Examiner Staff

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Hariri reportedly bans photojournalist for “unofficial” photo

BEIRUT – Prime Minister Saad Hariri has reportedly banned a Lebanese photojournalist from covering events at Beit Al Wasat, Hariri’s upscale mansion, according to a report in Global Voices.

Photojournalist Hussein Baydoun photographed Hariri with one finger in his mouth during a press conference on Oct. 20. He later posted the photo to Twitter with a comment in Arabic that translates to, “For your eyes.”

Baydoun, who works for a London-based Arabic news outlet, was reportedly told he could no longer cover Hariri’s events because the photo was “unofficial.”

Wael Yaman, director of digital and social media at the Future Movement, acknowledged on Twitter that Baydoun could no longer attend events at Beit Al Wasat.

According to a Global Voices article, the prime minister’s office said Beit Al Wasat will be restricted to “permanent reporters” only.

Baydoun’s employer, The New Arab, is standing by its photographer, according to the article.

“I am fortunate that my newspaper is next to me, offering full support,” he told a Global Voices reporter. “We need to have a real photojournalists’ syndicate that fights for our rights.”

Australian politician: Bringing Lebanese to Australia a ‘mistake’

SYDNEY – Australia’s Immigration Minister Peter Dutton sparked controversy Monday after telling parliament members the Australian government made a mistake by resettling Lebanese refugees in the 1970s.

Dutton said former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser “did make mistakes in bringing some people in,” as part of his immigration policy. He said crime statistics in the country show a large number of Lebanese Australians are involved in terror incidents.

“The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offenses in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese Muslim background,” he said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Lebanese immigration peaked at 4,906 in 1977, with a smaller peak of 2,600 in 1987. The Bureau estimates Australia has about 196,000 citizens of Lebanese descent, including people whose parents were born in Australia.

Since this controversy, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Dutton and called him a “committed and compassionate immigration minister.”

“There is no question that there are lessons to be learned from previous immigration policies and the minister was reflecting on,” Turnbull said. “He’s entitled to do that.”

Some Lebanese Australians said they’re upset by the comments.

“It’s ill thought of and the purpose, I think, is solely to try to appeal to a nationalistic sense — that’s to provide a sense of exclusion rather than one of inclusion,” Jihad Dib, a Lebanese Australian Muslim, told ABC News Australia.

This is not the first time the Australian government singles out the Lebanese population. In February, a cabinet document called the Lebanese community the “most prominent ethnic group amongst Australian Sunni extremists.”

The document points to “lessons learned” after the wave of immigration to Australia as a result of the Lebanese civil war.

“Australia’s historical experience with the Sunni Lebanese community illustrates potential community safety and national security risks associated with unsuccessful integration,” the document added.

Man goes on racist rant against Arab Uber driver

NEW YORK – A man in Queens, New York was caught on camera howling racial slurs at an Arab American Uber driver last Thursday.

In a Facebook video shared by Karim Metwaly, an unidentified man driving a white SUV is heard yelling obscenities to the driver.

“You’re an Arab; you’re a f****** loser,” the man said.

At one point, the driver tells the Uber driver he will be deported under Trump’s leadership.

“Trump is president a**hole, so you can kiss your f****** visa goodbye scumbag,” he said. “They’ll deport you soon. Don’t worry, you  f****** terrorist.”

The video has since gone viral with more than 5.3 million views. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, reports of intimidation and harassment have spiked since Election Day.

WATCH the incident below (Warning: profanities):

Aoun: Trump’s election is a ‘bright hallmark’

President Michel Aoun congratulated U.S. President-elect Donald Trump last week and called his election a “bright hallmark in the history of democracy.”

“Your election restores the people’s will in choosing their rulers,” Aoun wrote in a letter to President-elect Trump. “This is a new chance for Lebanon and the U.S. to boost their bilateral cooperation.”

Aoun said he hopes a Trump administration will build strong ties with the Mediterranean country.

“It’s a (new chance) for the sake of achieving peace in the Middle East, confronting terrorism, and putting an end to wars and violence through peaceful means,” Aoun added.

