. "The idea touched me and I thought 'me too' - I'm just Lebanese and I'm not attached to any party," said Haitam Alwan, 23, a student at Lebanese University. "I'm with negotiations and expressing ideas." Alwan, who lives near the downtown area and had some difficulty reaching his house during the initial days of the opposition protests, insisted that the country needed "new politicians, especially from the younger generations" to move Lebanon away from the current stalemate. "Today, this is an expression from people who want to say they stand against both sides," he said. "I joined because it's important to think on your own and stand for your interests, not the parties."

The "somebodies" were greeted with mixed reactions from passersby. Those stuck in traffic reached out of cars for flyers, more out of curiosity than support. One woman after the reading the flyer exclaimed "impossible" and walked away. The face of another middle-aged woman lit up, however, when she saw the group. "Bravo, bravo! Thank you," she said, adding that her entire life she had refused to join any Lebanese party. Roula Masri agreed. "I can't see myself under the umbrella of any current party," said Masri, an employee of a civil rights organization. "We're trying to think of alternatives. I think we need new elections, a new government, and change. We need a government willing to tackle social issues. These politicians are not with the people but with themselves." "You can never predict the future of politics," Saleh said. "But I don't think a unity government will happen. These two sides will never agree. That's why I'm here, the country needs to take a third path."
After an hour, the "some-bodies" packed up their flyers and returned to their lives as individuals. Nothing had changed - the traffic continued to be a jam, the opposition remained camped out downtown and the government stayed locked in the Serail - but they had succeeded in reminding some Lebanese that there are more than two sides to every story - even political ones.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sixth report of the International Independent Investigation Commission

Sixth report of the International Independent Investigation Commission established pursuant to Security Council resolutions 1595 (2005), 1636 (2005) and 1644 (2005)

December 12, 2006


In resolution 1644 (2005) of 15 December 2005, the Security Council requested the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission to report to the Council on its progress, including on the cooperation received from the Syrian authorities, every three months. This report summarises the progress made by the Commission in its investigative activities between 25 September and 10 December 2006. During this period, the Commission returned to Lebanon from Cyprus, where it had temporarily relocated during the period 22 July to 13 October 2006. Since the Commission’s return to Lebanon, it has operated within a volatile political environment, which included the assassination on 21 November 2006 of Minister of Industry, Pierre Gemayel and the national and international attention surrounding the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon.

The Commission’s investigative direction in the Hariri case has remained focused on three areas: developing crime scene evidence from investigation and forensic analysis, investigating potential perpetrators and collecting evidence relating to the linkage and context aspects of the case. The Commission, in close cooperation with the Lebanese judiciary, has also continued to take a proactive role in the 14 other cases. The assassination of Pierre Gemayel led to the request by the Security Council in a letter dated 22 November 2006 for the Commission to extend technical assistance in the Gemayel case to the Lebanese authorities. This constituted an expansion of the mandate contained in resolution 1644 (2005) and extended in resolution 1686 (2006) relating to the investigation of other terrorist attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since 1 October 2004. The Commission has responded by providing technical assistance, including forensic support, witness interviews, evidence collection and analysis, as requested.

The Commission’s close interaction with the Lebanese authorities on all matters relevant to its mandate has been ongoing. The Commission continues to receive support from Syria in providing information and facilitating interviews with individuals located on Syrian territory. In addition, the Commission notes the assistance received from other Member States in response to its requests, and highlights the need for such assistance to be provided in a timely manner as this is critical to the progress of the investigation.

