Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Away from Politics

Here are a couple of articles by Alice Fordham, over at NOWLebanon, to take your mind off the politics ... consider it a Christmas gift :)

PS - I Love Labneh

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Aoun and Syria Deliver 50 Criminals

In a slap to the face of the families of those Lebanese who continue to languish in Syrian jails due to their political beliefs, or because of their service in the Lebanese Army under Michel Aoun in the early 1990s, Syria has declared it will release 50 common criminals of Lebanese origin serving jail time in its jail.

The declaration came as Gen. Michel Aoun was winding down his multi-day trip to Syria which saw him hold celebratory meetings and events with a variety of Syrian officials. Meanwhile, the families of over 700 Lebanese detainees in Syrian jails watched the General make a fool of himself and those whose future was stolen because their stance alongside him against the Syrians more than 15 years ago.

on the matter, this is what Lebanon's Justice Minister had to say:
“It is clear that the news about releasing 50 persons has more political than legal background, and it is totally imprecise,” he said.

Najjar called for separating legal and judicial work between Lebanon and Syria from the issue of detainees and missing persons in Syria.

“I know that those [detainees and missing persons] are more than 700, and all statements issued here and there are only political statements,” he said.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pope Aoun

Have a laugh (or a vomit), Naharnet reports:
The Arab Socialist Baath Party in Lebanon on Friday proclaimed Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun "Pope of the orient."


"Aoun went to Syria as a Christian patriotic leader and definitely he would come back as a leader at the level of the orient … it would be correct to say he went as a Christian leader and would return a Pope of the orient," Shokor said according to remarks distributed by the state-run National News Agency.
The Baath Party in Lebanon is generally regarded as a branch of Syria's regime operating in Lebanon. Meanwhile, Naharnet also reported the following comments by Cedar Revolution stalwart, Butros Harb:
MP Butros Harb on Friday criticized Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun's call for amending the Taef accord, warning that it would hurl Christians into "civil war" that they oppose.

"The Christians would not agree at all to a distribution of powers along the lines of a tripartite concept," Harb told reporters after meeting Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea at the latter's residence in Meerab.

"Had it not been for Aoun's wars against Syria we would have not gone to Taef," Harb recalled.

He also criticized Aoun for "asking the Lebanese to apologize to him and, through him, to Syria."

"The Lebanese people did not shell Syria by artillery, did not displace Syrians from their homes by occupying their land, did not oppress the Syrian people and did not increase the numbers of widows and orphans in Syria," Harb recalled.

Aoun's visit to Syria "strengthens Syria's influence in Lebanon … and does not serve Lebanon," Harb stressed.
For more commentary on Aoun's visit, click here.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Commentary on Aoun-Syria Lovefest

Here is some commentary on Aoun's visit to Syria:

Lebanese Banks Solid, But ...

The Financial Times reports on another solid performance from Lebanese banks, but highlights the potential for "aftershocks" from the real-estate and financial meltdown in the Gulf (and the rest of the World):
If there is one circumstance with which Lebanon is familiar, it is crisis...

... The same applies to the financial sector, where banks are enjoying a boom in deposits, driven by Lebanese expatriates seeking a haven from the global financial crisis.

“Lebanese banks are flush with liquidity,” says Semaan Bassil, general manager of Byblos Bank, one of Lebanon’s top three lenders.

Deposit inflows at Byblos grew by 11 per cent, or $788m, in the nine months to September. Of that, almost $175m was from overseas remittances, more than double the amount for the same period last year.

Like other Lebanese banks, Byblos is conservatively managed – its loan to asset ratio is only 25 per cent – and is prohibited from investing in the structured products that have caused mayhem in the US and Europe.

“Lebanese banks do basic banking, we are not involved in sophisticated banking and we do not want to invest in instruments if we don’t know the risk. We are very pragmatic,” Mr Bassil told the Financial Times. Byblos reported a 30.5 per cent increase in net profits to $79m in the first nine months of this year.

Analysts say Lebanese banks are coping well with the financial crisis ...

... But Lebanon is likely to suffer from after-shocks next year, analysts say. The Economist Intelligence Unit has revised down its forecast for growth next year from 4.6 per cent to 3.1 per cent, largely due to the global slowdown.

The crisis will be most keenly felt in a decline in overseas remittances, which are at record levels. There are 4m Lebanese people at home but three times as many abroad, and they are on track to repatriate more than $5.5bn this year.

With the vast majority of Lebanese working in white-collar jobs, such remittances are almost certain to fall sharply given the redundancies in the financial sectors in the US, Europe and particularly in the Gulf.

About two-thirds of remittances come from Lebanese people working in the Gulf, but government figures show that as many as 4,000 Lebanese have been moving home from the Gulf each month since June.

“As there is a slowdown in the GCC [Gulf Co-operation Council] economies, it is possible these remittances will be affected,” said Paul-Henri Pruvost of Standard & Poor’s, although he added that remittances had remained relatively strong even during troubled times.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Commentator Captions 3

What caption would you add to this ... remarkable ... picture?
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