SkyscraperCity Forum banner

Lebanon News (Non-political only)

155620 Views 2073 Replies 89 Participants Last post by  Sandblast2
YORK, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Moody's Investors Service changed the rating outlook on Lebanon's foreign currency government bond rating to negative from stable, citing the country's unstable political environment.

Six opposition ministers resigned earlier this month and the minister of industry was assassinated on Tuesday contributing to the deterioration of the political environment, Moody's said.

Gunmen on Tuesday assassinated Lebanese Christian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayal, an outspoken critic of Syria, plunging Lebanon deeper into a crisis over ties with its dominant neighbor. For more, see [ID:nL21814193]

Moody's currently rates Lebanon's foreign currency government bond at "B3," six levels below investment grade. The negative outlook indicates the rating could be lowered deeper into junk territory over the next 12 to 18 months.
See less See more
1 - 20 of 2074 Posts
U.S. and Lebanon sign trade agreement

U.S., Lebanon sign trade agreement seen as stepping stone to Mideast free trade pact

The Associated Press

The United States and Lebanon signed a trade agreement Thursday that the U.S. government said furthers President George W. Bush's initiative to negotiate a free trade agreement spanning the Middle East.

Called a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, the pact signed in Beirut, Lebanon, is part of the Bush administration's "effort to support the Lebanese government," said Shaun Donnelly, assistant U.S. Trade Representative.

"The TIFA signals the commitment of our two governments to work in a concrete and comprehensive manner to expand bilateral economic ties," Donnelly said in a statement issued by his office.

"It will be an important means through which the United States can further its efforts to help promote Lebanese economic development, create jobs and further integrate Lebanon into the global economy. Today's signing also demonstrates the continued progress being made under the president's Middle East Free Trade Area initiative."

That objective is to bring free trade throughout the Middle East and between the Middle East and the United States. Washington already had framework agreements with Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The United States exported to Lebanon goods worth $466 million (?353 million) in 2005, which included machinery, vehicles and electrical equipment. Agricultural exports were valued at $63 million (?47.7 million).
Lebanon's exports to the United States totaled $92 million (?69.7 million) and included precious stones, furniture and bedding and organic chemicals. The United States imported $17 million (?12.9 million) worth of agricultural products from Lebanon
See less See more
Lebanese Photographer Wins Top Competition

Lebanese Photographer Wins Top Competition

young Lebanese photographer was among 17 youths from the Mediterranean region to win a photography contest financed by the European Commission.
The international jury selected the winners from some 5,800 photographs submitted to the competition organizers during the "Crossing Glances" exhibition event in Rome.

The theme of the contest was relations between the countries of Europe and the Mediterranean. Juries paid particular attention to works that highlighted the principles of intercultural dialogue and tolerance.

Lebanon's Haytham Moussawi was among the winners who were invited to Rome. His winning photo is of a girl wearing red and white amid a sea of Lebanese flags.

The photo represents hope and a look to the future. It has appeared on front page magazines in Europe, An Nahar newspaper said Thursday.

It said the exhibition will stay in Rome until January 1, 2007 and will then travel to Mediterranean countries and finally make its way to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels.

Beirut, 30 Nov 06, 11:31
See less See more
Euro-fest rounds out Beirut's film season

Euro-fest rounds out Beirut's film season
Organizers try to focus attention on young directors

By Jim Quilty
Daily Star staff
Thursday, November 30, 2006


BEIRUT: As Lebanon's film festival season - somewhat foreshortened by the July-August bombing campaign - draws to a close, Beirut's eyes are once again drawn hopefully toward Europe. The Delegation of the European Commission in Lebanon is responding with its 13th European Film Festival (EFF), being staged November 30 through December 10.

As in years past, the EFF endeavors to be a festival for filmmakers as well as audiences. Its 29-film program (with "family movies" included among more middle-brow fare) is augmented by a competition for short films by Lebanese students and a pitch session for feature films - a sort of mini-cinemarket that is being held in cooperation with the Lebanese Cinema Foundation.

Scheduled for December 8-9, the pitch session consists of public briefings where European producers and broadcasters explain their funding policies, then meet Lebanese directors and producers for a series of intense but informal one-on-one talks. Successful preliminary discussions could lead to a more formalized process in which treatments will be submitted to selection committees.

The Lebanese participants have been culled from a shortlist compiled after the organizers issued a call for projects. The European participants include Vincenzo Bugno from Germany's World Cinema Fund, Samuel Chauvin of France's Promenade Films, ZDF/ARTE's Meinolf Zurhorst and George Sluizer from Holland's GMS Films.

The EFF's 2006 prize for best short film will be decided from a field of 18 Lebanese student submissions. First prize is 1,500 euros, a nice chunk of change for a starving artist. Runners-up receive a jury prize of 500 euros.

Organizers stress that the thrust of this year's EFF - the pitch session, competition and program - is young directors. The lineup doesn't necessarily feature the most recent European productions, then, but it does include the early works of some of the continent's more promising directors, some of which have won prizes at one international festival or another. These are leavened with work from a few veteran filmmakers.

Scripted by Wolfgang Kohlhaase and directed by Andreas Dresen, the opening film, "Summer in Berlin," (2005) falls into the latter category. A low-intensity tragicomedy set during a heat wave, the film follows the apparently disintegrating relationship of Nike, a divorced single mother who feels frustrated in both her life and career, and Katrin, who has a history of bad relationships and works a job she doesn't care about.

