Nadine Labaki falls short at Oscars, but makes Lebanon proud

Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki has fallen short of becoming the first Arab woman to win an Oscar for her film “Capernaum,” which was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Academy Awards Sunday in Los Angeles.

The film “Roma,” from Mexico, won the Oscar in the Foreign Film category.

The nomination was still a proud moment for Labaki and her cast, which includes a 14-year-old Syrian refugee as its lead actor. It’s also a proud moment for Lebanon, as the tiny Mediterranean nation had an opportunity to showcase its talent on an international stage.

Lebanese director Nadine Labaki said she is proud to represent Lebanon in this year’s Oscar race. (Facebook/Capernaum)
Lebanese director Nadine Labaki said she is proud to represent Lebanon in this year’s Oscar race. (Facebook/Capernaum)

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday congratulated Labaki and her cast for making it as far as the Oscars.

“I wish all the best for Nadine Labaki and the crew of the film “Capernaum” in her Oscar nomination,” Hariri wrote on Twitter. “Our hearts are with you and all of Lebanon is proud of you, Nadine Labaki.”

The drama “Capernaum” follows the story of a destitute boy who files a lawsuit against his parents for raising him into a life of pain and suffering. The film received international acclaim, and was awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

The other nominees for Best Foreign Film included Poland’s “Cold War,” Germany’s “Never Look Away” and Japan’s “Shoplifters.”

Democratic Rep. Shalala condemns Rep. Omar’s anti-semitic remarks

Freshman Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota is facing swift backlash over her comments suggesting that bi-partisan support for Israel is motivated by money.

Omar has been a vocal critic of the Israeli government and its treatment of Palestinians. She also supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS movement, which promotes boycotts against the state of Israel.

The backfire to her comments came from both sides of the isle, that included Chelsea Clinton and fellow Democratic legislators like Congresswomen Nancy Pelosi and Donna Shalala.

Shalala tweeted, “To suggest members of Congress are ‘bought off’ to support Israel is offensive and wrong.”

Donna Shalala is the second Lebanese American woman to be elected to U.S. Congress. (Facebook/Donna Shalala)
Donna Shalala is the second Lebanese American woman to be elected to U.S. Congress. (Facebook/Donna Shalala)

Related: America’s newest Lebanese American congresswoman – Donna Shalala

Omar has since apologized for her remarks, stating that “anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on this painful history of anti-Semitic tropes.”

She continued, “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”

Lebanese man sets himself on fire over daughter’s unpaid tuition fees

An investigation is underway into the death of a Lebanese man who set himself on fire after an argument over his daughter’s unpaid tuition fees, according to the state-run Lebanese National News Agency.

The man, identified by local media as George Zreik, set himself ablaze outside of a private elementary school in the village of Bkeftine in Koura. He was transported to the hospital where he died of severe burns.

Zreik reportedly visited the school to request his daughter’s school documents to transfer to a public school. The school director refused to provide the documents due to unpaid fees, the National News Agency reported.

In a statement, the private Orthodox school said Zreik had not paid tuition, transportation and registration fees since 2015. They school went on to say they attempted to express sympathy with his financial situation.

Bkeftine is a village in the Koura District of Lebanon. (Google Maps)
Bkeftine is a village in the Koura District of Lebanon. (Google Maps)

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb has opened a state-conducted investigation into the private school and Zreik’s death.

The government has pledged to cover the cost of education for his children.

An estimated two-thirds of Lebanese students now attend costly private schools, and public schools have become the last resort for families without means, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development, which provides financial support to help improve the quality of education in Lebanon.

Suspects throw hand grenade at Lebanese TV station Al-Jadeed

Lebanese investigators are searching for the suspects involved in a grenade attack at the headquarters of Beirut-based broadcaster Al-Jadeed.

The independent television network was attacked Feb. 2 following a protest for a comedy show called “Qadh and Jam.” Surveillance video shows the vehicle, a Kia Picanto, that investigators believe is responsible for the attack.

A group of protesters are angry over the comedy show’s depiction of “caricatured Druze clergy,” according to the non-profit Committee to Protect Journalists, which is now calling on Lebanese authorities to further investigate the crime.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on Lebanese authorities to do their utmost to identify the suspects accused of throwing a hand grenade at a TV station in Beirut. (Screenshot/Al Jadeed)
The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling on Lebanese authorities to do their utmost to identify the suspects accused of throwing a hand grenade at a TV station in Beirut. (Screenshot/Al Jadeed)

“Those who perpetrated this attack on Al-Jadeed TV’s Beirut office should be swiftly held to account to show that attacks on media will not be tolerated in Lebanon,” said Sherif Mansour, the organization’s Middle East and North Africa coordinator. “Lebanese authorities should take steps to ensure the safety of journalists regardless of the outlet they work for and their political or religious affiliation.”