Aoun’s senior advisor and president of the Free Patriotic Movement, Gebran Bassil, compared Trump’s unprecedented victory to Aoun’s victory. Aoun was elected president eight days before the U.S. election.

“9/11” represents the terrorist attacks in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, while “11/9” represents the day Trump was elected U.S. president. “13/10” represents the onset of the military occupation of Syria and Aoun’s defeat, while “31/10” is the day Aoun was elected president.

MP Alain Aoun also compared the elections on Twitter, posting: “Two unconventional presidential candidates opposed by the traditional political class have won the elections thanks to popular will.”

He later deleted the tweet, and said it was misinterpreted.

Lebanese American journalist recognized as ‘Trailblazer’

DETROIT – Former CBS News correspondent Aleen Sirgany was recognized Saturday as a ‘Lebanese American Trailblazer’ for her career in journalism and service to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The gala was held in Detroit by the Lebanese American Club of Michigan (LACOM), a non-profit organization which aims to preserve Lebanese culture in the state.

“I’m honored by this recognition,” Sirgany said. “Lebanon is always in our hearts, in our lives, in our family.”

The former journalist now serves as a senior advisor to the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities, the fundraising wing for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

As a Washington-based CBS correspondent, Sirgany covered dozens of global headlines, including the White House, the attacks on September 11 and Hurricane Katrina.

She was born in Beirut, and spent the first five months of her life in a Lebanese orphanage.

While covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in 2005, Sirgany wanted to visit Lebanon and see the orphanage where she was born.

“I thought, there is no way I’m going to be so close to Lebanon and not go see my family,” she said. “I did not know I could not have my passport stamped.”

It took Sirgany 10 years to make the trip.

“I fell in love with Lebanon,” she added. “It was so emotional, that it was almost surreal.”

WATCH: Aleen Sirgany Tribute Video

Clinton, Trump and their Lebanese American advisers

WASHINGTON – Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have appointed Lebanese Americans to serve as foreign advisers on their quest to the White House.

Clinton has sought consultation from Peter Daou, a longtime confidant and Democratic Party fundraiser, while Trump has designated FOX News commentator Walid Phares as a foreign policy adviser.

Peter Daou

Daou is a former adviser to Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, and CEO of ShareBlue, a left-leaning political news peter-daou-1-x-1website. He also served as a senior consultant to the Clinton Foundation’s Global Initiative.

According to his website, Daou was born in Beirut and lived through the Lebanese Civil War. At 15, he joined the Lebanese Forces and received combat training for three years, he says.

He once tweeted: “What frustrates rightwing haters when I engage them is that I served in the Lebanese Forces militia in Beirut, so they can’t use that card.”

Daou has organized media roundtables for President Bill Clinton and has designed digital strategies for the UN Foundation, Department of Energy and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Walid Phares

Phares is a FOX News commentator and longtime conservative analyst on global terrorism and foreign affairs. walid-phares-1-x-1Prior to FOX, Phares provided commentary to NBC, and has testified before the U.S. Congress, and committees of the U.S. State, Justice, Defense and Homeland Security.

Similar to Daou, Phares served as a civil war consultant to the Lebanese Forces and as head of the party’s External and Diaspora Affairs Office.

In a controversial policy article for an Israeli think tank, Phares once proposed Southern Lebanon becomes a state of its own and becomes a close ally to Israel.

“A Christian enclave is needed somewhere in Lebanon,” he wrote.

Phares previously served as foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney for his 2012 presidential campaign.

Saad Hariri named Lebanon’s new prime minister

(BEIRUT) – Lebanon’s two major parliamentary blocs on Tuesday named Saad Hariri, a former prime minister and a Sunni leader, as their candidate for premier in the government being formed after a new president was elected.

The widely expected endorsement by the Future bloc, led by Hariri, and the majority Christian bloc comes a day after Michel Aoun was elected president. Hariri was promised the post in exchange for backing Aoun’s presidential bid in parliament, ending a two-and-half-year deadlock that left Lebanon without a president.

Aoun is receiving the different parliamentary blocs Wednesday before naming the prime minister, likely before the weekend.

