Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Skandar Keynes, Chronicles of Narnia's Lebanese-British Star, Hosts Charity Event for Marjayoun

Screening of latest 'Narnia' instalment helps athletic club in Marjayoun
By Sarah Birke
Special to The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Over 300 children descended on Furn al-Shubbak's Planete Abraj cinema on Friday afternoon, running around with tubs of popcorn in hand to see "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and to meet 17-year-old Skandar Keynes. The British-Lebanese actor played the role of Edmund Pevensie in first installment in the Narnia series, 2005's "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," and reprised the character for the film's sequel. Adapted from the series of tales penned by C.S. Lewis, the second Narnia film sees the Pevensie children return to the magical kingdom to find hundreds of years have passed since their last visit and that Narnia is now ruled by an evil king. The children fight to restore the exiled Prince Caspian to his rightful place as ruler of the kingdom, with the guidance of the faithful lion Aslan. In Lebanon, the four Pevensie children were able to help another worthy cause - to raise both money and awareness for Marjayoun's Atallah Sports Club. The screening was organized as a charity event by Keynes' mother, Zefra Hourani, who hails from the Southern village and visits it with Keynes every summer.

Owing to its strategic location in South Lebanon, organizers explained, the Marjayoun area has felt the deleterious effects of war, occupation and emigration by local residents. Five hundred tickets to the screening were distributed to children at schools all over the region and in Beirut. With no costs for putting it on, all donations from the sponsors and audience were destined for the Atallah club."The Atallah Sports Club provides a big and important service for the local area," said Keynes, as he posed for photographs and signed autographs. "There are lots of interesting classes for local children, including Taekwondo and nunchucks. "Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Atallah Sports Club is situated between Jdeidet Marjayoun and Buwaidha. The club provides athletic facilities for children in the greater Marjayoun area which it has expanded to include a gymnasium, a studio for Taekwondo lessons, aerobics and kick-boxing, a sauna and a jacuzzi as well as showers. Most of the club's members are children between eight and 17 years old who come from the towns and villages in and near the qada of Marjayoun. The ratio of boys to girls at Atallah Sports Club is three to two. Walid Atallah, the club's founder and president, is himself a former international Taekwondo champion. Speaking at the screening, he said he hoped the event would raise awareness about the athletic facilities available for children in the Marjayoun area. He added that he wants to encourage more children to come to the club and take up a sport. Under his guidance, the club is training the next generation of Lebanese sportsmen and women. In 1999, the girl's team came in first in the Lebanese Taekwondo tournament, while the club took second in 2005 and 2006. Atallah said his mission is more ambitious than simply keeping children fit. "Sports build civilizations," he said at the screening. "They teach children to work together. "Every country needs to support sports because the small girls and boys will one day be mothers and fathers. The club can play a small part in building a better society." Atallah said that he hoped to use "every cent" of whatever money was raised - estimated at a few hundred dollars - to start new classes and add new facilities. The club is drawing up plans to build an outdoor stadium big enough to accommodate national sports tournaments.

Keynes' mother told The Daily Star that many local children were unaware of the sports club, something she hoped the screening would help change.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Lebanon forms unity government with Hezbollah

Lebanon forms unity government with Hezbollah
By Laila Bassam

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon ended weeks of wrangling on Friday and formed a unity government in which Hezbollah and its allies hold effective veto power, as agreed under a deal that ended a paralyzing political conflict in the country. The decisive say granted to the former opposition led by Hezbollah, an ally of Damascus, shows that Syria has succeeded in wrenching back some political leverage in Lebanon, where it was the main power broker until its troops left in 2005.

The birth of the government, the first under newly elected President Michel Suleiman, should close a long political crisis that had threatened to plunge Lebanon into a new civil war. But it also marks the start of a challenging new era in which leaders must contain rising sectarian tensions, prepare for a parliamentary election next year and start talks on the fate of Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah's military wing. A presidential decree announced the cabinet after Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, met Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, a Sunni Muslim, and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, a Shi'ite Muslim. "This government has two main tasks: regaining confidence in the Lebanese political system... and securing the holding of a transparent parliamentary election," Siniora told reporters.

The new team has one Hezbollah minister in addition to 10 ministers from its Shi'ite, Druze and Christian allies. The opposition was guaranteed 11 of the cabinet's 30 seats under a May deal to defuse a conflict that had sparked some of the worst fighting since the 1975-90 civil war. All major decisions require a two-thirds majority or 20 cabinet votes.