Paragraphs Page
I. Introduction 1-10 2
II. Progress in the Investigation 11-92 3
A. Hariri investigation 17-60 5
B. Technical Assistance in other cases 61-92 12
Pierre Gemayel case 80-92 15
III. External Cooperation 93-104 17
IV. Organizational Support 105-113 19
V. Conclusions 114-119 21

More details at:

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Gebran Tueini Statue in Mkalles

This statue was constructed at the exact spot of the car bomb that claimed the life of slain journalist Gebran Tueini, God rest his soul, exactly one year earlier on Dec. 12th, 2005. It was unveiled yesterday in the presence of journalists and leading political leaders, including ministers, senior March 14 Forces members, Free Patriotic Movement MP Ghassan Mokheiber and former Speaker Hussein Husseini.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Israel agog at Olmert's "nuclear slip" of tongue

Israel agog at Olmert's "nuclear slip" of tongue
By Dean Yates REUTERS

Israeli media are calling it a "nuclear slip" of the tongue. Aides to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert deny any change in policy. Either way, Israel's decades-long position of nuclear weapons ambiguity appears to have crumbled after Olmert implied the Jewish state has the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal in an interview broadcast on German television. It is less than a week since incoming U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, speculating at a Senate confirmation hearing on Iran's possible motives for trying to build nuclear arms, suggested that Israel had the bomb. Olmert's remarks led Israeli news bulletins on Tuesday. Both mass circulation Hebrew-language newspapers had front page headlines: "Olmert's nuclear slip of the tongue." Speaking in English in the interview, Olmert said: "Iran, openly, explicitly and publicly threatens to wipe Israel off the map. Can you say that this is the same level, when they are aspiring to have nuclear weapons, as America, France, Israel, Russia?"

Arch-foe Iran, whose president has called for the elimination of the "Zionist regime," has denied seeking nuclear arms. It says its nuclear program is for civilian use. Israel has long declined to confirm or deny having the bomb as part of a "strategic ambiguity" policy that it says fends off numerically superior Arab enemies. This reticence is a major irritant for Arabs and Iran, which see a double standard in U.S. policy in the region. By not declaring itself to be nuclear armed, Israel skirts a U.S. ban on funding countries that proliferate weapons of mass destruction. It can thus enjoy more than $2 billion in annual military and other aid from Washington.


Opposition politicians in Israel on Tuesday rounded on Olmert, who has seen his personal approval rating plummet since the summer war against Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas. "This causes great harm to Israel. We are in the midst of a huge (diplomatic) onslaught against Iran's attempts to make a nuclear bomb," former Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, a member of the right-wing Likud party, said on Army Radio. "We always face the same question which our enemies ask: 'Why is Israel allowed to (have a bomb) and not Iran?' Yossi Beilin of the left-wing Meretz Party, which is also in opposition, questioned Olmert's fitness to lead. "The prime minister's amazing statement regarding nuclear capability indicates a lack of caution bordering on irresponsibility," the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper quoted Beilin as saying. Olmert's aides have gone into frantic damage control. His spokeswoman, Miri Eisin, who accompanied the prime minister on a trip to Germany, said he did not mean to say that Israel possessed or wanted to acquire nuclear weapons. "No he wasn't saying anything like that," she said. Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli security analyst Ronen Bergman asked whether Olmert had deliberately dispelled the policy of ambiguity or just made a mistake. "It could be that Olmert wanted to hint at Israel's capability as part of the aggressive statements he has recently been making, with the goal of warning the West that if they don't take care of Iran, Israel will," Bergman wrote. "On the other hand, this may have been a slip of the tongue." Israel's main atomic reactor, officially for civilian use, became operational in the early 1960s.
(Additional reporting by Ori Lewis)

Heightened political tensions accelerate troubling brain drain

Heightened political tensions accelerate troubling brain drain
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

BEIRUT: Plunged into a fresh political crisis between the anti-Syrian majority government and the opposition led by Hizbullah, the Lebanese people are united in anxiety over the future. Some are determined to pack up and leave. Others are resolved more than ever to stay. "We have never seen this level of brain drain," says Carole Contavelis, director of a headhunting agency in Beirut. "It happened all of a sudden after the summer war" with Israel, adds Contevalis, who launched her agency seven years ago after completing her studies in France. In recent weeks she has seen a growing exodus of educated Lebanese who were once registered with her company and looking for work in Lebanon, but are now leaving, mainly for Arab countries. "Out of 40 candidates in my files who were seeking jobs before the [July-August] war, 30 have today left for foreign countries," she says. A child of Lebanon's Civil War years (1975-90), even Contevalis says she is ready to leave if she finds work abroad. "After the [Civil] War ended, we had new confidence in the country, we came back. But we see today that all these years of war have led us to nothing." Above all, Contevalis says she is "disgusted to see that this country never learns anything from its mistakes."

