Man Wants $140, Broken U.S. ATM Spits Out $37,000

A malfunctioning automated bank machine has dispensed $37,000 in cash to a man who requested $140.

Police in Maine say they responded to the TD Bank branch Thursday morning after getting a call from a woman who said a man was spending an unusual amount of time at the ATM she was waiting to use. Officers found the man stuffing cash into a shopping bag.

The money was returned to the bank. Bank officials say they don’t want to press charges. But police continue to investigate. The man hasn’t been charged.

A bank official describes the problem as a “code error” and says no customer accounts were affected.


Source: Naharnet

Salam wants “moderate” president

BEIRUT – Prime Minister Tammam Salam said that he wants Lebanon’s new head of state to be a consensual president.

“I prefer that a moderate and poised person who is accepted by everyone and can deal with everyone would run for president,” Salam said on Saturday during an interview on Radio Monte Carlo.

The premier’s comments came a day after the Lebanese Forces announced that the Christian party’s leader, Samir Geagea, would seek the office of presidency.

LF deputy leader MP George Adwan said in a press conference Friday that Geagea’s candidacy would put an end to “the habit of choosing neutral candidates who have no political stance.”

Lebanon is set to elect a new head of state prior to the end of President Michel Suleiman’s mandate, which expires on May 25, to avoid any presidential vacuum.

The constitution stipulates that between March 25 and May 15, the parliament can convene at any time to elect a new president.

If it has not done so by May 15, the parliament will be considered automatically in session for the following 10 days, in which a new president must be elected.

Meanwhile, the prime minister stressed that the Lebanese government is adamant about the dissociation policy “because it is the best policy.”

He added that the “deteriorating” security situation in the country “reached an unacceptable level.”

Salam then highlighted that controlling security is Lebanon’s “priority” given the economic prosperity that stability will entail.

“If security becomes stable, the economy will recover. If security is restored, the economic activity will be revived, and this is what we hope for.”

“But this will take time,” Salam added.


Source: Now Lebanon

Hand grenade found in Lebanon’s Akkar

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: A Lebanese man found a hand grenade set to detonate on the wheel of his car in the northern region of Akkar.

The man, identified as Hatem Z., found the grenade placed on his car, which was parked in front of his house in Halba. It was set to explode as soon the engine is turned on.

The security forces launched an investigation into the incident.

Source: The Daily Star

Parliament wage hike talks spark shouting match

BEIRUT: Parliament’s joint committees decided to hold further talks next week on a draft law to raise public sector salaries after failing Friday to agree over revenues and proposed taxes that would cover the increases estimated to cost the government over $1.6 billion annually.

The committees’ meeting, attended by 37 lawmakers and chaired by Deputy Speaker Farid Makari, came against the backdrop of a threat of escalatory measures by the Union Coordination Committee if the salary scale bill was not approved soon. The UCC represents public sector employees and teachers.

With the presence of Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, lawmakers from the March 8 and March 14 parties discussed for more than five hours articles pertaining to finding sources to finance the salary increases, and they are expected to continue Monday.

Khalil said all parliamentary blocs were unanimous in agreeing that the public sector salary scale was a rightful demand that must be met soon.

“We did not hear during the discussions different viewpoints. It was made clear that the salary scale is a right that should be approved as soon as possible,” Khalil told a joint news conference with MP Ibrahim Kanaan after the meeting.

However, Khalil, who belongs to Speaker Nabih Berri’s parliamentary bloc, stressed the need for all parties to search for financial resources to cover the overall cost of the salary scale, which he estimated to be LL2,765 billion ($1.843 billion).

“It’s not a problem of figures, but a case of choices that need to be answered. There was a discussion about sources of financing,” he said.

Kanaan, head of the parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee, said revenues were important to finance the salary scale.

“There were two draft laws: one for the salary scale and the other for financing it,” he said. He added that progress was made in articles pertaining to finding revenues through proposed taxes.

Despite agreement among lawmakers that the salary scale is a right for public sector employees and teachers, sharp differences emerged during the meeting mainly between Khalil and Kanaan over the revenue figures, to the extent that journalists sitting in a nearby room heard shouting in the Parliament hall.

The disagreement erupted when discussion began over the state’s estimated revenues from dues on building licenses. The government’s draft law estimated the revenues at LL700 billion, while a subcommittee headed by Kanaan put it at LL600 billion, and Khalil estimated LL75 billion.

When Kanaan told Khalil that the LL75 billion was not correct, the latter responded: “Am I a liar? You are impolite.”

The spat between Kanaan and Khalil led to shouting and commotion that lasted about half an hour.