RELATED: LBC television truck stolen outside of Baalbeck hotel

CPJ reported that Druze employees of Al-Jadeed have received anonymous threats following the broadcast of the controversial episode.

According to investigators, a group of unknown suspects threw a hand grenade and fled the scene. No one was injured, but there was reported damage to the entrance and a nearby vehicle.

Beloved Lebanese American police officer dies unexpectedly

A police department in a New York suburb is in mourning after a beloved Lebanese American police officer died unexpectedly, officials said.

Officer Fadi Rafeh, a member of the Suffolk County Police Department, died while off-duty on Jan. 20. His cause of death has not yet been determined.

According to the department, the 38-year-old officer was sworn into the academy in 2010. He most recently served as an investigator in the department’s Crime Section.

“The untimely passing of Police Officer Fadi Rafeh is an unbelievably tragic loss to his young family and an incredible loss to our police family,” said Police Chief Stuart Cameron. “(Rafeh) exemplified the diversity that makes our department great, having been born of Lebanese immigrants and serving as an Arabic translator for our department.”

Rafeh is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and two sons, Nicholas, 5, and Benjamin, 3, the chief added. A GoFundMe page set up to support Rafeh’s sons has already raised more than $100,000.

Officer Fadi Rafeh was never without a smile on his face and was always looking for ways to build camaraderie among the officers, according to his department. (Suffolk County Police Department)
Officer Fadi Rafeh was never without a smile on his face and was always looking for ways to build camaraderie among the officers, according to his department. (Suffolk County Police Department)

“He was a very bright, hard-working individual,” said Lt. Joseph Terry. “He worked well with his peers and everybody respected him.”

Police Officer Patrick Ryan said Rafeh was so well-regarded by his friends and colleagues, that in November, when a group from the precinct planned a football trip to Charlotte, North Carolina and they found out Rafeh could not go, they all instantly changed their trip to another weekend so he could attend.

“We changed our plans because he is the type of guy that can walk into a room and just bring the energy,” Ryan said. “He was a great guy all around. I have only known him here but I already feel like he was a little brother to me. He was just a very intelligent guy.”

A funeral service was held Jan. 28 in Suffolk County, New York.

Report: Lebanese Army bans its soldiers from playing PUBG video game

The Lebanese army recently issued a decree banning its soldiers from playing PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds mobile, according to a report from Al Arabiya English.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, better known as PUBG, is an online multiplayer game developed and published by the PUBG Corporation, where 100 players compete with each other to be the last player (or team) standing by eliminating all other opponents.

Al Arabiya reported  that Lebanese Army leadership issued an internal memo on January 4 to its soldiers prohibiting them from downloading the game or any similar games.

RELATED: Lebanese-Brazilian Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn arrested for misconduct

The memo cites the concern with communication with players all across the world that could include “the Zionist enemy” and indicated that “strict disciplinary actions [will take place] against the violators.”

PUBG is one of the most popular games in Lebanon and around the world, maintaining nearly 14 million users daily.

Egyptian actress Rania Youssef wore this dress. Now she faces jail time.

Egyptian actress Rania Youssef is facing possible jail time for wearing a revealing dress at the closing ceremony of this year’s Cairo International Film Festival, reported the New York Times.

The actress is accused of violating Egyptian morality by wearing a revealing outfit that could “incite debauchery.”

If convicted, Youssef could face a possible five-year jail term. Her trial is set for January 12.

This lacy, black dress is at the center of a criminal case in Egypt involving actress Rania Youssef. (Facebook/Cairo International Film Festival)
This lacy, black dress is at the center of a criminal case in Egypt involving actress Rania Youssef. (Facebook/Cairo International Film Festival)

The bizarre case is one of many unconventional prosecutions in Egypt under the authoritarian rule of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

In June, a Lebanese tourist was arrested for “insulting Egypt” on a Facebook Live video. She was sentenced to 8 years in jail over comments about sexual harassment and poor conditions in the conservative nation.

RELATED: Lebanese tourist arrested for ‘insulting Egypt’ on Facebook

Her sentence was cut short in September after she was freed and deported back to Lebanon.