Among those who are still determined to stay, many are apprehensive about their future. "We are a mosaic. We will never have a united Lebanon," says Mike, a 62-year-old barber in central Beirut who never sought to leave after his seven siblings trickled to Canada over the past 40 years. "Many people around me want to leave. The first consequence of the crisis has of course been a drain brain," he adds. Mike is determined to stay in Lebanon because, he says, "happiness for me, is here." At the neighboring of American University of Beirut campus, Salam, 21, is planning to leave the country once she completes her dietician studies. "There is unemployment, political instability. There is no future for us in Lebanon," she says. The only obstacle to her plans is her family. "I am a woman. They don't want to let me leave," she adds. At a nearby laboratory, agronomy student Rita, 27, is determined to stay. "Even if I am not well paid, I will stay. Contracts are not stable, and they are only short-term. But one has to try. After all the cycles of war, all will be fine again. It is a cycle," she says. After 10 days of protesting on Downtown Beirut, the opposition camp has warned of other acts of civil disobedience. The Western-backed government has repeatedly urged a return to talks, while Hizbullah has stood firm in its demands for a unity government. - AFP

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Awareness campaign on sectarianism

Awareness campaign on sectarianism:
« Stop Sectarianism Before It Stops Us »


Since 1920, Lebanese society has been structured according to religious confessions or sects. Within a country of a little over 10,000 km², we have over 17 official religious sects. Sectarianism is intertwined in our daily life, and has been so for years, officially and in society. Most official positions are based on religious denominations. Sectarianism was one of the main factors leading to the civil war, but even today, everybody still thinks along religious lines and divides people into sectarian groups. The topic was always a taboo subject, until the "Spring Revolution" of 2005. With this movement, the creation of civil society groups brought together people from every religion, and made it clear to many that civil society-led initiatives could effectively make a difference.

The campaign:

The campaign focuses on the ridiculous/harmful side of sectarianism/confessionalism and its excesses in our every day life. Generously conceived for AMAM by a multi-confessional creative team of like-minded people from the H&C Leo Burnett agency, the campaign is bound to make you both laugh and think. The tone, which is innovative, provocative, funny and straight to the point, will most certainly generate debate and provoke much-needed thinking about the reality of how far confessionalism dictates our every day social behaviour. Like us, you think confessionalism is a plague which has been eating away at this country for as long as one can remember. Like us, you also think this country, despite all its flaws and complexities, remains a place like no other, one we should cherish, support & believe in. Like us, you have surrendered to the Lebanese spell, and have vowed to always keep trying, in your own way, to make things better. Like us, you are a believer in the unique richness and potential found in the Lebanese pluri-confessional make-up. We hope you like this campaign.

Khiam bomb crater tests positive for uranium

Khiam bomb crater tests positive for uranium
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Tests carried out on samples taken from a bomb crater in the southern region of Khiam following the summer war with Israel showed the presence of uranium, Chris Busby, the British scientific secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, told Environment and Development magazine for its December issue. "The analysis was accurate and showed the presence of depleted uranium," Busby said in a telephone interview with Environment Hotline, an environmental research team affiliated with the magazine. Busby said in late October that samples taken from a bomb crater in Khiam had been sent for analysis to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire, southern England. He added, at the time, that "samples thrown up by Israeli bombs showed elevated radiation signatures resulting from a new experimental weapon used by Israel." "There is no way the signs of uranium found in Khiam were the result of natural or industrial materials ... Their only source is nuclear reactors," Busby said. The magazine says Busby's statements in October spurred the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission to take more samples from Khiam for analysis.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), which has been studying ecological damage in Lebanon after the war, had also sent another team to gather samples from Khiam, a statement said. "The results will be issued soon," it added. A team of 20 UNEP activists spent two weeks with their Lebanese counterparts at the beginning of October to evaluate the environmental impact of the month-long war. The team tested air, water and soil samples at 30 heavily bombed sites in Southern Lebanon and the suburbs of southern Beirut. The samples were sent to Switzerland for analysis.