At one point, Hezbollah MP Hasan Fadlallah and MP Alan Aoun stepped out of the Parliament hall and met briefly in a room, after which Aoun asked Kanaan to remain calm and avoid a problem with Khalil.

MPs from Berri’s bloc also intervened to pacify the situation, which eventually led to a joint news conference held by Khalil and Kanaan.

Meanwhile, Hanna Gharib, head of the UCC, warned of an open-ended strike should Parliament fail to approve the salary scale proposal.

“Any postponement to approve the salary scale will lead to further escalation, including a strike, a sit-in, even an open-ended strike and a boycott of official exams,” Gharib told reporters after meeting Makari.

Civil servants and teachers staged a general strike Wednesday in protest of Parliament’s delay in passing the salary scale bill.

Source: The Daily Star

Conciliatory Geagea enters race for president

MAARAB, Lebanon: The Lebanese Forces nominated its leader Samir Geagea to run for the presidency Friday, in the opening salvo of what is set to be a contentious race.

The announcement came after a one-hour extraordinary meeting of the LF’s leadership in Geagea’s leafy mountain fortress-like residence at Maarab, north of Beirut.

“The executive committee of the Lebanese Forces decided unanimously to nominate the party’s leader Samir Geagea for the Lebanese presidential elections,” LF MP George Adwan announced at a news conference after the meeting.

Geagea, whose followers refer to him as “Al-Hakim,” a word that means both ‘the doctor’ and ‘the wise one,’ is the first political heavyweight to announce his candidacy.

In a speech before the vote, Geagea said that Lebanon was at a crossroads after the “continuous deterioration” of its security and economy.

“Lebanon’s image abroad was hit and confidence in it has been shaken,” Geagea said, addressing dozens of party cadres, MPs and officials.

“Lebanon’s borders are no longer clear due to its widespread penetration by armed groups coming and going to fight in Syria,” he added. “The state’s sovereignty has been widely violated by illegitimate arms in the interior.”

Lebanon has witnessed a spate of security incidents, clashes and attacks linked to the Syrian war. Radical groups that have claimed responsibility for the attacks targeting areas associated with Hezbollah often cite the party’s intervention in Syria as the grounds for their operations.

The LF sought to portray Geagea’s candidacy as a radical step needed to “shock” the country toward recovery. The party also said that Lebanon needed a strong president with a clear position on the key issues facing the country, rather than a bland consensus choice selected by foreign patrons.

Adwan said that previous presidents were often chosen by foreign leaders, were not independent, or lacked “color, smell and opinion.”

“The nomination of Dr. Geagea is to break this model and to say that the time has come for the Lebanese to choose a president made in Lebanon who has clear opinions,” he said.

Geagea’s persistent and vocal criticism of Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria raises questions about his ability to garner enough support from across the aisle to propel him to the presidency.

His announcement also pre-empted the March 14 political bloc’s deliberations on who to back in the presidential race.

President Michel Sleiman’s six-year term ends on May 25. The two-month constitutional period in which Parliament must convene and elect a new president started last month.

Geagea, 62, is a staunch critic of Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian regime, and is also a key pillar of the Western-backed March 14 coalition.

He hails from the north Lebanon village of Bsharri, and became the head of the Lebanese Forces in 1986, when the group was a militia. He was arrested in 1994 over his suspected involvement in a bomb attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church the same year.

He was also sentenced to life imprisonment over his alleged involvement in the assassination of Prime Minister Rashid Karami in June 1987 and was not released until July 2005, when Parliament passed an amnesty law.

Karami’s nephew, former minister Faisal Karami, called Geagea’s nomination a “black day” for Lebanon that showed what he described as the country’s “moral decline.”

LF MP Fadi Karam hit back at Karami, claiming he sought to relive the “black days” of Lebanon’s history and condemning his support for the Syrian regime.

Geagea refused to share power with Hezbollah in February in Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s “national interest government” due to the party’s involvement in Syria.

But in a sign of a softer tone toward his rivals, Geagea refrained from naming Hezbollah in his opening speech, and described as a “positive step” the statement by his potential rival, Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun, who said he would not run if Geagea was nominated for the presidency.

He also praised Hezbollah Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad Fneish after a statement by the latter saying it was Geagea’s right to run for presidency.

“When Hezbollah takes the decision to abide by the Constitution and the laws and build the state, the LF and its leader will meet with them and join hands to build the state,” Adwan told reporters.

But responding to skepticism from reporters who questioned whether Geagea coordinated his announcement with the rest of the March 14 bloc, the LF expressed confidence that their allies would back Geagea.

Adwan said that March 14 leaders had long been aware of Geagea’s candidacy and that he had unrelentingly championed the alliance’s principles.

“It is natural that he would be nominated on behalf of March 14,” Adwan said.

