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چهارشنبه ۲۲ آذر ۱۳۹۶ ایران ۲۰:۴۷

Persian tv weekly highlights 12/17


Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington, D.C. – December 17, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included the release from German prison of Kazem Darabi, convicted in the Mykonos murders in Berlin; International Human Rights Day; the abuse of women’s rights activists in Iran; interviews on deteriorating human rights conditions in Iran with Nader Paymaie, writer and author of 2500 Year History of Iran and Fouad Pashaie, Secretary-General of Iran’s Constitutional Party; Deputy Secretary of State Erica Barks-Ruggles; Human Rights Watch spokesman Saman Zia Zarifi, and human rights activist and author Mehrangiz Kar; interviews with Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), Joseph Cirincione, Director for Nuclear Policy at the Center for American Progress on the NIE and Sharon Squassoni of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; more political violence in Lebanon; an interview with veteran diplomat Edward Djerejian on what comes next in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, the formal start of bilateral peace talks between Israel and Palestine; U-S / Russian relations (missile defense system in Europe and joint exercises in Germany); Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s visit to France; postponement of presidential elections in Lebanon; interviews with renowned satirist Hadi Khorsandi and actor Shaun Toub; and the Iranian legislature considering a reduction in hours women are allowed to work outside the home.

Coming Up: Ambassador James Jeffrey, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, will be joining us this week to talk about US policy toward Iran.

Veteran diplomat Edward Djerejian appeared on News and Views December 16 to talk about the Annapolis conference and what comes next in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Djerejian, who served as US ambassador to Israel and Syria, is now head of the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He said, “For the peace process to succeed, it’s absolutely essential that both the US President and Secretary of State be actively engaged and play the role of facilitators.” Mr. Djerejian said the main achievement of the Annapolis conference was that it was able to bring Israel and Palestine to the table after a seven year absence. One of the main tasks, he said, is to build confidence. “The Israelis could do this by dismantling their illegal outposts, making it easier for the Palestinians to get through Israeli checkpoints and go about their daily business. On the other hand, the Palestinians need to reform their security services and stamp out all terrorist acts stemming from the occupied territories. It is important,” he added, “that the Palestinian state that emerges from this process be contiguous – not broken up by Israeli settlements. It would be an achievement if both parties could resolve all their outstanding issues by the end of 2008. But that may be too idealistic.” Touching on Iran, Ambassador Djerejian argued that he doesn’t think it’s a viable or justifiable policy for the United States to assemble a coalition of moderate Sunni Muslims as a buffer against Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.

Roundtable with You December 12 examined the first peace talks in seven years between Israeli and Palestinian officials with John Gregory Myre, a journalist who reported for The New York Times from Jerusalem until February 2007. He said this round of talks is designed to capitalize on the Annapolis conference of two weeks ago. American officials are not present at these talks and both sides are under pressure from extremists who oppose any concessions. “The Palestinians have had a long-standing complaint that their Arab brethren just pay lip service and that when it comes to practical, financial support, they don’t offer much,” he said. “The Palestinians are not benefiting much from this enormous windfall that we see from very high oil prices....Iran supports the Palestinian cause and is a harsh critic of Israel, but not all Palestinian groups view Iran as a natural ally,” he said. Mr. Myre said these talks do seem to indicate that both sides want to open a new chapter in their relations with each other.

Convicted felon Kazem Darabi arrived at Tehran’s international airport early December 11 after spending 15 years in a German prison. The Iranian citizen was convicted for his role in the 1992 murder of four Kurdish opposition leaders in a Berlin restaurant, including Sadegh Sharafkandi, General Secretary of the DPIK. Iran’s deputy foreign minister for Europe and America, Ali Baqeri, as well as members of Mr. Darabi’s family were on hand to welcome him upon his arrival. In an interview with PNN, Shohreh Badi’i – the widow of one of his victims, Nouri Dehkordi – expressed dismay at Mr. Darabi’s release. “We spent five years trying to prove Kazem Darabi is a terrorist,” she said. “But now he is freed. And he is welcomed by Iran’s Islamic authorities.” The German court’s indictment identified Mr. Darabi as “an agent of the Iranian intelligence service and a member of the Revolutionary Guards.” Mr. Darabi thanked Iranian officials for their efforts in securing his release.