The Qatari-brokered May 21 agreement opened the way for Suleiman's election four days later, but factional squabbling over portfolios had held up the formation of a government. The majority coalition chose 16 ministers. Suleiman picked the remaining three, including Interior Minister Ziad Baroud. Siniora's close adviser Mohammad Chatah takes the finance portfolio. Hezbollah's Mohammad Fneish becomes labor minister and Fawzi Salloukh, of the Shi'ite Amal group, foreign minister. The cabinet's main task will be to ease sectarian and political tensions to avert further violence, adopt an election law agreed in the Qatar talks and supervise next year's poll.


"Finally!" a 21-year-old Beirut man, who gave his name only as Ahmed, said of the new cabinet. "Hopefully it will be a real national unity government and they won't waste time fighting at the table and will sort out the problems of the Lebanese." European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana welcomed the formation of the new government which he said marked a "key achievement." "Important decisions need to be taken in the coming weeks and there is a lot of work to be done," Solana said in a statement, reiterating the EU's support to Siniora. Suleiman is due in Paris for Sunday's launch of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's Mediterranean Union project, his first foreign trip as president. He is expected to hold talks there with his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad.

Assad's presence at the summit, which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will also attend, marks French recognition of Syria's role in facilitating a compromise in Lebanon. Damascus had given its blessing to the Doha deal, which effectively translated into political gains the military victory Hezbollah and its allies had won against their Western-backed foes in street fighting in Beirut and elsewhere earlier in May. With the government in place, Suleiman is expected to call rival leaders for round-table talks on divisive issues, with the fate of Hezbollah's weapons foremost among them. Hezbollah maintains a formidable guerrilla army that fought off Israeli forces in a 34-day war in 2006. Its domestic detractors say Hezbollah has had no reason to keep its weapons since Israel pulled out of Lebanon in 2000. Hezbollah and its allies argue that it needs its arsenal to deter and defend Lebanon against possible Israeli attack.

(Additional reporting by Tala Shukri; Writing by Nadim Ladki; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Samia Nakhoul)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Jesus Vivant!!

La Photographie de Jésus,avec l'apôtre Thaddée et Joseph d'Arimathie :

L'explication de Daniel Meurois :
'Voici une photo assez rare qui m'a été communiquée il y a quelques temps et on m'en a raconté l'histoire. Je ne sais pas de quand elle date exactement mais elle a été prise il y a un bon nombre d'années, c'est sûr. Jusqu'à présent, elle avait circulé d'une façon underground mais je crois que le temps est venu où il faut la diffuser le plus possible.

Elle aurait été prise par un touriste qui s'était rendu à Jérusalem et qui a photographié le mur des lamentations. Or, quand il a développé sa pellicule, à la place du mur des lamentations, c'est cette image qui est apparue sur la photo.

Lorsqu'on m'a montré celle-ci pour la première fois, on m'a demandé si ça me disait quelque chose et là, j'ai fait un bond et répondu :'Oui ! C'est le Maître Jésus avec Joseph d'Arimathie et l'apôtre Thaddée. C'est de cette façon-là que je les vois dans les annales akashiques.'

J'en conclu que c'est une photo qui a été transmise par voie divine et par je ne sais quel miracle, à cette personne pour que, progressivement, elle commence à être divulguée. La photo est un peu abîmée mais toujours est-il que c'est véritablement les visages tels que je les vois lorsque je fais mes plongées dans les annales akashiques. Je peux donc dire que ce sont bien les visage de Jésus, de Joseph d'Arimathie et de l'apôtre Thaddée. Lorsqu'on m'a mis cette photo dans les mains pour la première fois, j'ai été bouleversé parce que c'était la première fois que je voyais sur papier ce que je vois de façon extra-corporelle.

Il y a un détail sur cette photo qu'aucun tricheur ou un peintre n'aurait réussi à imaginer. Autour de la tête de Jésus, il y a une espèce de lanière... ce n'est pas un bandeau car celui-ci repasserait devant le front, or, ici, ce n'est pas le cas. En fait, c'est une sorte de diadème métalique cerclé d'un petit cordon de cuir que le Maître Jésus mettait parfois sur l'arrière de ses cheveux lorsqu'il y avait du vent. De le retrouver-là sur cette photo est tout à fait exceptionnel.

