JOHN AKOURI NEWSBLOG

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Location: Birmingham, MI, United States

Councilman John Akouri, former Washington, DC Press Secretary & Capitol Hill Advisor, is President & CEO of the Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Medcities General Assembly 2008 Bolsters City Development Strategy Restart in Northern Lebanon

Aerial view of Tripoli, Lebanon, ancestral hometown of the Akouri Family
(TRIPOLI, LB)...An encouraging development and sign of hope in a war-torn region is the reopening of the city development strategy (CDS) in northern Lebanon for the Al Fayhaa Union of Municipalities that link three cities—Tripoli, El Mina and Beddaway. The Governor of North Lebanon, Mr. Nassif Kalouch, together with the chairman of the Union and the Mayor of Tripoli, Rachid Jamali, presided over the opening ceremonies and the launch that included a meeting of the CDS Committee, followed by a townhall meeting for local stakeholders, international partners, and the press.
In a show of support in connection with the reopening of the CDS,
Medcities hosted its General Assembly 2008 in Tripoli, Lebanon from 29 January to 1 February. Medcities is a network of Mediterranean coastal cities created in Barcelona in November 1991 at the initiative of the Mediterranean Environmental Technical Assistance Program (METAP). The goal of Medcities is to strengthen the environmental and sustainable development management capabilities of local administration. Medcities will, under the co-ordination of Barcelona, set up a working group to promote the use of sustainable city development strategies in the region.
The Al Fayhaa Union of Municipalities is looking to develop a CDS to promote economic growth, increase employment, improve governance, and alleviate urban poverty. The CDS will contain a local economic development strategy and investment plan for urban renewal and environmental management. The original start of the CDS was delayed due to political uncertainties and security concerns in northern Lebanon in 2006.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce Announces its 2nd Annual 'Salute to Justice'

An event honoring Michigan’s Distinguished Judges of Lebanese descent

(BIRMINGHAM, MI) – The Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce announced today its second annual Salute to Justice event honoring distinguished Michigan judges of Lebanese & Middle Eastern descent. The banquet will feature a number of judges confirmed to attend and is set to take place on Thursday, March 6, 2008 at 6:30 pm at the Farmington Hills Manor in the northwest Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

“From Los Angeles to New York, judges serve a fundamental role in communities across America, and I don’t know of anywhere else where this many judges of Lebanese-descent currently serve on the bench,” said John Akouri, Lebanese American Chamber of Commerce Chairman & CEO. “Michigan proudly leads the nation in Judges of Middle Eastern ancestry. In fact, just last year, Michigan witnessed the investiture of two new Lebanese American judges. And today, we applaud the announcement of the appointment of the Honorable Henry W. Saad to the position of Chief Judge of the Michigan Appellate Court. With the Metro Detroit area’s rich cultural heritage and ethnic diversity, the Chamber is pleased to recognize their work and celebrate their achievements.

Officially welcomed by the Chamber's general counsel, the premiere event in 2007 featured remarks from Attorney General Mike Cox with a special guest appearance by former Detroit Mayor and Supreme Court Justice Dennis W. Archer. The Judges were introduced by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 TV personality Chuck Stokes and the audience was treated to a performance of musical selections by The Northern Lights High School Choir. The highlight of the evening was a special tribute recognition for a lifetime of achievements presented to the Honorable George Caram Steeh, Sr. to celebrate a generation of accomplishments and life-long contributions to society - including service in the Unites States Navy, as a District Court Judge, and in the Michigan House of Representatives and State Senate. For more information or to reserve your tickets for the 2008 Dinner, please visit: http://www.salutetojustice.org/.

The current roster of Michigan Judges of Lebanese origin serving on the bench includes:

HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH, JR.
US District Court Judge
HON. MONA MAJZOUB
US District Court Magistrate
HON. ALFRED MORAD
US Administrative Law Judge
(ret)
HON. HENRY WILLIAM SAAD
Michigan Appellate Court Chief Judge
HON. DAVID J. ALLEN
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge
HON. CHARLENE MAKLED ELDER
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge
HON. JAMES J. RASHID
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge
(ret)
HON. LINDA SAOUD HALLMARK
Oakland County Probate Courty Judge
HON. DAVID VIVIANO
Macomb County Circuit Court Judge
HON. TRACEY YOKICH
Macomb County Circuit Court Judge
HON. KAREN KHALIL BOUZAS
Redford District Court Chief Judge
HON. DAVID TURFE
Dearborn Heights District Court Judge
HON. GEORGE CARAM STEEH, SR.
(ret)
Mt. Clemens District Court Judge

