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Cedar Ventures seeks to assist companies, primarily healthcare and IT related, interested in expanding in the Middle East. Members of our team have traveled to the Middle East with the goal of fostering better ties with the region and seeking to develop the economic growth in this area. We believe this will help promote stability. Cedar also seeks alliances with investment groups in the Middle East.

 


 

A lesson from Birmingham for the Arabs


April 27, 2013 12:42 AM
By Rami G. Khouri
The Daily Star, Lebanon  

One of the most troubling aspects of recent developments in several Arab countries has been growing domestic polarization based on an interplay of ideology, religion and ethnicity. Iraq and Syria are the two most worrying immediate cases, with fighting resulting in hundreds of deaths during the past week. Other Arab countries suffer similar problems, and everywhere in the region societies face challenges of how to heal themselves in the aftermath of years of tension, clashes or killing.

Is reconciliation a feasible option for the Arab world that now seems to be moving in the direction of greater domestic intolerance and warfare? Only time will tell. The track record of intra-Arab reconciliation has not been impressive in recent decades, in countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Sudan and others.

The issue is on my mind because I have had the good fortune to be reminded of the importance of these powerful forces during a visit to the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Here and in much of the deep south, racial hatred among many white Americans left black Americans living in a state of abuse, humiliation and dehumanization. The civil rights movement that culminated in the early 1960s brought an end to officially sanctioned discrimination by color. Racist views by some individuals persisted, however, and full harmony has not been reached in many southern cities and towns.

I have had the good fortune to be able to visit Birmingham three times in the past three years, and this week I was there participating in a three-day event that sought to capture the lessons of the role of young people in the city’s movement for civil rights. Thousands of young black children marched peacefully for their rights 50 years ago this month, and were jailed in the thousands. As the city commemorates the events of 1963 that helped end segregation and achieve equal voting rights and other rights for all Americans, I have been reminded of the core values and principles of the nonviolent protests and civil disobedience campaigns that characterized the civil rights movement, and led to its ultimate success.

In particular, I have come to learn that post-conflict reconciliation is as difficult and as important as the work needed to end a conflict in the first place. I was made aware of that recently upon reading the news of the death of a certain Elwin Wilson of Rock Hill, South Carolina, a racist who ironically would ultimately stand out as an icon of what the civil rights movement was, and is, all about.

He was one of many white southerners who beat up the Freedom Riders, white and black young men who integrated bus services and bus stations throughout the south in the spring of 1961, and were often subjected to vicious beatings. Among the Freedom Riders he once assaulted were Albert Bigelow, a white man, and John Lewis, a black man, who were in a whites-only waiting room at the Greyhound bus station. Lewis later became a prominent civil rights activist and U.S. Democratic Congressman from Georgia.

Elwin Wilson said he had an awakening after Barack Obama was elected president, and telephoned a local newspaper in 2009 to admit that he had beaten Freedom Riders and other activists, and apologized for his deeds. When he learned that Lewis had become a U.S. congressman, he traveled to Washington to meet him and apologize in person, and ask forgiveness. Lewis quickly expressed his forgiveness, and the two men made several media appearances after that to promote reconciliation and forgiveness.

Lewis later said in an interview that Wilson’s was the first apology he had ever received for the violence committed against him during the civil rights movement. He added that he did not hesitate for a moment to accept it. Upon learning of Wilson’s death earlier this year, Lewis said that accepting the apology and expressing forgiveness, “is in keeping with the philosophy of nonviolence. That’s what the movement was always about, to have the capacity to forgive and move toward reconciliation.”

The sheer human courage and drama of both Wilson’s apology and Lewis’ forgiveness are a timely reminder of the underlying goals of the civil rights movement and any other quest for social justice: not just to achieve equal individual rights for all, but to heal past grievances and wounds, and therefore to be able to push society forward to a condition of well-being, stability, and dignity for all citizens.

This is just one of the many lessons that we in the Arab world can learn from the American civil rights movement, which was deeply marked by its leadership’s insistence on remaining nonviolent, and on confronting hate with love, so that forgiveness and reconciliation could one day step forward and claim their place in the hearts of men and women.

Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly by THE DAILY STAR. He can be followed on twitter @RamiKhouri.

 

 


 

 

Pope elevates Rai and 5 other cardinals
November 24, 2012 10:21 AM
The Daily Star

 

 

VATICAN CITY: Lebanon’s Beshara Rai is among six new cardinals who joined the elite club of churchmen who will elect the next pope Saturday, bringing a more geographically diverse mix into the European-dominated College of Cardinals.

Pope Benedict XVI presided over the ceremony Saturday in St. Peter's Basilica to formally elevate the six men, who hail from Colombia, India, Nigeria, the Philippines and the United States as well as Lebanon. As Benedict read each name aloud in Latin, applause and cheers erupted from the pews.

In explaining his choices for this "little consistory," Benedict said he was essentially completing his last cardinal-making ceremony held in February, when he elevated 22 cardinals, the vast majority of them European archbishops and Vatican bureaucrats.