However, a statement issued in early November ruled out the presence of uranium. While a UNEP statement in November reassured the Lebanese that they were not in danger of exposure to radioactive materials, it called for further research on "the effects of using depleted uranium for military purposes." The UN results mirrored those of the National Council for Scientific Research, which also ruled out the presence of uranium in Lebanon. In a statement issued on October 20, the council said 50 samples taken from several war-torn areas had tested negative for depleted uranium in tests conducted at the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission. The council and UNEP have both vowed to follow-up on the issue and conduct more tests, the magazine said. - The Daily Star

Lann Nansa... (we will not forget)!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How Hizbullah keeps protesters in line

How Hizbullah keeps protesters in line
By Agence France Presse (AFP)

BEIRUT: No one knows for sure how many there are, but everyone knows they are everywhere. Hizbullah's "discipline men" man every aspect of the massive opposition rally in the capital and their mysterious presence has so far prevented anythng more than a shoving match from disturbing the peace. They walk among demonstrators, perch on street curbs and guard black metal barricades with their keen eyes fixed on the crowds. "There is no risk of any violence here," says Hussein Fadlallah, Hizbullah's supervisor of the rapidly growing tent city which has taken root outside the government offices and by Monday was comprised of at least 200 shelters. "Each time they create a new camp, they create a new security branch for that camp," Fadlallah says, adding that fighting or any form of aggression is strictly "forbidden." On the outskirts of the demonstration, Jihad, 25, is on light security duty. He sits down on a short concrete column protruding from the sidewalk, and wears a laminated badge emblazoned with a Lebanese flag. "If people are fighting we are told to stand between them," he says. "We have instructions not to be violent with anyone." When a reporter asks if the security detail is armed, Jihad jumps to his feet and lifts his bulky sweatshirt to reveal his twig-like waist. "See? No guns!" he laughs.

But further inside the rally, the security men are more organized. They wear bulky black jackets, they smile less, and they don't give the impression they'll show their bellies on cue. Some wear plain silver baseball caps, while others sport gray or black ones. Ask them who is in charge and they direct you to a specific man further down the line, then another, until the correct spokesman eventually emerges. "We are going to stay until the government changes," explains Majud Hamzi, 30, who is with a crowd of men on the front lines of the protest, nearest to the government offices, a location they chose "so the government can hear us." Nearby, a line of Hizbullah security men have kept up a solid formation of their symbolic line between protesters and the leadership since the protest kicked off on Friday. Across the rows of barbed wire just a few meters away, crews of Lebanese Army soldiers sit on top of armored vehicles watching calmly, some shielding their eyes from the late afternoon sun. "It doesn't matter how much anger or frustration we have. When [Hizbullah leader Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah talks to us, his voice calms us down," Hamzi says. On the eve of the protest, Nasrallah called for a mass turnout by "all Lebanese ... in a peaceful and civilized demonstration" which he said aimed to "rid us of an incapable government that has failed in its mission." The killing of a 20-year-old Shiite opposition protester late Sunday after a street fight with government supporters is greeted with measured calm by two men standing guard outside condolence services for the family in southern Beirut. Jamal, 35, and Ali, 42, patrol the grounds like undercover policemen, their hands in their pockets, looking over the mourners with casual but watchful eyes. But they describe themselves only as "social activists." "Members of Hizbullah and Amal are respecting instructions," says Jamal. "They are going to act in a civil and peaceful manner." "We are trying to do our best," adds Ali. "But if there are several attacks, several provocations, it will boil over." - AFP