The EFF will close with "Azur and Asmar," by Michel Ocelot - well-known among animated-film buffs for his "Kirikou" series. The latest effort by the French writer-director-animator is a fairy tale for the post-9/11 era about two young men - one French, one Arab - who, separated in adolescence, launch on parallel quests to find the fairy queen their wet nurse always told them about as children.

As in previous years, the troubled relationship between Europe and the Middle East seeps into some of the films in the 2006 program, though - unlike in past years - none of these is set in the Middle East or North Africa.

"Brothers," by Denmark's Susanne Bier, is a Dogme-style drama about the relationship between two brothers - one a physically and psychologically wounded veteran of Denmark's UN mission to Afghanistan who's been given up for dead, the other a good-for-nothing criminal - and the veteran's wife (played by Connie Nielsen).

"Before the Storm," by Iranian-born Swedish director Reza Parsa, contemplates two themes that are timely if someone out of proportion with each other. Leo is a frustrated adolescent whose school life is so tortured that he contemplates armed retribution against his tormentor. Ali is a retired militant from a Muslim country whose former colleagues are trying to blackmail him into assassinating a countryman in his host country. Somehow the two stories - oddly reminiscent of Joseph Fares' "Zozo" (2005) - come together in one film.

The 2006 EFF also makes a modest departure from tradition by screening a documentary. Kim Longinotto's "Sisters in Law" is a verite work focusing on the work of Vera Ngassa and Beatrice Ntuba, a prosecutor and a judge in Cameroon. The camera lingers over three court cases - one involving spousal abuse, the other two child abuse, one of them rape. The subject matter may be tragic, but the personalities and great wit make for a funny and remarkably upbeat work.

There are several directors whose return to Beirut's screens will please local film-goers.

Gypsy aficionado Tony Gatlif ("Gadjo Dilo," 1997) returns to Romania with "Transylvania" (2006) and this time he does so with Asia Argento in tow. Zingarina (Argento) is a pregnant Italian who's in Transylvania trying to find the Romany lover who abandoned her. After a bit of musically inflected picaresque, Zingarina disguises herself as a gypsy and meets Tchangalo (Birol Unel). A bit more musically inflected picaresque follows.

On the to-do list for Beirut's anglophile audiences are a pair of UK films from Stephen Frears and Neil Jordan - cinematic heavy-hitters whose reputations sometimes overshadow the quality of their individual films.

With "Breakfast on Pluto" (2005), Jordan ("The Crying Game," 1992) returns to transvestite territory with this tale of Patrick Braden. Abandoned as a baby by his Irish mother, Braden grows up in the 1960s and 1970s to realize he's a woman trapped in the body of a man. He re-names himself Kitten and travels to London in search of his mother, finding love and adventure in the process.

Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (2005) is a "based on true events" comedy about how a bored, 1930s blue-blood named Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) and her odd-couple stage manager (played by Bob Hoskins) transformed London's Victorian-era Windmill Theater into a venue for feminine nudity to be publicly yet tastefully displayed. The principals deliver their usual strong performances.

Beirut audiences will also have a chance to watch Philippe Akiki's "Le Royaume des Pauvres" (1967), Garry Garabedian's "Abou Salim in Africa" (1965) and Mohammad Salman's "The Black Jaguar" (1965). These three feature-length Lebanese films are all newly restored by the Lebanese Cinema Foundation with financial help from the EU. Based on past years, the screenings of these modernist pearls should be among the highlights of the festival.

The European Film Festival opens November 30 with "Summer in Berlin" at Unesco Palace in Verdun, and continues with daily screenings at Cinema Six Sofil in Achrafieh through December

10. For information on extra screenings in Tripoli and Zahle and the full program of films, please see
See less See more
Outlying malls might gain from crisis in Beirut

Outlying malls might gain from crisis in Beirut
Many businesses are seeking new premises

By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 09, 2006

BEIRUT: It has yet to be seen whether the opposition demonstrations will be the last straw for merchants in the Beirut Central District (BCD), but the capital's malls could emerge from the latest political impasse as the retail hubs of the city. Though no commercial sector will emerge unscathed from 2006 - during which Lebanon recorded its most sluggish economic performance in decades - Beirut's leading shopping centers have witnessed a spike in inquiries from prospective occupants over the past six months.

The operations manager at ABC Achrafieh attributed the rise in demand to the persistent closures in the BCD over the past two years.

"We have had a lot of people, especially from Downtown, making inquiries about new space, but we don't have much to offer them," Walid Khoury told The Daily Star in a telephone interview.

ABC, where 90 percent of retail space is currently occupied, has neither lost nor gained tenants over the past six months. Despite a potential upsurge in demand, rents have remained the same, said Khoury.

"We are in the same difficulty as everyone else in the capital," he said. "We are doing a little better than Downtown, but things are not as they should be during Christmas."

All sectors in ABC have been hit by a dip in consumer traffic. Nonetheless, the mall is going ahead with its usual holiday promotional schedule.

City Mall in Dora- also 90-percent full - has seen an increase in prospective occupants, said manager Michel Aoun. He received 12 applications for permanent space, and even more from retailers looking into short-term leases for the holidays, but the number of inquiries for temporary space is still below the usual rates for the season.