PNN created a new “bumper” that was used on Human Rights Day December 10, on all programs Monday going in or out of Human Rights Day-related segments.

Lawyer, human rights activist and author Mehrangiz Kar was the featured guest on Today’s Woman December 10 on a show that focused on the abuse of women activists in Iran, including the suspected murder in prison last month of activist Zahra Bani Yaqoub. Ms. Yaqoub was imprisoned on charges of publishing misinformation, inciting public opinion and public activities against the government. The show also reviewed charges against journalist and activist Maryam Hussein Khah, arrested last month and imprisoned without bail on charges of disruption of public opinion, propaganda against the state and publication of lies through the publication of untrue news items on the site of the Women's Cultural Center and the One Million Signatures Campaign. The crackdown on labor and student activists was also discussed. Ms. Kar noted that the Iranian government has prohibited publication of any details on the murder of Ms. Yaqoub, adding that it will likely lead to more murders in prison. She said women activists are charged with trying to topple the government, which is not fair, and that women should fight for their rights and write of their experiences with inequality.

News and Views December 14 interviewed Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Erica Barks-Ruggles, who expressed concern about Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation. She cited a litany of human rights violations in Iran that have been repeatedly condemned by the United Nations. “We are deeply troubled by the daily deterioration of human rights, especially those of women and students in Iran. Of particular concern to us is also the execution of minors. Only a few days ago someone under 18 was put to death in Iran,” she said. Ms. Barks-Ruggles called on Iran to heed the UN’s demand that it respect the basic human rights of its citizens. “The US government,” she said, “will continue to support demands made by the international community for Iran not to mistreat its women activists, religious minorities, labor organizers, students and ethnic groups.”

Roundtable with You December 11 focused on human rights in Iran in with Nader Paymaie, writer and author of 2500 Year History of Iran and Fouad Pashaie, Secretary-General of Iran’s Constitutional Party. Mr. Paymaie described in detail the condition of human rights in Iran today and said, “thousands of Iranians have been executed since 1979, many in secret. Anyone suspected of supporting the opposition is at risk of arbitrary arrest and detention….It is well documented by international human rights organizations that political detainees have been brutally tortured in prisons and that there are detention centers throughout the country. Political trials are summary with practically no defense rights at all.” Mr. Pashaie told Roundtable that, “Courts in the Islamic Republic of Iran have the authority to impose amputations and floggings as punishment – punishments which contravene human rights standards in their cruelty and inhumanity.” He said, “Iran has for several years been the Middle East’s biggest prison for the press,” adding that “the regime in Tehran has never conducted a free and fair election. The regime has banned all pro-democracy political parties and there are thousands of political prisoners in Iran.”

News and Views December 15 interviewed Saman Zia Zarifi, a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch about events on the ground in Iran. He said capital punishment of offenders under the age of 18 is unlawful but that Iran has a high rate of such capital punishment. Unfortunately, Mr. Zarifi said, as efforts to abolish capital punishment intensify, Iran moves in the opposite direction, with the number of executions increasing.

Roundtable with You December 11 featured Hadi Khorsandi, one of Iran’s most renowned satirists. Now based in London, the humorist read a number of his poems which satirize today’s Iran. He also expressed sympathy with the plight of Iranian students under siege in Tehran and other cities. “The regime will not be able to break their spirit no matter how hard it tries,” he said. “All Iranians should feel proud of these students, who despite inhumane treatment in prisons and gut-wrenching torture, have pressed on with their march to freedom as they stand up to repression and injustice.”