In Youssef’s dilemma, the likeliness of prosecution is still not known. The morality-focused cases attempt to police clothing and behavior within Egyptian culture and society.

Most of these cases are unsuccessful.

Youssef has since apologized and insisted she did not mean any harm in wearing the controversial black dress.

“I didn’t expect this reaction, and if I had known, I wouldn’t have worn this dress,” the actress said in a statement.

This Lebanese-American lawyer sued the Trump administration and won

Head CNN attorney Ted Boutrous recently won the company’s lawsuit against President Donald Trump and his administration over their decision to revoke journalist Jim Acosta‘s press credentials to the White House.

A few days later, federal Judge Timothy J. Kelly ordered the White House to return Acosta’s press pass, according to CNN.

In the lawsuit, Boutrous and CNN claimed a “wrongful revocation” of Acosta’s credentials and argued that the Trump administration “violated CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process.”

Lebanese American CNN lawyer Ted Boutrous appears on CNN to talk about the case involving Jim Acosta's press credentials. (CNN screen grab)
Lebanese American CNN lawyer Ted Boutrous appears on CNN to talk about the case involving Jim Acosta’s press credentials. (CNN screen grab)

Acosta clashed with President Trump during a news conference this month with questions about immigration and the special counsel’s investigation. The CNN correspondent would not give up the microphone after the president attempted to move on to another reporter.

CNN hired attorney Ted Boutrous to defend Acosta and attempt to restore his credentials. Boutrous is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, and is of Lebanese descent.

RELATED: Meet Donna Shalala: America’s new Lebanese American congresswoman and fierce Trump critic

Boutrous has a history of representing clients in major cases such as Standard Fire Insurance Co. v. Knowles, Hollingsworth v. Perry and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes.

WATCH: Boutrous talks about the lawsuit on CNN:

Ackawi cheese recalled in U.S. over Listeria health concerns

A brand of Ackawi cheese has been recalled in the U.S. after a routine inspection discovered positive tests for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes.

Consumers who purchased the Green Cedar Ackawi cheese bearing a “sell by” date of March 26, 2019 or later are urged not to consume the cheese, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Inspectors said the health concerns were discovered Nov. 9 during a routine inspection by the FDA and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause a serious and sometimes fatal infection that primarily affects young children, older adults, and persons with weakened immune systems.

“Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, listeriosis can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women,” the FDA said in a news release.

The recall affects Green Cedar Dairy Ackawi Cheese bearing a "sell by" date of March 26, 2019 or later, according to the FDA. (FDA provided photos)
The recall affects Green Cedar Dairy Ackawi Cheese bearing a “sell by” date of March 26, 2019 or later, according to the FDA. (FDA provided photos)

The recalled Ackawi cheese was distributed at retail locations in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, Michigan. There have been no reports of any major health impacts as a result of consumption.

Anyone with any questions regarding the recall can contact Hussam Harb, Plant Manager at Green Cedar Dairy at 313-584-4499.

Lebanese American cop files lawsuit, claims he was called ‘Beirut Bomber’

A Lebanese American police officer has filed a lawsuit against the San Jose, California Police Department alleging racial discrimination, reported NBC Bay Area.

Officer Nabil Haidar, a Lebanese American and Muslim officer, said his fellow officers called him “Bin Laden,” “Taliban” and “Beirut Bomber” in the days and years following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Haidar hired a California law firm to represent him in his lawsuit against the city of San Jose, the police department and police chief. He also named five other officers.

NBC Bay Area reported that the alleged harassment “escalated to a new height” after the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 to begin the Iraq War.

The lawsuit claimed that police officers allegedly said, “You’re not gonna blow up are you?” Haidar claims his fellow officers imitated his accent while saying, “I’ll kill you all.”

Haidar moved to the U.S. in 1988 and earned a bachelor's degree in criminology. (Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli and Brewer)
Haidar moved to the U.S. in 1988 and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology. (Gwilliam, Ivary, Chiosso, Cavalli and Brewer)

Haidar’s attorney said he decided to pursue legal action after he was allegedly harassed by a police sergeant at a meeting recognizing veterans.

“Captain, you forgot to mention Nabil. He is an ISIS veteran,” the sergeant allegedly said. “He was with ISIS for two years.”

The San Jose-based Mercury News reported that the city had not yet received a copy of the complaint.

“However, based on the claim filed by Mr. Haidar with the State Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and our subsequent investigation, we have not seen a basis for liability against the City,” City Attorney Rick Doyle said.

Send this to friend