"The political situation Downtown has not affected the demand for locations in City Mall, Khoury said.

"But we do have common tenants between here and Downtown, and their business has increased at our location to compensate for losses [in the BCD]."

Applications are approved based on the industry and category, explained Khoury, with preference given to merchants from sectors that are relatively under-represented in the shopping center. Increasing the number of food outlets is a priority.

Khoury is relatively upbeat about the mall's performance, which picked up immediately after the July-August war with Israel and had been "going beautifully" until last week.

Dunes mall in Verdun, on the other hand, saw three tenants leave immediately following the summer hostilities, said marketing manager Nada Sharaia, though the losses were offset by the entry of four new clients.

Like City Mall, some of the more recent arrivals at Dunes - currently 95 percent occupied - have a presence in the BCD as well, she said. Those who decided to open a branch in Verdun for the most part did so during the first half of 2006.

"We're still close to full occupancy because we're getting new tenants, but it's not related to the war or Downtown," she said. "We are negotiating with one client now, and two new places will open in 2007. They are decorating as we speak."
See less See more
Well this is of course good news, but we still need to revive our city center... thank God this mess downtown is almost over just in time for the holidays.
When will we be able to have a "NORMAL" Country ??
Second Edition of Samir Kassir Award Launched

Second Edition of Samir Kassir Award Launched

The European Commission in Lebanon has launched the second edition of the "Samir Kassir Award for Freedom of the Press" in memory of An Nahar's slain columnist.
Head of the European Commission's delegation Ambassador Patrick Laurent announced the prize Friday in cooperation with the Samir Kassir Foundation at a news conference in the mission's headquarters in Beirut.

Laurent was flanked by Ghassan Tueni, An Nahar's pundit, and Walid Kassir, the slain journalist's brother. Kassir's widow Giselle Khoury also attended the news conference.

The prize is awarded to one journalist and one research student every year on June 2, the day the fiery anti-Syrian journalist was killed in a booby trapped car bombing in front of his house in Beirut's Ashrafiyeh district.

The commission said that award is dedicated to "perpetuate the commitment of journalist and writer Samir Kassir to the rule of law" and is bestowed to a journalist and a young researcher whose works should focus on the rule of law in the MEDA countries which include Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Territories, Israel, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.

The winner of the journalism contest will receive a sum of euros 15,000 ($19,000) while the young researcher's award will be euros 10,000 ($13,000).

The jury will be composed of nine members from the media and civil society institutions and one observer member, representing the delegation of the EC.

Beirut, 16 Dec 06, 10:37
See less See more
EU signs pact to help establish agro-food school in Bekaa

By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff
Thursday, December 21, 2006

BEIRUT: Lebanon's first agro-food vocational school should open next year in the Bekaa, thanks to a 5-million-euro ($6.5-million) grant from the European Union. Education Minister Khaled Qabbani signed the financing agreement Wednesday with Patrick Laurent, head of the European Commission's Lebanon delegation, and Nabil Jisr, president of the Council for Development and Reconstruction. The Education Ministry will also contribute $1.3 million.

The school, to be located in Qab Elias, will offer three-year baccalaureate degrees with agro-food specializations and short-term training courses for workers in the industry.

Despite employing 25 percent of Lebanon's private-sector wage-earners, the agro-food industry chronically suffers from a dearth of qualified labor, and the school is meant to rectify the shortage, Laurent told The Daily Star.

Lebanon's economy tips dramatically toward services, with more than 70 percent of the nation's GDP deriving from the service sector.

Laurent said he sees an opportunity "to widen the economic base of Lebanon."

"The economic base of Lebanon is unbalanced," he said. "The economic base of Lebanon is far too specialized in services," particularly tourism and banking and finance.

As a result, Lebanon's industrial sector faces a "huge deficit" of employees, and the Bekaa school can serve as a template for how to supply labor to an area of potential economic growth, Laurent said.

Wajih al-Bisri, vice president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association, said the agro-food industry has long needed an institute such as the school.

"I'm sure this project will be successful," he said.

"If we can have a school, this will be wonderful."

Qabbani said Lebanon has a wealth of human capital, and the school would provide important know-how to Lebanese youth and benefit the employment market at the same time.

The agro-food industry, represented by the Lebanese Syndicate of Food Industries, began the push for the school in 2000, when the syndicate signed an agreement with the ministry to create a technical facility specializing in the food industry.

The market for Lebanese food exports could be lucrative, because demand for Mediterranean products is growing in many countries, particularly in Western Europe, Bisri said.

"The agro-food industry can do a lot there," he said.
See less See more
^^ Gr8 news
Salameh: 2006 results positive despite tensions

Salameh: 2006 results positive despite tensions

Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 30, 2006

BEIRUT: Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh predicted on Friday that Lebanon's balance-of-payments surplus would exceed $2.5 billion at year end. Speaking to the Voice of Lebanon Radio, Salameh said the balance-of-payments surplus up to November of this year exceeded $2.9 billion.

"The results this year were relatively positive despite the political situation in the country," he added.

Salameh said the deposits of the banking sector grew by 7 percent to reach $63 billion.

"There has been a capital inflow into the country although some capital fled Lebanon in certain stages."