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Excerpts of Speech Delivered in Dearborn by Councilman John Akouri on the Third Anniversary of the Hariri Assassination

Photo courtesy of Bassam Mourad/Michigan Arab Times
H.E. Rafic Hariri Commemoration Speech
Byblos Banquet Center, Dearborn, Michigan
Sunday, February 10, 2008 / 5:00 PM EST
Good Evening and thank you Adnan for that kind and gracious introduction.
Consul General of Lebanon, Your Excellency Bachir Tawk, Imam Mohamad Mardini, Honorable Judge David Turfe, Senator George Hart, Commissioner Gary Woronchak, Councilman George Darany, President Joe Mourani and leaders from the Lebanese American Club of Michigan, President Walid Mourad and leaders from the United American Lebanese Federation, Mr. William Salaita and leaders from the Arab American & Chaldean Council, Mr. Nicola Abouzaid and parishioners of St. Sharbel Maronite Church and St. Rafka Maronite Mission, Mr. George Jalil Saad and members of the Antiochian Orthodox Community, Mr. Michel Abi Assaf and representatives of the Lebanese Forces, Executive Officials from the City of Dearborn and Dearborn Heights, Assembled Dignitaries, Elected Officials, Members of the Arab Press Corps, Distinguished Guests, Fellow Lebanese-Americans - it is indeed an honor to appear before you again this year on this solemn occasion and I thank the organizers for inviting me.
I am extremely humbled this day to share the dais with the revered and admired Imam Mohamad Mardini of the American Muslim Center. Though I am not of your denomination Imam, I am of your faith. For the very same God that you worship, is my God. And the Lebanon that you so love is the exact same Lebanon that I love.
In our sacred Bible, we are taught that he who believes - never dies. He shall have eternal life. Rafic Hariri believed in God. Rafic Hariri believed in Lebanon. He believed in the people of Lebanon and in their future. He believed in the very foundation that created the Lebanon we know by insuring its inalienable right to absolute freedom, full sovereignty and total independence. The dream Rafic Hariri remains with each and everyone one of us and his spirit is alive and well and present among us.
I have shared with all of you in the past, my experiences with the late former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri upon his visits to Capitol Hill. The one resonating fact that is so apparent to all of us is his selflessness. He was not a selfish man. If he were, he would have taken his family and his fortunes long ago, and lived a peaceful and secure life outside of Lebanon.
Hence, I know that if he were here with us tonight, he would tell us to not only remember his martyrdom for the sake of Lebanon, he would tell us to also remember the sacrifices of Basil Fleihan, George Hawi, Gibran Tueni, Pierre Gemayel, Francios Hajj, Wissam Eid, Antoine Ghanem, Walid Eido and his son.
But he wouldn’t stop there, he would tell us to remember Bachir Gemayel, Dany Chamoun, Musa Sadr, Rene Mouawad, Rashid Karame, and the beloved Grand Mufti Hassan Khaled, and so many tens of thousand more who have suffered and died all for Lebanon. These names are engrained in our vernacular and it is incumbent upon us to keep all of them in our thoughts and prayers today when we say:
Dear God, we pray to you for peace in the Middle East
For the martyrs and their families our beloved Lebanon
For the victims of violence everywhere
For those struggling for peace and justice
For a world without war and violence
Lead us from death to life, from falsehood to truth;
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace,
Let peace fill our beings, our world and our universe.
My friends, we Lebanese are known for many great things. Stubbornness, however, is not one of them. But that's what makes us who we are. I know that a number of opinions exist in the diaspora and in Lebanon today. And I am confident that thought some Lebanese may not be able to agree on who the enemy is, we can agree on who the enemy is not. Each other. We are not each other's enemies. We agree on far more than we disagree on. We share a common blood and bond. And in Lebanon, Christians cannot exist without Muslims, and Muslims cannot exist without Christians otherwise the very Lebanon that we know and love would cease to exist.
Pope John Paul II, on his visit to Beirut in the late nineties, said: "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message." And part of that message here today is whether we say "Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim" or "Bismil-Ab wal-Ibn wa-Ruuh al-'Uddus," we are undeniably Lebanese brethren. We can all appreciate the Papal message, and most certainly the message that Lebanon is.
And let's take a moment today to say thank you to our own government here in the United States for its continued support of Lebanon. How fortunate we are that our country chooses to aid the people, army and government of Lebanon. It's unwavering support for Lebanon's freedom, sovereignty and independence has been absolute. I thank our government for all it has done and continues to do for our families in Lebanon. For the funds distributed by USAID throughout all of Lebanon - especially the south, in aiding the Lebanese people.
Thank you President Bush. Thank you for keeping the flame of Lebanon alive and well in your heart during your administration. This is the message that we send today. And why wouldn't we want to share with our relatives and families overseas all that this great nation of America has bestowed upon our parents, our grandparents and continues to bless us with today by showering us with opportunity, freedom, education and success.
In closing, as throngs of Lebanese will gather this week in Beirut's Martyrs Square, let us add our voices and our hearts to the cause of justice, unity and freedom spread across every inch of Lebanon's 10,452 km2. Let us continue to work together from abroad for this new Lebanon and for the future of all proud Lebanese worldwide. Long live Lebanon and its people.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

