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.

Lebanese group forced to shut down first gay pride week in Arab world

A Lebanese LGBTQ group was forced to cancel a major gay pride festival after authorities detained the organizer and forced him to sign a pledge abandoning the event, Reuters reported.

Beirut Pride is the first gay pride week in the Arab world. Last year the opening event was cancelled due to safety concerns for LGBTQ attendees.

The 2018 Beirut Pride week was set to run from May 12 to May 20.

In a statement, organizer Hadi Damien said he was taken into custody during a public reading of a theater play. He spent the night at a police station where he was questioned by censorship officials, he added.

“The conversation with the director at the censorship office did not go very far, and questions about Pride, its importance and program became paramount,” Damien wrote.

Lebanon is widely seen as more socially liberal than most other Middle Eastern countries, but LGBTQ communities say they face intense discrimination by society and government.

According to Lebanese law, “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature” is punishable by up to one year in prison, according to The New York Times.

The Lebanese Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Damien said he signed a pledge ending Beirut Pride week under the advice of an attorney.

Ghenwa Samhat, executive director of LGBTQ rights organization Helem, told Reuters that Lebanese rights groups often face government pressure.

“These things are not new to us,” Samhat said. “People can still express themselves in public places, there are placers friendly to LGBTQ+, where they face no problems.”

It is not clear if the group plans to organize any other events, or if they plan to dispute the pledge.

Report: Homeless woman found dead in Beirut had $1M in bank account

A homeless woman found dead Tuesday in Beirut may have possessed more than $1 million in a Lebanese savings account, An-Nahar reported.

The Beirut-based newspaper said the 52-year-old woman, identified as Fatima Othman, was initially found with $3,000, or LBP 5,000,000.

A further investigation located a savings account in her name worth about $1.2 million, or LBP 1.7 billion.

homeless millionaire beirut 2

According to An-Nahar, the authenticity of the documents remains unknown.

The photos have created a social media firestorm, with many users asking how she had so much money.

Othman was found dead in Beirut’s southern Ouzai district, according to the Internal Security Forces. She died of natural causes.

Residents told Gulf News that Othman lived in the street for more than 20 years, and frequently rented a car from the neighborhood.

Her body was returned to her family in Akkar where she was buried, security officials said.

Lebanese engineer wins $16.8M in lawsuit against Ford Motor Company

A Lebanese engineer and former Ford employee won $16.8 million in a employment discrimination lawsuit against the Big Three automaker.

Dr. Faisal Khalaf filed a lawsuit against Ford and two supervisors for allegedly creating a hostile work environment based on ethnic discrimination.

Khalaf, who was born in Lebanon, alleges that he was retaliated against and terminated due to his accent and Lebanese background. He was employed at Ford from 1999 until September 2015 when he was terminated.

“There was a high-level executive at Ford Motor Co. that my client reported to, that would berate him and criticize him week after week about his English,” said Carol Laughbaum, Khalaf’s attorney to the Detroit Free Press.

The attorney alleges his supervisors — Bennie Fowler and Jay Zhou — created a hostile workplace and subjected Khalaf to “regular and frequent criticism and hostility” over his ability to speak English.

Khalaf earned a “top achiever” performance rating six months before being moved under the supervision of Fowler, the lawsuit said.

Read the full lawsuit here.

Khalaf’s attorney also claims Zhou recommended he take a English as a Second Language class. Khalaf holds a PhD in industrial engineering.

A federal jury ruled in favor of Khalaf and awarded him $15 million in punitive damages, $1.7 million in retirement and pension losses and $100,000 in emotional distress.

In a statement, Ford officials said they did not agree with the verdict.

“We don’t believe that the facts in this case support the verdict,” Brad Carroll, corporate communications manager for Ford, said in a statement. “Ford is committed to creating an environment that promotes diversity and inclusion within our workforce and communities. The diverse backgrounds of our employees truly make us a stronger company and we are extremely proud of our policies and programs that support equality.”

Lebanese-American prosecutor runs for California State Assembly

Bill Essayli, the son of Lebanese-American immigrants, is looking to unseat the incumbent in California’s 60th State Assembly election this fall.

The former federal prosecutor, a Republican, announced his bid for California legislature at a gas station in his district. The announcement was livestreamed on his Facebook page.

His opponent Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, a Democrat, voted to increase the gas tax in California, he says.

While working in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Essayli took part in the investigation of the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, and assisted in a case against a Santa Barbara doctor who over-prescribed opiates to his patients.

To visit his official page and learn more about him, click here.

Lebanese-American businesswoman, philanthropist dies at 95

Lebanese-American businesswoman and philanthropist Adele Barakat died April 29 at her Pennsylvania home, an obituary said. She was 95.

Barakat was born to Lebanese immigrant parents in 1923, and owned the beloved Hykel’s Subs restaurant in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.

She established the restaurant in 1938 after graduating from business school. She also worked for the Signal Corps during World War II, where she helped provide support for command and control of the armed forces.

Barakat and her husband opened several businesses, and employed more than 250 people in the Delaware Valley, her obituary said. Her husband also owned a manufacturing facility in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

As a Lebanese-American, Barakat was one of many families approached by former actor Danny Thomas to fundraise for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

She was also a major support of the Lebanese Maronite Catholic community in the Philadelphia suburbs, where she donated a 14-acre property to establish St. Sharbel Church in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.

Barakat and her husband were recognized by Pope John Paul III with the highest honors of the Catholic Church to thank them for their contributions.

Her funeral was held on Saturday.

Barakat loved gardening, spending time with her family and cooking traditional Lebanese food, her obituary said.


U.S. congratulates Lebanon on elections, urges dissociation

The U.S. congratulated Lebanon on its historic parliamentary elections Sunday, and urged the country to dissociate from foreign conflicts.

The U.S. Embassy in Beirut posted a string of tweets on Tuesday with its message for the Lebanese government.

“As Lebanon looks ahead to forming a new government, we urge all parties to uphold Lebanon’s international obligations, including those contained in UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, and Lebanon’s policy of disassociation from foreign conflicts,” the statement said.

They also recognized security forces and the Lebanese Army for providing security measures on election day.

“We hope Lebanon’s next government will continue along the path toward building a stable and secure Lebanon that is committed to peace and responsive to the needs of the Lebanese people,” the statement added.

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