Salameh added that the Central Bank has sufficient gross foreign currency and gold reserves to weather any unforeseen problem.

According to the Central Bank, the gross foreign-currency reserves jumped to $13 billion this year from $12.5 billion in 2005.

Salameh said the Central Bank will maintain its monetary policy since it proved effective.

He also stressed the importance of the Paris III donor conference as it would inject badly needed cash into the country.

But he warned against further political division as it may hurt the economy, adding: "Any political consensus will surely reflect positively on the economy."

Salameh also expected interest rates worldwide to fall in 2007 and this will help the Lebanese economy. - The Daily Star
See less See more
Tony Shalhoub working to revive the Arab image

Tony Shalhoub working to revive the Arab image

Lebanese-American actor Tony Shalhoub, who helped establish an Arab-American filmmaker award, is now hard at work on an independent film about a Muslim and a Jew opening an L.A. restaurant.

Before Tony Shalhoub broke through as the obsessive-compulsive detective Monk, the Lebanese-American actor had compiled a long list of supporting characters with widely diverse names: Haddad (The Siege), Kwan (Galaxy Quest), Scarpacci (Wings), Reyes (Primary Colors) and Riedenschneider (The Man Who Wasn't There).

This year, he has again been nominated for a Golden Globe, and he won his third Emmy for Monk, which will start Season 5 1/2 in January.

Lately, Shalhoub, 53, has been adding to his resume not only as an actor but also as a producer and advocate, reaching back to his Arab-American roots. One of his projects, an upcoming independent film titled American East, tells about ordinary Arab-Americans in Los Angeles whose everyday lives and plans have been altered by the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Spike Lee had his agenda and his vision. It's been done in the Hispanic-American community,'' Shalhoub said.

"If ever there was a time for it to be done for the Arab-American community, it's now,'' he said.

If he hadn't succeeded as Monk, an everyman character of indeterminate ethnicity, it might have been more difficult for him to be a successful advocate, said Hesham Issawi, director of American East.

"People don't even realize he has a Lebanese background. He has the money, the artistic power and the influence in Hollywood to make some change in the image. And he's not afraid of doing it.''

In "star math,'' the relationship of an actor's ego to his talent, Shalhoub comes out on top, said Jeff Wachtel, senior vice-president of original programming for Monk"s parent network, USA Network.

"Tony has the best ratio I've ever seen,'' Wachtel said. "It's so little about his ego and so much about the quality of the work and his fellow actors, it just makes people want to vote for him.''

Shalhoub said he's never considered himself a comedian. "The beauty of Monk for an actor is that it presents the ideal challenge, which is doing comedic stuff and dramatic stuff all together,'' he said. Monk's humour comes from his being a tragic clown along the lines of Charlie Chaplin, Shalhoub said.

In a modest neighbourhood near Hollywood and Vine, lights and cameras were trained on the star, standing nervously on a cracked sidewalk. Dressed in his detective's trademark buttoned-to-the-throat shirt, he squinted and blinked, his mouth struggling in vain to form words to defend himself from a barrage of verbal abuse from a fellow actor in character.

Beaten, he turned and shuffled off, a sad shadow of the usually sharp-eyed detective. It's the sort of physical performance that stage actors such as Shalhoub are trained to do and one reason Emmy voters like him.

This year, they surprised him with his third honour for comedic acting despite expectant buzz surrounding Steve Carell (The Office). Critics admire his ability to shift moods on a dime, a trait the show's writers like to exploit.

"Writing for Tony Shalhoub's voice is like writing for Bob Newhart,'' said co-creator and executive producer Andy Breckman. "It's all about pacing, timing, the pauses.''

He said the writers try to come up with situations just to see how the actor will handle them. "We throw different pitches at the plate to see if he can hit it. It's like a game for us. We did an episode where he went through all five stages of grief in 30 seconds.''

Sometimes, Shalhoub thinks viewers aren't sure why they're laughing or even if it's OK to laugh.

"Like Chaplin, too, he's kind of alone. He has his assistant and people he works with, but he doesn't have that soul mate that completes him. He feels incomplete.''

In recent years, Shalhoub branched out from acting to direct (Made-Up with his wife, Brooke Adams) and produce (as a creative force in casting, writing and editing on Monk). Still, he said, he can't quit acting. "I just love it,'' he said.

Because Monk, a 16-episode series, is broken up into two half-seasons, one airing in summer, the other in winter, Shalhoub is free for other ventures.

In 2003, he took a small part in a short satirical film, T for Terrorist, about a young actor who goes berserk after being cast one too many times as an Arab terrorist and turns the tables on the director.

In 2005, he helped establish the Arab-American Filmmaker Award Competition along with the Network of Arab-American Professionals, Zoom in Focus productions and Zahra Pictures. In the contest, established Arab-American filmmakers submit their screenplays; the winner gets his or her film produced.

"It's important,'' he said. "There are so many great stories that need to be told to offset the negative images in the media -- not just the news, but in other television and film.''

In American East, Shalhoub plays a Jewish-Egyptian-American who agrees to start a restaurant business with an Islamic-Egyptian-American -- to the consternation of their relatives.

"Tony always said let's shake the boat, show them things they've never seen before. Let's put Jews and Muslims in one movie and see what happens. Sort of like the Middle East in America,'' said Issawi, who co-wrote the film with Sayed Badreya.