Lebanese Army, police appeal for calm on streets of capital

Lebanese Army, police appeal for calm on streets of capital
By Rym Ghazal Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Both the Lebanese Army and police appealed for calm on the streets of Beirut Monday after they had been turned into what officials described as a "cat and mouse playground" due to clashes and riots across the capital. "We have been turned into cats, chasing mice that appear here and there, causing trouble," the head of the Internal Security Forces, Brigadier General Ashraf Rifi, told The Daily Star. Clashes erupted over the past two nights in predominantly Sunni neighborhoods. Around 1 a.m. Tuesday, The Daily Star was on hand as at least 20 youths in black masks and colorful head bands cut off the highway leading to Rafik Hariri International Airport, throwing rocks at passing cars. "It is the first time rioters tried to block off the airport, and so the army was deployed to deal with the situation, and within a few minutes, everything was back to normal and the roads are now safe and open," said Rifi. After The Daily Star witnessed the Internal Security Forces' vehicles abandoning the site, leaving the matter to be dealt with by a better-equipped army, Rifi explained that police units were too small to deal with the incident. Meanwhile, police reported clashes for a second night in a row in the Tariq al-Jadidah area late Monday. Two people were wounded in the clash on Monday night, after witnesses told The Daily Star that demonstrators in Downtown Beirut - enraged at the site of 20-year-old Ahmad Ali Mahmoud's coffin being carried through the crowds - ran toward the mostly Sunni area carrying sticks. Police also reported that about 60 demonstrators vandalized several shops and three cars in the Corniche al-Mazraa area on Monday night before the army dispersed the crowd. The general directorate of the ISF released a statement on Monday in which it asked protest organizers to prevent their followers from provoking clashes after two consecutive nights of street fights that have left one person dead and at least 15 injured. "We request that the demonstration organizers make sure their supporters stick to proper demonstration measures and refrain from harming residents and passers-by, or else they will be detained and referred to the courts," said the statement. Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa met with the heads of security departments and heads of security in various municipalities on Monday and discussed the latest security concerns and measures to be taken across the country.

Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Suleiman was quoted in several local newspaper as warning the government that daily protests and riots might get out of control. "The absence of political solutions, along with the recurrence of security incidents, particularly those with sectarian tinge, drains the army's resources and weakens its neutrality," Suleiman was quoted as saying. "This weakness will make the army unable to control the situation in all areas of Lebanon." Suleiman's statements highlighted the military's concern that the political crisis between the Sunni prime minister, Fouad Siniora, and the Shiite-led opposition was approaching dangerous levels. Thousands of troops are deployed across the capital where, since Friday, opposition groups have been conducting daily demonstrations to topple Siniora's government. Suleiman's reported remarks were exceptional in that army officers are not allowed to make political statements, but according to a military source contacted by The Daily Star, Suleiman had made those comments, and was making a general plea for "political intervention as soon as possible" before the situation gets completely out of hand. The military source also informed The Daily Star that the army commander will be issuing a statement within the next 24 hours, with comments on the latest security developments in the country. Suleiman toured the hotspots on Monday and met afterward with the prime minister and Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir. In an earlier statement, Suleiman indicated that the army was not going to fracture along sectarian lines as it did during the 1975-90 Civil War, which pitted Christian soldiers and militiamen against Muslim troops and militiamen. - With agencies

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Center for Democracy in Lebanon: Press Release

For Release Immediately

The Center for Democracy in Lebanon has just released the following declaration for immediate distribution. PDF and HTML copies may be obtained at:
or by visiting
Freedom, Sovereignty and Democracy in Lebanon
December 4, 2006

A significant proportion of the Lebanese society took to the streets of Beirut on December 1, 2006. Demonstrators gathered in a solemn show of democracy and civility to express dissatisfaction with the Lebanese cabinet, demanding the creation of a unity government and an end to the political stalemate plaguing Lebanese politics for more than a year, more specifically since the assassination of ex-PM Rafiq Hariri on February 14, 2005. The veracity of a mixed blend of demonstrators under one flag is yet another affirmation of the tenacity of the Lebanese people in their firm belief in freedom of expression and democracy in Lebanon, a social order truly exemplary for the rest of the Middle East and Arab world.

We salute and honor all forms of free expression and support the demonstrators' demands in principle.