In the first reaction by a March 14 official, Deputy Speaker Farid Makari hailed the nomination of Geagea, describing his chances of winning the support of the rest of the March 14 coalition as “very high.” Speaking from Parliament, he said: “Geagea is certainly a key figure in March 14 and he has all our respect and love.”

But in an indication that Geagea will face additional hurdles before securing the bloc’s nomination, Telecommunications Minister Boutros Harb hinted in a TV interview that he may also run for the post.

In an appearance on LBC, Harb said that if he were to run for presidency it would be on a platform of “rebuilding Lebanon,” but insisted that the March 14 alliance should only nominate one candidate.

Earlier in the day, Future MP Ahmad Fatfat also said the bloc had not yet decided on its nominee.

Salam called for a “made in Lebanon” president, saying in an interview that his government would work to create the “right atmosphere” for the presidential election to be held.

“I hope the next president will be purely Lebanese-made as was the national interest Cabinet,” Salam said in an interview with General Security magazine that is set to be published Saturday.

“All regional and international forces that affect Lebanese affairs support electing a new president,” he said, adding that the election would create political stability.

“We are looking forward to this constitutional deadline and we do not want any vacuum in the presidency,” he said.

Source: The Daily Star

U.N. raises awareness about unexploded ordnance

NAQOURA, Lebanon: Mines remain a threat to communities in South Lebanon, according to the U.N., which marked International Day of Mine Awareness Friday.

To mark awareness about the issue, the United Nations Mine Action Support Team used a mock minefield to hold free demining demonstrations for students at three United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon bases, in Naqoura, Shemaa and Marjayoun.

Displays and demonstrations by demining personnel from Belgian, Cambodian, Chinese, French, Italian, Spanish and Sri Lankan contingents were also featured on the day.

In each location, about 70 children from local schools were invited to participate.

Also in attendance was a delegation from the Lebanese Army’s south Litani sector and the regional Mine Action Center, the supervising authority for humanitarian demining activities, as well as representatives of the international community and UNIFIL personnel.

“This day is intended to make local communities aware of the remaining threats from explosive remnants of war in the south of Lebanon, and we would also like to draw attention to the victims and survivors of ERW related incidents and accidents,” said UNMAST Program Manager Leon Louw.

“By involving students, attention can be drawn at the grassroots level to remaining threats, as well as promoting UNIFIL’s efforts to clear areas close to the Blue Line to ease the marking process.”

Louw added that the event also had a commemorative function.

“Today we are … celebrating the survivors, [who are] overcoming their disabilities caused by ERW, and actively joining and contributing in their societies,” he said.

“We want to spread the message throughout UNIFIL’s area of operation and gather a higher number of participants from several communities,” he added.

As of March 1, 2014, UNIFIL peacekeepers completed over 95,000 square meters of mine clearance and over 4.6 million square meters of battle area clearance. During the process, 2,787 anti-personnel mines, 163 anti-tank mines, 92 unexploded bombs, 28,719 cluster bombs and 3,419 other unexploded ordnance objects have been destroyed.

Due to a lack of funding, however, the Lebanese Mine Action Center has fewer than a quarter of the teams it needs to meet its 2020 clearance targets.

UNIFIL has also facilitated the construction of 300 marker barrels along the Blue Line, supporting security in the region in accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.

The annual International Day of Mine Awareness was established on Dec. 8, 2005, by the United Nations General Assembly.

Source: The Daily Star

Syrian ambassador denies execution of Lebanese captives

BEIRUT: Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel-Karim Ali Friday dismissed reports that Lebanese prisoners who were kidnapped during the Civil War were still being held in Syria, suggesting that questions about the allegations would only be settled by “fortune tellers.”

Asked to comment on reports that families and relatives of the alleged Lebanese prisoners had proof that their loved ones were in Syrian jails, Ali said: “Probably, fortune tellers can have the answer.”

He also scoffed at leaked documents claiming that hundreds of Lebanese who were held in Syrian prisons had been executed.

“This talk is ridiculous. It is untrue and baseless in the first place,” he said.

Ali spoke to reporters after meeting Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil to discuss the plight of Syrian refugees, a day after the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees registered the millionth refugee in Lebanon.

An estimated 600 Lebanese were kidnapped during the 1975-90 Civil War and are believed to be held in Syrian prisons. Syria’s army was present in Lebanon from 1976 to 2005.

The families of the prisoners have demonstrated and staged sit-ins in Downtown Beirut in the past, demanding that the government work with the Syrian authorities to determine the fate of their loved ones.

A nongovernmental organization, Support of Lebanese in Detention and Exile, has been formed to follow up the case of Lebanese detainees in Syria.

The Syrian regime has long denied holding Lebanese prisoners, after releasing a number of detainees in the past.