The film also stars Kais Nashif (Paradise Now), Sarah Shahi (The L Word), Ray Wise (The West Wing, 24) and Badreya in his first lead role. Producer Ahman Zahra said, "We're hoping this could be the start of a new wave of expression, not just for Arab-Americans but other minorities . . . to give them a voice."

Shalhoub was No. 9 in a family of 10 children whose father emigrated from Lebanon at age 10, and whose mother was a second-generation Lebanese-American. Shalhoub was raised in Green Bay, Wis., where his father ran a sausage company from a truck.

"He wanted to expand that into a family-run company and mail-order business," Shalhoub said.

"He opened a little shop. His idea was that the company would sustain all of us and keep us close in the same area. Even though that didn't happen, we stayed close.''

Every summer, the family gathers in Wisconsin for a vacation.

Shalhoub was raised as a Christian; he doesn't speak Arabic.

According to Issawi, Shalhoub was not involved in Middle Eastern culture as a child. "It happens a lot. The first generation wants the child to be part of the melting pot. They're tired of the politics back home and don't want them to go through their own experience. Then the person grows up and wants to find their roots.

It happened to Tony later on in his life," after his father died, Issawi said. "He was lucky to have found the medium of film and cinema to help him explore.

"That's the beauty of it. He succeeded as an American, now as an Arab-American going back to reach into his own history. The Middle East is now very much a part of America. It's important for Americans to understand what the Middle East is about. He's one of the people building that bridge."

Source: The Record
See less See more
Tony is really a great guy doing some great things, I wish him the best for all of our sakes.
Lebanese American launches first film 'Silent Scream'

Lebanese American launches first film 'Silent Scream'
Monday, 8 January, 2007 @ 2:41 PM

Dearborn, Michigan - Lance K. R. Kawas, a Lebanese American screenwriter who struggled for years to get his award-winning scripts made into movies, finally realized his dream by releasing his first film.

Kawas wrote and co-directed "Silent Scream," a new horror film being distributed by Lionsgate Films.

"I don't usually write slasher movies," said Kawas.

He was asked to write the script by film producers who were familiar with his work, and he saw an opportunity for mass distribution and recognition, as well as an opportunity to direct.

The film is a teenage slasher movie shot in Northern Michigan in snow and freezing weather.

Kawas said he enjoyed shooting the film though he could barely handle the cold. "I hate snow … I'm from Africa."

Kawas, who is of Lebanese descent, grew up in Sierra Leone where his family owned video stores and theaters. He had access to countless movies from around the world and knew at a young age that he wanted to be involved in film.

He now spends late nights writing scripts for independent productions. He writes out of his home in Dearborn while staying in contact with production companies in London and Los Angeles.

"It keeps me down to earth," said Kawas about staying in Dearborn. He said he likes being amongst other Arabs and Muslims, in a smaller community, where he can focus and write.

Kawas left Africa at age 14 to attend a private school in England, then came to the U.S. when a revolution in Sierra Leone prevented him from returning after finishing high school.

Once here he enrolled at the University of Michigan and acquired a degree in finance.

"I did it to please my father," he said. "I hated banking."

Kawas worked for a short time in finance before deciding that "Life is short…I might as well do something fulfilling."

He quit his job and began writing full time. His family was not amused.

"It was a very painful time. I would get (discouraging) phone calls from uncles."

Kawas said the business-oriented part of Lebanese culture prevented his family from encouraging him in pursuing his literary work. He said that what motivated him to continue to write was the Qur'anic saying: "The ink of a scholar is more sacred than the blood of a martyr." He also used it to keep his family off of his back.

He taught himself to write screenplays and began around 1996. He's now written 31 scripts, an unusually high number.

Kawas wrote, submitted to competitions, and fought off his family for years until "all of a sudden I started winning.

"I started getting nominated, my dad started leaving me alone, and I started to think maybe there is a light at the end of tunnel," said Kawas.

He would eventually receive 19 different national film festival nominations and awards.

After the awards came he began submitting to production companies who, for another couple of years, would tell him his scripts were "good, but not what we're looking for."

"You can't give up on a dream," he said about his years of persistence in the face of rejection. "Men without dreams have empty souls."

In 2002 he leased the rights to his first script. "Then things started to roll," he said

He adapted a book for the screen. He wrote and directed commercials. He developed relationships with Purple Rose Films, American Cinema International, and other production companies in London and Hollywood.

Kawas now has three movies in pre-production, including "The Violinist," based on his prize-winning script about a relationship between two American law students, one an Arab, the other a Jew.

He is also set to direct a film on the story of Detroit mobster "Tony Jack" Giacalone.

Kawas describes his past and ongoing struggle for recognition and financial backing as an "uphill climb," but said that he believes "As long as you're a hard worker, they'll give you opportunity."

He still expresses frustration over the lack of attention arts get from the Arab community.

"The media is a powerful instrument, but they don't realize it," he said.

He said there are so many Arab professionals and students in medicine and engineering, and so few recognizing the potential influence of Arabs in the media.

One prominent influence in Kawas' work is the Syrian comedian and actor Dored Laham, who is known for political satire.

He hopes to someday have the ability to create and distribute films using humor to expose and poke fun at social injustices and ignorance in the world, particularly in the Arab World.