A propos de l'apôtre Thaddée, il est plus connu dans la tradition occidentale sous le nom de Jude. Il est surtout connu sous le nom de Thaddée parmi le peuple Arménien où il est allé enseigner les premières années suivant le départ du Maître.' Daniel Meurois

'Heureux ceux qui croient sans voir'
disait le Christ

Lebanese leaders in final stages of talks on unity government

Lebanese leaders in final stages of talks on unity government
New cabinet likely to be announced 'within 48 hours'

By Hussein Abdallah
Daily Star staff

BEIRUT: Lebanon's rival political parties were in the final stages of agreeing on the makeup of a new unity government on Sunday, with a cabinet lineup expected to be announced within the next 48 hours. Significant progress was reportedly made between the two camps after a meeting between Prime Minister designate Fouad Siniora and Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Saturday. The two sides reportedly agreed on which portfolios would be given to the retired general in the new cabinet. The various parties of the March 14 alliance were reportedly sorting out their differences over the distribution of the remaining portfolios, and reports on Sunday said that the final government line-up would be decided once parliamentary majority leader MP Saad Hariri returns to Beirut. Siniora said on Saturday that he was confident that a national unity government for Lebanon would be announced soon, but dismissed reports that it was imminent. "The clock has started ticking for the formation of a government," Siniora told reporters after talks with Aoun. "The formation of a government continues and I am confident that in the near future we will reach" a line-up, he added. Asked if the new government would be announced Saturday, he replied: "Not today." Siniora said he agreed with Aoun "on the portfolios and names" of new ministers, but also added that he must continue with his consultations.

Youth and Sports Minister Ahmad Fatfat earlier told AFP that a government would be announced within hours. "The announcement of a national unity government will very probably take place today," Fatfat said. Rival leaders have been locked in political bickering over the past six weeks over the distribution of key portfolios in the new government, despite a deal reached in Qatar on May 21 after deadly sectarian fighting.

The Doha agreement paved the way for the election on May 25 of army chief Michel Sleiman as president, filling a post left vacant since November. The agreement stipulated that the parliamentary majority would get 16 seats in the new government, leaving 11 ministers for the opposition and three for the president. News reports on Sunday said Aoun's nominees for the cabinet were Gibran Bassil (telecommunications), Mario Aoun (social affairs), former minister Alan Tabourian (energy), MP Elias Skaff (agriculture) and retired general Issam Abu Jamra for the post of deputy premier.

Siniora, who resumed on Sunday his contacts aimed at speeding up the birth of the new government, discussed with both Mario Aoun and Tabourian their prospective roles in the cabinet. Siniora met Speaker Nabih Berri Saturday before receiving a delegation from Hizbullah at the Grand Serail. Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's political aide Hussein Khalil, who was heading the delegation, told reporters after meeting Siniora that an agreement has been sealed over which portfolios would go the opposition. "After agreeing on the portfolios, we have now entered the stage of discussing names," Khalil said. News reports Sunday said Hizbullah had tipped caretaker Energy Minister Mohammad Fneish for the Labor Ministry.

However, the group remained vague on the two remaining names amid reports that said that one of Hizbullah's three cabinet seats might go to former Minister Talal Arslan. As for Berri's quota, the reports said caretaker Health Minister Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh was likely to stay in his post, while the foreign affairs portfolio would either stay with resigned Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh or go to Mahmoud Berri, the speaker's brother. The name of Berri's nominee for the Industry Ministry remained uncertain. As for Sleiman's three ministers, the reports said caretaker Defense Minister Elias Murr (Greek Orthodox) was likely to stay in his post, while lawyer and legal expert Ziyad Baroud (Maronite) was reportedly tipped for the Interior Ministry. The name of Sleiman's Catholic nominee remained uncertain, but sources close to the Presidential Palace told The Daily Star that the president's third ministry might be taken by businessman Talal al-Makdessi. The agreement over the opposition's portfolios left the different parties constituting the March 14 Forces to share the portfolios of finance, justice, public works, education, economy, displaced, information, environment, culture, administrative development and tourism. News reports on Sunday said that there were some differences within the majority camp over allocating some portfolios, such as the Public Works Ministry. But March 14 lawmaker Butors Harb and former MP Fares Soueid denied those reports.

Meanwhile, The Daily Star learned that Qatari Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani contacted all Lebanese leaders over the weekend and that his effort contributed to ending the impasse in Lebanon. Sheikh Jabr bin Youssef, head of the Qatari prime minister's office and his emissary to Lebanon, has reportedly met with the rival leaders and encouraged them to continue with reconciliation in order to form a new government in adherence to the Doha agreement. Although there were other factors that led to the facilitation of forming a new cabinet, the Qatari goodwill that constituted a part of Doha's efforts have played a significant role in narrowing differences. Meanwhile, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa expressed hope that a government in Lebanon would see the light "in hours." Moussa said that his recent contacts with Lebanese parties had led him to draw the conclusion that real progress has been achieved - With AFP

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