In the country’s sectarian-based political system, the prime minister, always a Sunni, is likely to face a daunting job, balancing different and often rival groups, to form a new Cabinet.

Gebran Bassil, who heads the Free Patriotic Movement of Aoun, said they back Hariri’s nomination for the premier post.

“We accept whoever accepts us. All our votes will go to Hariri because he recognized us and we will side with him in all the difficulties he will face,” Bassil told reporters.

Lebanon has been without a head of state since May 2014. According to the power sharing system governing Lebanese politics since the 1990s, the president must be a Maronite Christian.

Parliament failed in 45 different sessions to vote for a president, amid political infighting and boycotts, before Monday’s election of Aoun. Hariri’s about-face in support of Aoun last month broke the deadlock and changed the political landscape in Lebanon, bringing old-time foes on the same side, while allies differed.

Hariri, 46, served as prime minister briefly between late 2009 and 2011, when his government was brought down by powerful Lebanese Hezbollah group, now a major Aoun backer. He since left Lebanon, and was a vocal critic of Hezbollah. He returned earlier this year, sounding a more conciliatory tone.

Hariri is the son of late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in February 2005 with massive bomb on a Beirut seaside street.

The U.N. Security Council welcomed Aoun’s election as “a long-awaited and critical step to overcome Lebanon’s political and institutional crisis.” It urged the new president to promote the country’s stability and swiftly form a unity government and elect a parliament by May 2017, saying these steps “are critical for Lebanon’s stability and resilience to withstand regional challenges.”

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington that Secretary of State John Kerry called both Hariri and Aoun to congratulate them and express, “our desire to see now that the Lebanese people have a chief executive, to see that Lebanon can move forward.”


Melhem Zein releases new single composed by late Melhem Barakat

(BEIRUT) – Lebanese singer Melhem Zein released a new single composed by legendary composer and singer Melhem Barakat, who died last week at the age of 71.

The single, “Marti W Ana,” was set to release later this year, but Zein wanted to honor Barakat’s legacy by releasing the song early.

“Marti W Ana” which translates to “My Wife and I” was just one of the songs Barakat was composing before his death. Reports say he was also working on “Albi Al Walhan” or “My Heart That’s in Love.”

Barakat’s music career started in the 1960s and hit its peak when he joined the Rahbanis’ musical theater. He later grew into one of the most popular stars in Lebanon, and toured in Australia, South America, Canada and the U.S.

He died Oct. 28 at Hôtel-Dieu de France hospital in Achrafieh, Lebanon.

LISTEN to ‘Marti W Ana’:

Kerry phones Aoun to offer congratulations on presidential election

(WASHINGTON D.C.) – On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called President Michel Aoun to congratulate him on his election to the Lebanese presidency, according to the Lebanon’s National News Agency.

Kerry said he was glad the presidential vacuum was over, and promised the U.S. will maintain its support for the Lebanese army. He also urged for a speedy formation of a new government, according to state-run media.

Kerry’s message comes days after he voiced caution of electing Aoun to the presidency, and expressed uncertainty of the future of U.S.-Lebanon relations. But his phone call signaled hope for a peaceful, working relationship between the two leaders.

Aoun stressed the importance of maintaining U.S. assistance to the Lebanese army, and noted he hopes the U.S. will assist in the plight of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

“Reaching a quick political solution to the Syrian crisis will reflect positively on the situation in Lebanon,” he said. “This is especially in terms of finding a solution to the tragedy of displaced Syrians in Lebanon.”

Aoun was elected president on Monday after a 29-month stalemate, and an unlikely endorsement from former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri.

Gas station offers free fuel to celebrate Aoun election

(SYDNEY, Australia) – Australian motorists were in for a surprise Wednesday when a Lebanese gas station owner offered free gas for an unlikely reason.

According to 7 News Sydney, the owner wanted to celebrate the appointment of General Michel Aoun to the Lebanese presidency.

The deal was offered for about 30 minutes at lunchtime, and lucky motorists lined the streets to fill up their car. A photo of Aoun even overlooked the pumps!


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