News and Views December 13 interviewed the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), on the National Intelligence Estimate that concluded Iran halted its weapons development program in 2003 and that the program remained frozen through at least the middle of this year. The NIE reversed a key finding from a 2005 intelligence report, which said Iran was developing a nuclear bomb. An unclassified summary of the new report was released earlier this month specifically to correct that impression, but it was received skeptically by some Republicans on Capitol Hill who believe Iran’s nuclear program remains an immediate threat, and think the 2005 report is closer to the truth. Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada plans to introduce legislation to create a bipartisan commission to produce an alternative report on the same intelligence. Rep. Hoekstra told PNN that he would not support creation of an independent commission to investigate the NIE on Iran: “There are still huge gaps in our knowledge of Iran….[But] I don’t think you have seen a fundamental shift or fundamental quantum leap in the improvement of our intelligence community at this point.” Mr. Hoekstra said he and Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) responded positively to an invitation to meet with Iranian parliamentarians, “to get a better understanding of exactly what is going on in Iran, and as she and I described it, to fill in the puzzle. You’ve got intelligence. You’ve got personal visits and personal examination. We are trying to do all those things....Let the intelligence community and the intelligence committee do their work, at least at this point in time….We know that they have shortcomings. We don’t need another commission to tell us that.”

Joseph Cirincione is Senior Fellow and Director for Nuclear Policy at the Center for American Progress and author of the new book, Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons. Prior to joining the Center in May 2006, he served as director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace for eight years. On Roundtable with You December 15, Mr. Cirincione said he agreed with the NIE’s assessment that Iran shelved its weapons program in 2003. “Iran may not be on a fast-track to acquire nuclear weapons, but its leadership is definitely interested in having the capability one day to build it should they want it. If Iran gets a nuclear capability, then every country in the region would want to match that capability.” Mr. Cirincione said, “The NIE report was a product of good intelligence in contrast to the politicized intelligence that led us to believe that Iraq had WMDs. I think the NIE report is also significant in that we now know that Iran is not another Nazi Germany and that its leaders do cost-benefit analysis and they decided to suspend their weapons program under international scrutiny and pressure.” He said the contain-and-engage strategy offers the best hope for slowing Iran’s nuclear efforts because it tests Iran’s willingness to trade nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for a fundamentally different relationship with the United States.

News and Views December 12 examined whether the Iran nuclear crisis can be solved through diplomacy with Sharon Squassoni, a senior associate in the nonproliferation program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Ms. Squassoni said that slapping a third round of sanctions on Iran will be complicated due to China’s and Russia’s reluctance to ratchet up pressure on Iran. According to Ms. Squassoni, the new NIE is but one component that determines US policy toward Tehran. She said the other important point to keep in mind is that Iran is continuing to produce fissile material which is the main ingredient in making a nuclear bomb. “Iran is also continuing to build a heavy-water reactor in Arak designed to develop enough plutonium for making a nuclear bomb. Iran’s current nuclear activities,” she said, “do not square with plans for a peaceful nuclear program.”

News and Views reported December 13 that Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Non-proliferation, Terrorism and Trade Subcommittee (D-CA), said, “Normalization starts when centrifuges stop...It’s all about Natanz and centrifuges. If Iran had perfect weaponization knowledge, it doesn’t have the fissile material and it won’t have say until about 2014. If Iran had no knowledge about weaponization and insisted upon going to sleep for the next couple of years, they could wake up in 2011 and they would have all the weaponization plans they need by about 2014, which is when they have fissile material....A US government that is unwilling to use our trade relationship with China in order to change China’s mind on Iran will not be effective.”

News and Views December 12 reported that Iran’s nuclear program came up during President Bush’s meeting with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. “Iran is dangerous. We believe Iran had a secret military weapons program, and Iran must explain to the world why they had a program,” President Bush told reporters after his meeting with Mr. Napolitano. His comments came as diplomats from the UN Security Council discussed the draft of a new sanctions resolution against Iran for its uranium enrichment program. Officials from the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany Tuesday held a 90-minute conference call. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the diplomats had a good, constructive conversation, with more work needed to finalize a resolution: “What is very interesting about this is that we are not talking about whether or not there is going to be a resolution, but we are talking about what are the elements to a new Security Council resolution.” Meanwhile, in Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the NIE a positive development. “It is a step forward,” he said. “If one or two other steps are taken….the way will be open for the resolution of basic issues in the region and in dealings between the two sides.” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino responded, saying “I just think that’s fanciful thinking on Ahmadinejad’s behalf.”