The six new cardinals "show that the church is the church of all peoples and speaks in all languages," Benedict said last month. "It's not the church of one continent, but a universal church."

That said, the College of Cardinals remains heavily European even with the new additions: Of the 120 cardinals under age 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope, more than half - 62 - are European. Critics have complained that the College of Cardinals no longer represents the church, since Catholicism is growing in Asia and Africa but is in crisis in much of Europe.

With the new additions, the College of Cardinals is a tad more multinational: Latin America, which boasts half of the world's Catholics, now has 21 voting-age cardinals; North America, 14; Africa, 11; Asia, 11; and Oceana, one.

Among the six new cardinals is Archbishop James Harvey, the American prefect of the papal household. As prefect, Harvey was the direct superior of the pope's former butler, Paolo Gabriele, who is serving an 18 month prison sentence in a Vatican jail for stealing the pope's private papers and leaking them to a reporter in the greatest Vatican security breach in modern times.

The Vatican spokesman has denied Harvey, 63, is leaving because of the scandal. But on the day the pope announced Harvey would be made cardinal, he also said he would leave the Vatican to take up duties as the archpriest of one of the Vatican's four Roman basilicas. Such a face-saving promotion-removal is not an uncommon Vatican personnel move.

Harvey's departure has led to much speculation about who would replace him in the delicate job of organizing the pope's daily schedule and arranging audiences.

Aside from Harvey, the new cardinals are: Abuja, Nigeria Archbishop John Olorunfemi Onaiyekan; Bogota, Colombia Archbishop Ruben Salazar Gomez; Manila, Philippines Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle; and the major Archbishop of the Trivandrum of the Siro-Malankaresi in India, His Beatitude Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal.

Cardinals serve as the pope's closest advisers, but their main task is to elect a new pope.

The six new cardinals are all under age 80. Their nominations bring the number of voting-age cardinals to 120, 67 of whom were named by Benedict, all but ensuring that his successor will be chosen from a group of like-minded prelates.

Saturday's consistory marks the first time in decades that not a single European or Italian has been made a cardinal - a statistic that has not gone unnoticed in Italy. Italy still has the lions' share of cardinals, though, with 28 voting-age "princes" of the church.

Rai is the fourth patriarch from Lebanon to be appointed cardinal, alongside Patriarchs Nasrallah Butros Sfeir, Anthony Peter Khoraish and Boulos Meouchi, who was the first Lebanese to be appointed cardinal in 1965.

Read more...
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

 


 

JLo carries Lebanon’s flag at Dubai show
November 23, 2012 11:36 AM
The Daily Star



BEIRUT: American singer and actress Jennifer Lopez carried a Lebanese flag during her concert in Dubai Thursday, which coincided with Lebanon’s 69th anniversary of Independence Day.

Part of her Dance Again World Tour, Lopez surprised her audience at Dubai’s Media Center by holding up the flag and wearing it around her shoulders.

Lebanon, formerly under a French mandate, gained its independence on Nov. 22, 1943.

There are an estimated 78,000 Lebanese in the UAE with around 41,000 in Dubai alone.

The 43-year-old artist, one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, has also collaborated with world renowned Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad to design her outfits for her 2012 tour, which also included Turkey.

Read more ...
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

 


 

Lebanon is the target
October 20, 2012 02:11 AM
The Daily Star


In this Sunday, March 3, 2011 file photo, Col. Wissam al-Hasan, head of the Internal Security Forces Information Branch is seen during a meeting in Beirut, Lebanon. (Mohammad Azakir/The Daily Star, File)

The late Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan had a number of enemies, and they are the enemies of Lebanon.

Hasan’s job was to uncover those who have been engaged in plotting against the country, and he was a person who didn’t stop at the conventional red lines, whether it was Mossad or the Syrian regime. Because of the post he held, as the head of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, he played a central role in cooperating with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. He also gained fame for overseeing the discovery and dismantling of Israeli espionage rings in the country, and most recently, Hasan acted as the lead player in foiling a plan to destabilize Lebanon once again, through violence.

The plot involved a former minister, and with the judiciary’s naming of Syrian officials in the investigation, the Information Branch’s actions were a case of putting the country’s security above any other consideration.

Hasan’s assassination in Beirut has triggered several spontaneous reactions in the streets; it’s hoped that this type of protest action represents a one-time expression of anger and will not escalate.

This is because the perpetrators of Hassan’s killing have such a scenario as an objective.

The assassination was a broad daylight car bomb attack that killed four other people in the neighborhood of Ashrafieh, wounded dozens more, and terrorized an entire country. It is in the interest of no party in Lebanon. If the goal was to divert attention from the events in Syria, then people should remember this well and head off any attempt to take Lebanon further into tension and civil strife. The leaders of all major political parties and movements must act decisively to clamp down on any possibility that even more violence will result.

