LAU to study ‘potential medical value’ of marijuana in Lebanon

The Lebanese American University is set to launch an independent research center dedicated to studying the health effects and potential economic gains of medical marijuana in Lebanon.

LAU announced plans to establish the Medicinal Cannabis Research Center, which is poised to become the first research project of its kind in the Middle East.

Research will include studies of the potential therapeutic applications of cannabis and Lebanon’s climatic and economic value, the university announced.

“We are awaiting the creation of a legal framework within which we can proceed, with the full support of the Ministry of Public Health,” said Mohammad Mroueh, an LAU pharmacy professor, who is spearheading the project.

Professor Mohammad Mroueh discusses the medical potential of marijuana. (LAU photo)
Professor Mohammad Mroueh discusses the medical potential of marijuana. (LAU photo)

In a statement, the university said growing conditions in Lebanon have not been fully studied or characterized, and an assessment of its medical benefits can be an untapped opportunity for the country.

Opportunities can include economic gains, reduced unemployment and a reversal of the brain drain, the university added.

LAU President Joseph Jabbra acknowledged the potential controversy of studying marijuana, however considers this research a chance to “break the social stigma surrounding the issue.”

In other parts of the world, cannabis compounds THC and CBD have been used to treat chronic and neuropathic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in cancer patients and other issues.

Lebanese-Canadian businessman runs for legislative assembly in Canada

A Lebanese-Canadian businessman is running to become a member of the legislative assembly in Canada.

Fadi Nemr, a small business owner and Lebanese immigrant, clinched the nomination for the Progressive Conservative Party in the Ottawa-Vanier electoral district.

According to his website, Nemr immigrated to Canada after receiving a master’s degree in chemistry in Lebanon.


He moved to the Ottawa-Vanier district — home to one of the most ethnically diverse parts of Ottawa — and opened a small business in three years.

“Fadi is a husband, a father, and an active member of the Lebanese community. He loves Ottawa-Vanier and has called it home for over 25 years,” said Patrick Brown, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. “As a small business owner in Ottawa-Vanier, Fadi knows first-hand how reckless Liberal policies have hurt small businesses throughout the province.”

Nemr raised private funds to sponsor refugees and help them integrate into Canadian society with jobs and education, according to his website.

Nemr faces a crowded list of contenders, including the Liberal incumbent Nathalie Des Rosiers.

Police: Baalbeck man kills wife after finding her having sex with two men

A Syrian national is accused of murdering his wife in Baalbeck after he allegedly caught her having sex with two men, according to Lebanese Internal Security Forces.

The 33-year-old man, identified only by his initials M.H., allegedly stabbed and strangled his wife after discovering the trio having sex inside their home.

The two men assisted the husband in burying her body in the Baalbeck town of Boudai, security forces added.

“It turns out that out of fear of being killed, they helped him dig a hole and place the body in it,” a statement said.

The husband and one of the men, 29, are in custody.

Security forces are searching for the third suspect.

Smugglers attempt to sneak ‘extremely rare’ monkeys into Lebanon

A pair of ‘extremely rare’ monkeys were recovered from smugglers at the Beirut airport, officials announced.

Lebanese authorities rescued the rare white-throated guenons and sent them to Monkey World, a rescue facility and monkey sanctuary in England.

The monkeys, named Benny and Nia, were smuggled into Lebanon through a passenger flight from Ghana, officials said.

Lebanese officials worked with the Animals Lebanon welfare group and Middle East Airlines to safely transport the animals to Monkey World in England.

“As tragic as their story is, Benny  and Nia are the lucky ones that have survived and made it to a safe home,” said Dr. Alison Cronin, director of Monkey World. “Most die during the hunt or when they are torn away from their families and forest homes to be smuggled across the globe.”

Lebanon is part of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species, and has worked to crack down on illegal wildlife trade since May 2013.

White-throated guenons are known to live on trees of rainforests or tropical areas in areas of Nigeria and Benin.

Monkeys part of black market trade are often used for the illegal pet trade or entertainment industry. Adult monkeys are often shot and eaten as bushmeat.

“We cannot give them their natural lives back again, but I am pleased to see that they are enjoying their new home and enclosure,” Cronin added. “Their sad story will hopefully remind people about how important it is to protect endangered species and the habitats which they come from.”

Convicted Lebanese cancer doctor Farid Fata seeks new trial

Convicted Lebanese cancer doctor Farid Fata claims he was pressured into pleading guilty to misdiagnosing people with cancer, new court documents show.

Fata was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 2014 for prescribing chemotherapy to patients who were perfectly healthy or whose conditions did not require the treatment.

The disgraced doctor is now asking a federal judge to throw out his 2014 conviction and grant him a new trial.

Fata claims his attorney convinced him to plead guilty for a possible lesser sentence. He alleges his attorney said he could get 20 years as opposed to life in prison if he entered the guilty plea.

“(My attorney) enforced the idea of pleading guilty by leading me to believe that I would receive leniency by entering guilty pleas,” Fata wrote. “From day one to the present, I have steadfastly maintained my innocence. And I maintain that I only agreed to plead guilty in this case due to (my attorney’s) false promises and misadvice.”

COURT DOCUMENTS: Fata seeks new trial

The new documents come four years after Fata stood before the court and sobbed in response to the sentencing.

“I stand before you ashamed of my actions. It all went wrong,” Fata said in court.” I cannot bring back the past.”

RELATED: Lebanese-American doctor Fata sentenced to 45 years in prison

Former patients referred to him as a ‘cowardly bastard’ as he sat expressionless for days watching victims take the stand during sentencing.