Kawas said that his family has become proud of him as he achieves more and more success, but that there's still always a hint of sarcasm in their praise, as in "So… have you met Sylvester Stallone yet?"

Source: Arab American News
See less See more
This is great! I hope the movie becomes a success!
Nchalla :)
There are already plenty of Lebanese Americans in this industry such as Mario Kassar who did blockbuster movies
Specialists warn of potential water shortage in Lebanon

Beirut - Water specialists have warned that Lebanon will face a severe water shortage over the coming years unless an effective water management system is soon put in place.

Some say that there could be a serious deficit by 2010 to 2015," said Fadi Comeir, director-general of hydro-electrical equipment in Lebanon's Energy and Water Ministry. He added that the country might experience shortages even sooner than that.

While Lebanon actually has an abundance of rainfall and underground water, for years it has struggled to distribute this water and prevent it becoming contaminated in the earth.

According to Ahmed el-Dor, a water engineer in the United Nations children's agency (UNICEF), the main problem with the water system in Lebanon is the mismanagement of distribution.

"Add to that a lack of qualified manpower in the sector, and you begin to appreciate the seriousness of the gaps in the system," el-Dor said.

El-Dor said that severe damage to the water system incurred as a result of Israeli bombing during the recent war served only to exacerbate an already existing problem.

In a country where experts say water management is chronically poor, a shortage would not only mean that residents would have problems meeting their daily water needs, but also that the quality of the water would be adversely affected.

"As things stand, each household receives less than 50 litres of water per capita per day, which forces people to resort to supplementary sources," said May Jurdi, a professor of environmental health at the American University of Beirut. The World Health Organisation states that people need on average 70 litres of water per day for all their needs, including sanitation.

In the event of a shortage, the use of unregulated water resources would go up, Jurdi said, increasing the risk of diseases while imposing an additional economic burden on families having to buy water for drinking and household use.

For many years, households across Lebanon, in urban and rural areas, receive water from public water authorities a maximum of three times a week, for about eight to 12 hours a time. The rest of the time, groundwater is usually pumped into urban buildings, including hospitals and schools, using individually fitted pumps. This water is then stored in tanks.

"Groundwater [in Lebanon] is often contaminated with sewage and agricultural waste," Jurdi said. According to her, some of the health effects the population suffers as a result of using contaminated water include diarrhoea, hepatitis and cholera.

However, Jurdi said that data was unavailable on the number of people who fall ill each year as a result of using unsafe water, because Lebanon was lacking an adequate reporting and information system.

But many urban residents say they have no choice but to use groundwater.

"If we were to rely on the water pumped to our home, we would have no drinking water at all, nor would we have enough for cooking and our own hygiene," said Ahmed Ramadan, who lives and works in the under-serviced southern suburbs of Beirut, which also suffered heavy damage in the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah.

"We have to buy water every week," said Ramadan.

For drinking water, while the more affluent may be able to afford branded, bottled water, the majority of urban residents buy water from water shops in their area, while people in the countryside use wells.

"Who monitors the quality of water in those shops? Who monitors the quality of water in the wells? Nobody," Jurdi said.

As for water for household use, in areas where insufficient water is pumped by the water authorities, many families buy a tank each week for the equivalent of about US $7 to supplement the water they pump from the ground, said Beirut resident Dunia Madhoun.

During the summer war between Israel and Hezbollah, areas that suffered the heaviest damage also incurred severe disruption to their water systems. This left towns across southern Lebanon reliant for weeks on bottled water and temporary tanks distributed by numerous NGOs and aid agencies.

However, water specialists say the pre-existing water distribution systems in those areas are no standard to go by in the country's ongoing post-war rehabilitation phase.

Israel causing water shortage in region

According to an Arab League report released on December 31, 2006, Israel controls water resources in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and seeks to take over water reserves in the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.

The study, carried out by the Arab Water Studies and Water Security Center, concluded that Israel was the main cause of water problems in the Middle East.

It said the average amount of water used by Israel is estimated at about two billion cubic meters, of which 65% comes from the West Bank, Gaza, southern Lebanon and the Syrian Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967.

Israeli water comes from rivers, groundwater, and reservoirs, while Palestinian water comes from rain, wells and springs.

Despite the limited water resources in the Palestinian territories, Israel seized more than 80% of them, the report said.

Moreover, there are 850 million cubic meters of water available in the West Bank and Gaza Strip annually, but the Palestinians do not use more than 120 million cubic meters as the Israeli government divert their water.

The average individual in Israel consumes water seven times more than the Palestinians, the report said, stressing that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was linked to the water issue.

“Israel takes 500 million cubic meters annually from water reserves in the West Bank, which accounts for approximately one third of Israel's consumption”, the study said, adding that the West Bank separation barrier allowed Israel to seize more of Palestinian water resources, as they are now annexed to Israeli boundaries.

The Arab League report, which focused on Israel’s control and use of water in Palestine, Israel and Jordan, said that large Israeli water projects always rely on drawing water from Arab sources.

“Israel seeks to control most of the water resources in the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon, the last of which was only meters away from the cease-fire line between Syria and Israel.”

The study also said that water had always been one of Israel’s main motives for military operations.