News and Views also reported on Acting Undersecretary of State John Rood’s visit to Eastern Europe where he is meeting with senior officials, saying he has told Russia that a missile defense system in Europe is needed because the United States still sees Iran as a serious threat despite Tehran giving up its nuclear-weapons program. Even though US intelligence reports say Iran scrapped its nuclear hopes in 2003, Mr. Rood says Tehran is still developing medium-range ballistic missiles. He said the United States remains concerned about Iran’s missile capability, no matter what warheads those weapons can carry – conventional, nuclear, chemical or biological. Mr. Rood said little progress has been made in convincing Russia to accept a US missile defense system in central Europe, although he described the discussions as useful. Russia says it is a threat for the US to build a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

News and Views December 13 reported that the UN Security Council condemned the car bombing that killed a senior Lebanese army officer and his bodyguard the previous day, saying the perpetrators must be brought to justice. Marcello Spatafora, Italian Ambassador and UN Security Council President for December said, “It underlines that no attempt to destabilize Lebanon should prevent the holding, without delay, of a free and fair presidential election.” The deceased officer is Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj, a Maronite Christian. He was considered a top candidate to become the next head of Lebanon’s army. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said denunciations of violence are useful when they are backed by actions. Asked if Syria might be behind the bombing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “I think it’s best if I not speculate on who was responsible. They are still looking into it. Of course, in the past there have been incidents where we would blame Syria, but I’m not prepared to do that until that review is complete.” A parliamentary vote in Lebanon to elect a new president has been postponed eight times. Parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri has set December 17 as the new date for the vote.

News and Views December 11 looked at the postponement, once again, of Lebanon’s presidential elections with Brookings Institution researcher Bilal Saab. Mr. Saab said the pro-Syrian/Iranian opposition, spearheaded by Hezbollah – designated as a terrorist group by the US –has prevented the pro-American coalition from ruling through a variety of pressure tactics. But he also said political sectarianism, not necessarily the opposition’s agenda, has denied the aspirations of all Lebanese who are calling for a free, democratic, and sovereign Lebanon. Mr. Saab defined political sectarianism as the allocation of senior positions in the Lebanese parliament and administration based on sectarian identity. He said “gradualism is the only steady and desirable path if Lebanon is going to enjoy a full-fledged democracy.” Mr. Saab said the return of Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon to their homeland would be a positive development as their presence further complicates the process of compromise between Lebanon’s different factions.

News and Views December 14 reported on a joint military exercise of US and Russian forces underway in Germany since December 2 in an effort to better coordinate strategy, communications and tactics in the war against terrorism. US Army Lieutenant General Kenneth Hunzeker said, “Both of us have talked to our soldiers several times and said this is not about politics. This is about how to work military-to-military operations so that our two nations can do that in the future in the global war on terror.” His counterpart, Russian General Lieutenant Vladimir Chirkin, said, “We also remember the partnership that we had with America during World War II.”

News and Views December 16 looked at a fourth round of Iran-US talks on Iraqi security that will likely take place soon. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, “We have communicated to the Iranian government that we are agreeable to that.” And in Tehran, IRNA reported that Iran also has accepted an offer for new and continued talks with the United States. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government welcomed such talks, but said no date has been set for a meeting. Iran has long been accused by Washington of training, arming and funding Shiite militants inside Iraq to kill American troops. But in recent weeks, US officials have said Tehran appears to have halted the flow of arms across its border into Iraq. Mr. Morteza Anvari, an economist and professor at Southeastern University, said, “All three past talks did nothing for Iran. Iran was forced to close its borders to militants, and otherwise, Iran has stopped arming and funding militants. I think that Iran has lost in this game and the US has won. You can see more security in Iraqi cities.”