RELATED: Agent: Farid Fata planned to buy $3M castle in Adma, Lebanon

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has not yet filed a response to Fata’s request.

Descendant of Lebanese, Korean immigrants runs for Congress

Dan Koh, the descendant of Lebanese and Korean immigrants, is running to represent Massachusetts in Congress.

The 32-year-old is the former chief of staff of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. He announced his campaign in October with a dramatic launch video.

Koh, a Democrat, is already gaining traction, but faces a crowded primary field to succeed retiring Rep. Niki Tsongas in the state’s 3rd congressional district.

According to a March profile in Boston Magazine, Koh’s mother’s grandparents emigrated from Lebanon to Lawrence, Massachusetts in the 1890s. His great-grandfather patented an invention for improving mill efficiency.

His Lebanese mother, Dr. Claudia Arrigg, helps run the Arrigg Eye & Ear Associates offices, which his grandfather founded.

Koh’s father, Dr. Howard Koh, is the former United States Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.

Dan Koh is running for Congress in Massachusetts. (Campaign photo)
Dan Koh is running for Congress in Massachusetts. (Campaign photo)

According to his campaign website, Koh wants to bring a “new generation of leadership” to Congress, where he says he will make healthcare, the economy and education among his top priority issues.

Koh has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where he met his wife Amy. Before working in Boston government, he was the former chief of staff to Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post.

LAU students make ‘Phoenician ship’ made of plastic bottles

Lebanese American University students sailed a ‘Phoenician ship’ from Byblos to the Beirut port — and it was all made out of plastic bottles, the National News Agency reported.

Students worked with the ‘Chreek’ environmental nonprofit to collect more than 50,000 plastic bottles to build the ship. More than 25,000 were used in its construction, officials said.

Jbeil Mayor Wissam Zaarour said the project worked in cooperation with the Byblos Municipality, and aims at drawing attention to the environmental damage caused by non-sorting of waste.

“(The ship) is an environmental symbol because the boat is made of 50,000 plastic bottles aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of this type of waste,” Zaarour told the National News Agency. “It’s also cultural symbolism by embodying the Phoenician vessels that were used for trade and export of Lebanese cedar wood through the Jbeil coast.”

According to the LAU organizers, 50,000 bottles represents 10 percent of daily usage of plastic bottles in Lebanon.

Photo released by NNA/Lebanese National News Agency
Photo released by NNA/Lebanese National News Agency

Students said the project also aims to show how plastic waste does not decompose in nature, while celebrating Phoenician history known for its manufacturing of ships.

A ceremony held in Byblos was attended by Lebanese Culture Minister Ghattas Khoury, Lebanese American University President Joseph Jabbra and the Chreek Association Head George Ghafari, among other government and university officials.

The attendees sent off the ship from the coast of Jbeil to the Beirut port.

Lebanon hosts first ‘women-only’ classic car cruise

Lebanon is hosting its first ‘women-only’ classic car cruise with participants from all over the world, AFP reports.

The cruise, called “Rallye des Graces,” includes 28 female drivers from France, the United Kingdom, China and Algeria.

The two-day rally starts Saturday in the town of Kaslik, north of Beirut, and ends Sunday in the Bekaa Valley.

Organizer Chahrazad Rizk told AFP she participated in similar rallies in Switzerland, and wanted to bring a ‘women-only’ event to Lebanon.

If you want to see more of the rally, check out this Facebook album of day 1.

Michigan woman becomes first Air Force lawyer to wear hijab

Lebanese-American Lt. Maysaa Ouza is making history as the first lawyer to wear a hijab as part of the Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps program.

Lt. Ouza was recently granted a religious accommodation allowing her to wear a hijab during training and in her role as chief of legal advice at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

The daughter of Lebanese immigrants, Ouza said she chose to pursue a career with the U.S. Air Force because of the public service opportunities. She also wanted to break down barriers.

“Many people that look like me fear rejection, and thus will not apply for jobs like this,” said Ouza. “My hijab is an asset to the Air Force, not a liability.”

hijab air force attorney 1

Ouza, who graduated from the University of Toledo College of Law, knew that her hijab may impact her application into the Air Force.

After being accepted into the highly-competitive JAG Corps program, she was told she could only request a religious accommodation after committing years of her life to military service.

Air Force officials said she would have to remove her hijab and begin basic training without the head covering.

The American Civil Liberties Union and her attorneys sent a letter to the Air Force on behalf of Ouza urging officials to reconsider the policy.

The Air Force then reversed their decision and allowed Ouza to join JAG Corps with the religious accommodation.

Ouza will attend further training in Alabama in July, and will be promoted to captain upon graduation in September.

Lebanese actress protests Gaza deaths during Cannes Film Festival

French-Lebanese actress Manal Issa used the spotlight during the Cannes Film Festival in France to protest the Israeli army’s killing of Palestinians on the Gaza border.

Issa held a sign that said, “Stop the Attack on Gaza” as she made her way to the premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The actress was protesting Israeli forces for killing dozens of protesters and injuring hundreds.

Issa recently starred in a film about the Syrian revolution called “My Favorite Fabric,” which also premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. She also appears in the drama “Parisienne” and the thriller “Nocturama.”

According to Reuters, 60 people were killed on Monday in Gaza by Israeli gunfire or tear gas.

Palestinian authorities called the attacks a “massacre of protestors” on the day the U.S. opened its embassy in contested Jerusalem.

Several other stars and producers joined Arab activists in a protest during the Cannes festival.

Hollywood actor Benicio del Toro participated in a moment of silence for Palestinian victims.

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