“Israel adopted the scheme to loot a high volume of Arab water in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine, and since the aggression of June-June 1967 Israel is exploiting water in the occupied territories. Water has always been one of the most important motives that drives the strategy of the Israeli military.”

Finally, the report called for consolidating Arab efforts to face increasing water challenges and to demand Israel to stop controlling Arab water resources if peace was to be achieved.

Source: IRIN, Reuters, Ya Libnan
See less See more
Lebanon's ISF destroys 150,000 pirated discs

Lebanon's ISF destroys 150,000 pirated discs

Violators exploit political crisis as security forces focus on preserving calm
By Michael Bluhm
Daily Star staff
Friday, January 19, 2007

BEIRUT: The Internal Security Forces (ISF) destroyed 150,000 discs containing pirated films, music, software and games in Roumieh on Thursday as part of efforts to stem the rampant piracy in Lebanon that costs media companies tens of millions of dollars a year. Pirated material accounts for 75 percent of all software and music sales, while the film industry suffers from the pirate-DVD market and first-run films shown on illegal cable-television connections that comprise over 90 percent of all connections, said a report from the International Intellectual Property Alliance, the umbrella group founded to protect the interests of the firms that control copyrights.

The alliance said US copyright holders lost out on over $25 million in music and software sales in Lebanon in 2005, though a strong contingent of grassroots organizations questions industry estimates and challenges copyright protections as excessive and a drag on creativity. Pirates are also getting an indirect boost from the country's ongoing political tensions, because the ISF's anti-piracy unit is busy maintaining security instead of chasing pirates, said a member of the ISF's Cyber Crime and Intellectual-Property Bureau who requested anonymity for security reasons.

Many pirated goods used to come to Lebanon by air from Malaysia, but now Syria is the primary source for contraband, as the country's sixth factory for producing illicit material is now going up, said the police source.

For example, pirated DVDs and illegal cable television ensure that everyone in the country can see a new film before its cinema release.

"Who will come to the cinema later?" said Bassem Eid, product manager for Haddad Theaters, which runs the Empire cinema chain, one of Lebanon's two major chains. "There is nothing here. [Illegal cable] is the major problem for us. The police here are doing some raids, but there are too many regions we didn't cover."

The 33 officers of the ISF's anti-piracy unit, founded less than a year ago, have seized about 250,000 pirated discs in some 500 raids since its inception, the source said.

The unit's moves are guided almost totally by the complaints it receives from copyright holders, who are actively pursuing their rights. Walid Nasser, the Lebanese legal counsel for international anti-piracy lobbies of the music, film and software industries, helped draft Lebanon's copyright legislation in 1999 and its patent laws one year later, he said. Nasser's law firm has helped train the ISF anti-piracy unit, files complaints on copyright violations, accompanies ISF officers on raids and submits briefs to the courts on behalf of copyright holders, Nasser said.

The Economy Ministry also investigates complaints of rights violations and sends inspectors to suspected pirate establishments, said Salwa Faour, head of the ministry's Department of Intellectual Property Protection.

But attempts to crack down on piracy typically bog down in Lebanon's glacial judiciary, where cases take at least two years to come to trial and the usual fines of a couple thousand dollars fail to deter any potential pirates, Nasser said.

"The cost is so insignificant that it's like the cost of doing business," he said. "Litigation in Lebanon is slow. We need more aggressive enforcement, and we need faster, better court decisions handed down."

Nasser said he plans to bring French judges to educate their Lebanese colleagues.

He previously brought American judges, but they "didn't have an enthusiastic audience" because of suspicions that the intellectual-property battle is just a front for the pursuit of American hegemony in the cultural arena, he said.

The sharpening political divide in Lebanon is also derailing the fight against piracy. In addition to lacking manpower, the ISF also has to be sensitive in timing raids on areas of opposition support due to the political crisis, the police source said.

"We need much more peace in order to act freely," the ISF officer said. "After the war [pirates] took advantage because we couldn't act. Whenever you have any problem, we cannot act. All my officers are used for security. We cannot do raids."

See less See more
English assumes greater importance in Lebanese linguistic universe

English assumes greater importance in Lebanese linguistic universe

By Mirella Hodeib
Daily Star staff
Friday, January 19, 2007

BEIRUT: The Lebanese have a much-touted turn of phrase to greet each other that mixes three languages within the same expression: "Hi. Keefak? Ca va?"

Lebanese Arabic contains many instances in which these three languages - English, Arabic and French - are mashed together in the same sentence. For example, Lebanese youth make plans for the night by asking, "Shou, rayhin clubbing ce soir?" (So, what, are we going clubbing tonight?), and mothers tuck their children in at night with a "yalla dodo, nighty night."

Switching between three languages has always been a characteristic of the Lebanese dialect. In fact, linguistic plurality has been an esteemed tradition throughout the country's history.

Lebanon's contact with the West is not a recent development; the tiny country's strategic position between East and West has contributed through the ages to its multicultural and multilingual nature.

In modern-day Lebanon, French is considered the language of culture and maintains a vital link with France and other francophone countries. English, on the other hand, is seen as the language of business, technology and communications with the non-Arab world.

"Lebanon's familiarity with Western-style education, since the bourgeoning of missionary schools in the 19th century, set the foundations for a tradition of bilingualism that has proven its viability over the years and become entrenched in the Lebanese psyche and the Lebanese educational system," said Kassim Shaaban, a linguistics professor at the American University of Beirut.