Roundtable with You December 14 looked at the social and psychological impact of propaganda in Iran with Saeed Payvandi, a professor of sociology at the University of Paris, and Nehzat Farnoudi, a psychologist who teaches and practices in Los Angeles. Mr. Payvandi said the early slogans of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution “were in support of the Mostazefeen, or poorest segment of the Iranian population. Soon, however, support for the ‘poor’ vanished and was forgotten. Lies and corruption turned into an ordinary part of people’s lives. Lies and corruption became a matter of survival.” Ms. Farnoudi described the psychological impact of this phenomenon in people's daily interactions: “Religion lost meaning and lies became institutionalized from the top down, permeating all parts of society.” Both Mr. Payvandi and Ms. Farnoudi said three fundamental areas could change people’s behavior: education, media and globalization. These things, they said, could play an important role in creating a better and more harmonious society.

News and Views interviewed Peter Bechtold, the chairman emeritus of the Near East studies program of the Foreign Service Institute on Iran-Egypt relations being on the rise. Mr. Bechtold said Egypt is to send an emissary to Iran this week to discuss relations between the two Muslim countries. Tehran and Cairo have not had full diplomatic relation since 1980, following the Islamic Revolution and the hostage crisis at the US Embassy. Mr. Bechtold said, “If Arab states of the Persian Gulf have relations with the government of Iran and that is acceptable, then why not Egypt.”

Late Edition looked at online communities with PNN staffer Massud Alemi, who works on our web desk. Mr. Alemi talked about how communities form around the idea of camaraderie, purposefulness, seeking friendship and exchanging modern tidbits of wisdom, pictures, and links. “From MySpace to Facebook, from Yahoo360 to Orkut, the single most unifying idea seems to be that we are all unique and we each have something to share with our virtual friends, an ear to lend to our virtual buddies in times of need, and a few things to write on each other’s virtual walls.” He said of the filtered sites, Facebook has the most mature users, with members increasingly in the 35 and up age group. Of the unfiltered ones, www.gazzag.com has closed down and www.Yahoo360.com may be accessed through the Yahoo website, and perhaps that is why it cannot be filtered, with Yahoo being a major entry point and search engine on the Internet. He said Yahoo360 will be replaced by YahooMash, which is still in the beta phase and accepts members on an invitation basis only.

News and Views December 11 reported on the high-profile visit by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to France that has triggered a storm of opposition protests and public criticism from France’s junior minister for human rights. The Libyan leader’s visit followed Tripoli’s decision in July to release six foreign medical personnel accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV. President Nikolas Sarkozy helped broker their freedom. Libya’s relations with the international community have improved since it ended its nuclear program in 2003. This is Mr. Gaddafi’s first trip to France since 1973. The two leaders signed business deals worth billions of dollars Monday evening, including Libya’s purchase of a civilian nuclear reactor and 21 Airbus planes. President Sarkozy described the contracts as rewards for Tripoli's improved behavior and said, “This is for the employment and growth of the French people. And I want things to be clear. I am also here to fight by the side of the French companies so we get the contracts and the orders that the others were so happy to have instead of us.”

Today’s Woman December 11 examined a bill being considered by the Iranian parliament to reduce the number of working hours for women from eight hours a day to six so that they will have enough time to take care of their house chores. One member of parliament from Tabriz said the bill will give women a chance to be housewives. Another MP from Mashad – Effat Shariati, a woman – said the bill would make women share their working hours between their office and home. The bill, she said, stresses women’s responsibilities as a wife, sister and worker inside the home – not outside. Discussion focused on the discrimination women could face in the work place if the law prevented them from competing with full-time workers. It also looked at ways to prevent the bill from passage and how women should fight for their rights in the workplace.