The important thing is to let the authorities act; they face a huge responsibility as they pursue a serious, prompt investigation while ensuring that the general situation remains stable.

Resorting to the street will not solve matters, but only escalate them. Such moves will translate into more casualties, and with Lebanon on the brink thanks to accumulated tension, any acts of violence can easily spin rapidly out of control.

However, the resignation of the government would signal a sense of responsibility and admittance of failure – which in itself would contribute immensely to defusing the explosive situation created by this crime.

Read more...
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

 


 

LEBANON CENTRAL BANK CHIEF GOT IT RIGHT
By Borzou Daragahi

February 21, 2009

Riad Toufic Salame bucked pressure in 2005 and kept Lebanese banks from investing in mortgage-backed securities. Now the sector is prospering amid the global downturn.

Reporting from Beirut — Throughout history, men braved the odds to perform great feats. Outmatched generals snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. Titans of industry gambled on bold innovations to reap jackpots. Athletes tested the limits of human endurance in quests for glory.

Riad Toufic Salame, the governor of Lebanon's central bank, is not one of those men.

Instead, the silver-haired banker became a hero by playing it very, very safe. In 2005, he defied pressure from the Lebanese business community and bucked international trends to issue what now looks like a prophetic decree: a blanket order barring any bank in his country from investing in mortgage-backed securities, which contributed to the most dramatic collapse of financial institutions since the Great Depression.

So as major banks in America and Europe were shuttered or partly nationalized and thousands of people in the U.S. financial sector were laid off, Lebanon's banks had one of their best years ever.

Billions in cash continue to pour in to the relative safety of Lebanese savings accounts, with comfy but not extravagant yields of 6%. A nation shunned for years as the quintessential failed state has become a pretty safe bet, or as safe a bet as investors are likely to find in this climate.

"Being able to survive and to do well in this crisis," Salame said, savoring a deep sigh. "I can tell you I was proud of this achievement."

Most outsiders associate Lebanon with one of two extremes: machine-gun-wielding militants in fatigues firing weapons into the air or scantily clad merrymakers downing cocktails until dawn.

But a more sedate and moderate segment of the Lebanese population has also emerged from the political and economic wreckage of the last few decades. They are engineers and dentists, lawyers and bankers. They envision their country as neither hedonistic nirvana nor capital of mayhem, but as a safe harbor for low-key, middle-class ambitions. They have begun to quietly assert themselves.

Salame, who is Lebanon's equivalent of the Federal Reserve chairman, exemplifies such geeks. He toiled for nearly two decades as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch before taking over as central bank governor 15 years ago. He's a man of few extravagances, indulging in pricey Cuban cigars he pulls out of a wooden humidor in his spacious office. Unlike most Lebanese bigwigs, he drives himself to work, albeit in an armored BMW.

The country's bankers adore him, speaking of him in glowing terms. He was once short-listed as a potential candidate for Lebanon's presidency, a post that traditionally goes to members of his Christian Maronite community.

"We are very proud of him," said Nassib Ghobril, head of research at Lebanon's Byblos Bank. "He's a very smart guy, and the regulations of the banking sector here have been kept up to international standards. It's very tightly regulated."

In a country known for windbag politicians prone to soaring oratory, Salame favors mundane technical facts as he describes the effort of growing Lebanon's banking sector from $7 billion in assets in the early 1990s to $91 billion today.

That meant tightening regulations and banking requirements so much that 35 banks were driven out of business. They just couldn't meet Salame's conservative balance-sheet requirements, including a rule that bars banks from lending more than 70% of deposits.

It meant changing transparency rules to do away with Lebanon's reputation as a money-laundering hub.

And it meant resisting temptation for easy money.

"We had criticism and some were saying that Lebanon could have bigger growth in its economy if there was not such regulation for credit," Salame recalled. "We were criticized for putting too much regulation."

When the real estate boom crested this decade and investors began bundling debt into nebulous financial instruments fueled by easy credit, the pressure was on for Salame to let banks take advantage of the high yields.

But Salame steadfastly refused.

He says the mortgage-backed securities worried him from the start. He watched curiously as investment bankers engaged in what he calls "rituals" to please the credit ratings agencies and got back such safe assessments of their products. He didn't get it. Why were these considered safe investments? They were just too complicated. They went against a major tradition in Lebanese and Middle Eastern banking: Know to whom you're fronting cash and who's going to pay you back.

"We could not really sense who would be responsible in the end to collect these loans," he said. "And we do not perceive banking as being a place to speculate on financial instruments that are not really concrete."

He felt vindicated when he received a call from abroad last year after the collapse of Lehman Bros. It was a super-rich Lebanese investor living overseas.

"He was always skeptical about the stability here," Salame recalled. "But he told me, 'I sent all my money to Beirut now to the banks. You were right.' "

daragahi@latimes.com

 


 

Recent Article on Lebanese Armed Forces
Riad Kajwaji, CEO INEGMA
August 5, 2010
Follow the link above to the INEGMA article.