World Council for the Cedars Revolution Issues Statement on the Assassination of Imad Mughniyeh and the Lebanese Response

Attorney John Hajjar, Director of the US Council for the Cedars Revolution issued the following statement:
We, as Lebanese Americans do consider Hezbollah as a Terrorist Organization, which has taken the lives of many American lives since 1983. We also consider Hezbollah as a Terror group which has been involved in an alliance with the Syrian regime responsible for the occupation of our mother country Lebanon and for a series of Terror assassinations aimed at legislators, journalists, politicians, and military and security commanders.
We consider Hezbollah as responsible for the war against the Cedars Revolution and for violence against the Lebanese People. We wish to see this organization disarmed and the international terrorists within its ranks brought to justice.
"We have been surprised and offended to see the head of the Lebanese cabinet which we have been supporting and politicians members of the March 14 Coalition expressing their political condolences to the leadership of Hezbollah for the death of international terrorist Imad Mughniyeh."
We have been surprised and offended to see the head of the Lebanese cabinet which we have been supporting and politicians members of the March 14 Coalition expressing their political condolences to the leadership of Hezbollah for the death of international terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. While his Terror wars on the regional level and inside Lebanon are behind the violence he got involved with, and while his wars are not of Lebanon's business, he was also responsible for the campaign of violence against Lebanese citizens.
The Lebanese cabinet and March 14 have an explanation to provide to the public of the Cedars Revolution, to the Lebanese Diaspora and to the Lebanese American community. The US Council of the Cedars Revolution request a formal explanation about the rationale behind the act of solidarity with international terrorism practiced by the Lebanese cabinet and the March 14 Alliance.
The World Council of the Cedars Revolution represents the hopes and aspirations of many millions of Lebanese in Lebanon and throughout the Diaspora - www.cedarsrevolution.net.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Akouri, Tawk to Speak at Hariri Memorial Service in Dearborn This Weekend

(DEARBORN)...Former Washington, DC Advisor John Akouri and Acting Consul General of Detroit Bachir Tawk will address a memorial service this weekend in honor of Rafic Hariri. According to the Detroit Free Press, up to 1000 people are expected to attend in Dearborn, Michigan to commemorate the third anniversary of the assassination of the late former Prime Minister of Lebanon and his companions. Akouri, who knew Hariri during his frequent visits to Capitol Hill (click here) will talk of his time spent with the late leader in our nation's capital. The solemn tribute is a reflection of how closely the politics of Lebanon are followed in Michigan, home to one of the largest Lebanese immigrant communities outside the Middle East. Hundreds of metro Detroiters have benefited from university scholarships that Hariri funded.
The memorial service will consist of prayers and remembrance of Hariri 's legacy and his vision for Lebanon and the Lebanese people.
The annual event is hosted by a group of Lebanese expatriates in the state of Michigan that rushed to the beat of the tragedy and the disaster that resulted in the killing of Hariri. An assassination, they say, that shook the country and the hearts and souls of its citizens who believed in this great man, in his humanity and his selfless acts of giving. The group declares Hariri's assassination was an attempt to assassinate Lebanon’s national unity. And as Lebanese expatriates and Lebanese Americans, they seek to honor and preserve his memory and follow in his footsteps and vision to build and develop a free, sovereign and independent Lebanon.

Monday, February 04, 2008

House of Lebanon to Tour the J. Paul Getty Museum

JOHN AKOURI ONLINE NEWSROOM 'We will confront this mortal danger to all humanity. We will not tire, or rest, until the war on terror is won.' -- PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH Add to end of above"line without paranthesis when wanting to loop sound (( loop="-1">