Nevertheless, English is increasingly gaining status within what had been thought to be a francophone fortress. However, unlike in Algeria and Morocco, the issue here is not one of primary language but rather that of the second language.

Recently, the English language section at Librarie Antoine, Lebanon's bookstore "par excellence," was moved to a more visible corner.

While the head of the Anglophone books section at Antoine, Hala Shaftari, denies that the section was moved to cater to a growing numbers of English readers, she admits that English book sales at the Hamra branch are on the rise.

"However, this does not mean the francophone bookshop will change its name to Anthony's Bookshop," she says.

Shaftari adds that the branch of the bookshop in Achrafieh is still entirely francophone.

The rising sales of English books at the Hamra branch are likely due to the fact the store is surrounded by English-language universities and schools, she says. "Therefore a lot of university students visit us looking for English sources and textbooks."

The government's policies concerning language and various reports on the subject suggest a shift from Arabic/French bilingualism to Arabic/French/English "trilingualism."

In fact, the Constitution says that "at the end of their intermediate education, students can take official examinations in mathematics and sciences in Arabic or in a foreign language (French or English)."

Mishka M. Mourani, senior vice president of the International College, says the number of students enrolled in French studies is the same as the number of those enrolled in English.

"Being an international school, we put a lot of emphasis on multilingualism," Mourani says, adding that the school has begun teaching second languages in its pre-school.

"This stems from our belief that the sooner students are exposed to a language the better they will be able to acquire it," she adds.

Mourani says the problems English-educated students face while learning French have to do with differences in the "essence" of both languages.

"While English is an easy language with which to communicate because it is an international language with many dialects, the French language's grammar, on the other hand, does not allow for flexibility in pronunciation or word usage," she explains. "Let me put it this way, it's true that English is gaining ground, but not at the expense of French."

A mother of four and a graduate student in linguistics, Nathalie Shehadeh says she chose to enroll her children in IC's French program because she wanted them to learn more than one language and thought French would provide a strong foundation for other languages, such as Spanish or Italian.

Shehadeh compares young learners to "sponges."

"I want my kids to learn both English and French with a local accent, but this wealth of linguistic information could only be absorbed if it is done at a younger age," she says.

However, Shehadeh agrees that the ability to learn a new language was affected by the first language learned.

"It's easier to acquire English when you are French-educated, and not vice versa," she says.

Shaaban says such beliefs are a common misconception.

"Lebanese students from English-medium backgrounds are much less likely to be motivated to learn French than their counterparts who have attended at French-medium schools because French lacks international status," he says.

Ray Abdel-Karim, who attended one of Lebanon's most prestigious French schools, says: "Nowadays English is more important than French, especially as my major, nutrition, requires me to be competent in English since nutrition majors are very well paid in the United States, as well as in the Arab Gulf."

But "I feel more comfortable speaking in French than in English since I've been in a French school for 15 years," she says.

Abdel-Karim's arguments for choosing to study at an English-medium university seem to have been heard by many traditionally French schools.

"As an economics major I think English as foreign language courses I took during my undergraduate years were indispensable," says Tarek Borgi, a graduate student at the Universite Saint Joseph (USJ).

Many French-medium universities, such as USJ and the Universite du Saint Esprit de Kaslik, have begun to see a need for English courses within their curriculum.

"It's inconceivable that an economist, an engineer or a film director would not master English," says Henri Awaiss, director of the Languages and Translation Center at USJ. "Additionally, it seems quite erroneous to claim that in USJ only French is spoken. We have long sought to be a multilingual institution. In fact, more than five languages are taught at USJ."

Awaiss notes that USJ has recently signed an agreement with the Confucius Institute, whereby Chinese-language courses will be offered in the spring since "nowadays English is losing ground to Chinese."

However, he denies claims that some of the university's most prominent deans are opposed to the incorporation of English courses in the curriculum. English is a must for students today, he says, if for no other reason than that the majority of international academic journals are written in English.

"They oppose English in the sense that they don't want administrative interactions to be conducted in English so as to preserve the francophone nature and ancestry of the institution," Awaiss explains.

While agreeing with Awaiss, Shaaban says the Lebanese have come to realize that in today's globalized world even knowing two languages is no longer enough.

Mourani says France has always been active in marketing its language in Lebanon.

The French Embassy and the French Cultural Center organize a series of events each year aimed at promoting French language and culture.

Francophone book fairs, television programs broadcast from Beirut and spelling contests are all held to promote French, and have come to be a yearly tradition.

A seeming "linguistic status quo" could therefore be the result of the global pre-eminence of English as "lingua franca," meshed with lasting effects and an enduring reverence for French culture.

"These two ideologies wrestle together in Lebanon and create a sort of a linguistic balance," Mourani says.

Shaaban sums up the discussion by saying the languages in use in the Lebanese context have specifically assigned functions.

Thus, Arabic is the official language of the state and the national culture, French is the language of communication, institution (and a specific culture), and English is the language of international business, communication and information.

"Foreign-language use in Lebanon, namely French and English, is strictly utilitarian; each language fits a certain category and serves a certain purpose in differing contexts," he adds.

See less See more
1 - 20 of 2074 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.