Ali said Bassil raised with him the issue of Lebanese detainees in Syria.

“This question has been previously repeated and the Syrian government responded that Syria had cooperated with the Lebanese government and Lebanese national leaders, including General Michel Aoun and all the delegations that visited Syria,” Ali said.

“ Syria has been clear … and does not keep secrets on this issue.”

He claimed that some Lebanese who went missing during the Civil War had been killed by groups in Lebanon, though he did not identify them.

Source: The Daily Star

LF announces Geagea’s candidacy for president

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Forces announced Friday its leader, Samir Geagea, as its candidate for the presidency.

“The Lebanese Forces Executive Body unanimously agreed to nominate party leader Samir Geagea for the presidential elections,” LF MP George Adwan said following a party meeting.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari hailed the nomination of Geagea, describing his chances of winning the support of the rest of the March 14 coalition as “very high.”

“I am part of March 14 … and Geagea is certainly a key figure in March 14 and he has all our respect and love,” Makari said from Parliament.

Geagea has pledged to prioritize the controversial issue of Hezbollah’s military involvement in Syria if elected to the post.

Earlier in the day, Geagea said the meeting at the LF headquarters in Maarab, north Beirut, aimed at discussing a decision “that will be a critical juncture in the history of Lebanon, since the situation in Lebanon is constantly deteriorating.”

Geagea also reportedly criticized Hezbollah without naming the party in his opening remarks.

“Lebanon’s borders are no longer clearly defined due to the wide-scale infiltration of armed groups back and forth to fight in Syria,” he said, according to the National News Agency.

The LF leader is a staunch critic of Hezbollah, Iran and the Syrian regime, and is also a key pillar of the Western-backed March 14 coalition.

He refused to join Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s “national interest government” due to Hezbollah’s involvement in the Syria crisis.

Geagea, 62, became the head of the Lebanese Forces militia in 1986. He hails from the north Lebanon village of Bsharri.

He was arrested in 1994 over his suspected involvement in a bomb attack on the Our Lady of Salvation Church the same year. He was also sentenced to life imprisonment over his alleged involvement in political assassinations during the Civil War and was not released until July 2005, when Parliament passed an amnesty law.

Geagea says he was the target of an attempted assassination in 2012 in his Maarab residence, and has accused the Syrian regime and its allies in Lebanon of being behind the killings of political figures in the country.

Source: The Daily Star

Central Bank governor not seeking presidency

BEIRUT – Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said that he would not run for president, although his name was being circulated in the media for the presidency.

“Having one’s name suggested for the presidency is different than running for president, because the latter means that the person is seeking the post,” Salameh told An-Nahar newspaper in remarks published Friday.

However, Salameh said electing him as president would not require any amendment to the constitution.

He also noted that he would prefer staying outside the limelight in order to “keep the Central Bank away from politics and political exploitation.”

The Central Bank governor said that extending President Michel Suleiman’s term would cause economic losses to the country.

“Based on previous experiences, the extension of the president’s term in general causes a big economic and financial cost.”


Source: Lebanon Now

Rafik Hariri University Hospital could be closed

BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour said Thursday that the government-run Rafik Hariri University Hospital could be shut down as a result of substandard facilities and low standards.

“The Rafik Hariri University Hospital is dying, and the government has two choices, either [formulate] a radical solution or close it down,” Abu Faour said at a news conference following his meeting with the head of the Association of Private Hospitals, Sleiman Haroun.

The minister said he was in the process of preparing a full plan to present to the Cabinet.

Media reports have emerged recently over corruption in the hospital, which was inaugurated in 2004. Reports have also cited the hospital’s inability to provide medications to patients suffering from chronic diseases.

Abu Faour said he discussed with Haroun comments concerning some hospitals’ performance, but insisted that he was not generalizing about or treating unjustly hospitals that were doing their job well, cooperating with the Health Ministry’s legal standards and abiding by moral and humanitarian criteria.

“There are a large number of hospitals that are committing violations and are not respecting the signed agreement with the Health Ministry or the patient’s health and dignity,” he said.

Abu Faour stressed that he “would not tolerate these hospitals and would not be lenient with whoever violates the signed agreement with the Health Ministry, even if matters required the strictest measures and decisions,” adding that those doing otherwise would be “embraced” by the government.

Haroun said the outcome of the meeting was positive, describing the minister’s formula as “reasonable and legal” and respecting hospitals’ rights so long as they performed their duties.

Also Thursday, Abu Faour met with United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos and discussed different ways to cooperate over files of common interest.

He also met with Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, former minister Elias Skaff and former MPs Mansur al-Bawn and Misbah al-Ahdab.



The Daily Star

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