Concurrently, we express our surprise at the lack of leadership exhibited by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora in this regard:

a) In response to the massive and peaceful demonstration in front of the Grand Seraille, PM Siniora peeked at the demonstrators twice off his balcony without taking the initiative to address them once, a gesture reminiscent of the leaders of totalitarian regimes.

b) Inviting his Excellency the Mufti of the Lebanese Republic Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Qabbani to hold a Sunni Friday prayer in the Grand Seraille, and hosting a Maronite memorial for slain Minister Pierre Gemayel on Sunday are not official functions of the cabinet and violate the sanctity of the Lebanese government. The Grand Seraille is the headquarters of Lebanon's cabinet, a public government office building and not the private grounds of the Prime Minister. These actions show sectarian favoritism, set a dangerous precedent that threatens the institutions of civil government in Lebanon, and lack any justification in faith and in customs; they only serve the purpose of further inflaming the demonstrators.

c) We express grave concern vis-à-vis reports of attacks against the political offices of members of the opposition and against the demonstrators in Beirut and the Bekaa Valley and North Lebanon and we present our condolences to the family of Mr. Ahmad El-Mahmoud, a demonstrator killed in related confrontations. These skirmishes are a daunting reminder of the oppressive campaigns of the Syrian intelligence regime that governed Lebanon for the past 15 years and its dictatorial tactics, which we vehemently denounced before and stood firmly against; today similar tactics appear to be aimed at silencing free, democratic and peaceful opposition to the Siniora cabinet in Lebanon.

Reaffirming our previous declarations (Declaration 1, 2/20/2005; Declaration 2, 3/2/2005; Declaration 3, 3/11/2005; Declaration 4, 6/22/2005; Declaration 5, 7/25/2006) we reiterate the following:

I - The need for an INDEPENDENT AND THOROUGH INTERNATIONAL INVESTIGATION to reveal the powers behind the assassinations and assassination attempts against a number of Lebanese officials and public figures since September 2004 through the assassination of Minister Pierre Gemayel on November 21, 2006; we offer our sincere condolences to the Lebanese people and the family of slain minister Gemayel. We support the FORMATION OF AN INTERNATIONAL COURT OR TRIBUNAL to try the suspects in these crimes.

II - We stand firmly in opposition to any form of foreign intervention, custody or tutelage in Lebanon; hence our support of the demonstrators' call for a sovereign government in Lebanon. Having denounced all forms of Syrian intervention in Lebanon, we condemn today other foreign meddling in Lebanon's internal affairs, particularly recent declarations by the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Egypt (less-than-exemplary beacons of democracy in their own countries) in response to the December 1 demonstration, siding with one Lebanese group and the cabinet to the dismay of a significant proportion of the Lebanese population, in what amounts to an incitement for sectarian strife in Lebanon and a blatant intervention in the Lebanese internal affairs in contravention to the UN charter and international law. The legitimacy of the cabinet or lack thereof is an internal Lebanese matter of constitutional law and must be settled by the Lebanese people and their constitutional court alone; neutral good-will mediators remain welcome.

In addition,

1- regardless of the current public upheaval, we endorse the formation of a cabinet of national unity formed by ministers representing all political parties elected to Parliament in a proportionate number to their Parliamentary seats. The current government and its Prime Minister must therefore heed the call for reforming the cabinet into a truly representative one.

2- we trust the Lebanese people will remain united under the Lebanese flag and will continue to distinguish political disagreements from sectarian conflicts.

3- we reaffirm our vision for a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous Lebanon built on respect for diversity, neutrality in international affairs and a secular government.

Having outlined our concern regarding the current political stalemate, the dysfunctional government and the dangerous political divide accentuated by a recent savage Israeli invasion of Lebanese territory with thousands of civilians massacred, maimed or displaced, we hereby caution that Lebanon still has to face great challenges ahead, including the formation of an international tribunal (see 'I' above), the release of Lebanese citizens unlawfully held in Syrian and Israeli jails, the liberation of the Shebaa farms, the disarmament of all militias and armed groups on Lebanese soil and full implementation of UNSC Resolution 1701.

We could only seriously meet these challenges as a united people. Democracy remains our best hope for unity and attaining a peaceful and functional social order.

Long live Lebanon and Democracy in Lebanon.

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