Roundtable with You December 12 looked at the history of Iranian aviation with a former Iran Air executive and author of The History of Iranian Commercial Aviation, Abbas Atrvash. Now living in Toronto, Mr. Atrvash held a variety of positions, including director for Iran Air offices, inside and outside Iran. Mr. Atrvash said that, “Iranian commercial aviation came into existence in 1927 when a limited number of air services were introduced on specific routes within Iran with Junkers, the German aviation company.” He said a group of businessmen, led by entrepreneur G.H. Ebtehaj, founded Iranian Airways in 1944, but by 1962 the government decided to nationalize commercial air transportation in Iran. “The person commissioned to carry out this assignment,” Mr. Atrvash continued, “was Lieutenant General Ali Mohammad Khademi, an Iranian Air Force Chief of Staff. The new national airline – Havapeimai Melli Iran, Homa – internationally known as Iran Air, was founded in 1962. In a survey conducted before the Islamic Revolution, Iran Air was found to be one of the world’s safest airlines.”

Roundtable with You December 13 featured Iranian-American actor Shaun Toub, who talked about his work on television shows such as Seinfeld, The Sopranos and ER and in films such as Crash, The Nativity Story and Kite Runner. “I was raised in Europe and I lived in England and Switzerland for a while. I moved to the United States when I was a teenager and I received my bachelor’s degree from USC in California. I always wanted to be an actor and I took different acting courses in Los Angeles, which is the most important city in this industry.” He said his parents didn’t approve of his desire to act, but “I ask all the Iranian teenagers I meet to follow their dreams and choose their own destiny.” Mr. Toub described the competitive nature of Hollywood, how difficult it is to be successful and how big a part luck plays in a person’s success. He said he really enjoyed working with director Paul Haggis in the Oscar-winning Crash, and he predicted his latest film, Kite Runner, “will be very successful at the Golden Globes and Oscars.”

Today’s Woman focused on The Kite Runner by Afghan writer, Khaled Hosseini. Mr. Hosseini, whose family was granted political asylum in the United States in 1980, earned a medical degree in 1993, and he was a practicing internist from 1996-2004. His wife, however, encouraged him to pursue his lifelong dream of writing and he began turning his short stories into longer ones. His critically acclaimed book was made into a film that was released this week in the United States. Its release in Afghanistan has been delayed because of the sensitive nature of some of the filming. The Kite Runner is about the friendship between two Afghan boys, Amir and Hassan, who are from different classes in society. Hassan’s father works for Amir’s father, but the two sons play together as they grow up. The book shows Amir going back to Afghanistan and his guilty conscious over not helping Hassan when a group of bullies raped the boy when the two were returning home from flying their kites one day. The show talked about going back to one’s own country and the use of blogs and tourist aids on the Internet to keep in touch with current events at home. Discussion also touched on Mr. Hosseini’s second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, which is about two Afghan women who turn from rivals into friends in their struggle to survive.

Today’s Woman December 13 looked at art censorship and self-censorship with Frankfurt theatre writer and director Niloofar Beyzaie. Censorship can’t kill art, she said, “because artists live in society and their characters reflect what is happening in that society. Art reflects the period of time in which it is produced. Art censorship means lying about that society.” Discussion turned toward two films recently banned by Iran’s Cultural Ministry: Ali Santoori and One Night. One Night, an arthouse hit from director Niki Karimi, one of Iran’s best-known actresses, addresses the age-old questions about how men and women can manage to get along (or not get along) together. Ali Santoori is about a young musician and his family, which opposes his music. Ms. Bayzaie talked about the Iranian government’s censorship of films, and compared the censorship to that imposed by the Russian government. She said the Iranian government is narrow-minded about movies that address social issues.

Today’s Woman December 14 looked at long-distance marriages with psychologist Danesh Foroughi, whose individual counseling practice is based in Los Angeles. “Men and women in different locations should be honest with each other in order to establish a long-term relationship in future,” he said. “Women who marry men from other countries should learn about the laws of that country.” Dr. Foroughi reviewed complications that can arise in marriages and talked about related law and social contracts in Iran. He said the typical arranged marriage in Iran is not successful. Dr. Foroughi also said that some women marry men in the West just to experience freedom, even if it is in exile. But these women can suffer from abuse and live under pressure because of residency problems. He emphasized that women should learn about their rights before moving to another country for marriage purposes.

Today’s Woman December 15 addressed stomach cancer and ulcers in Iran and around the world with NIH epidemiologist Farin Kamangar. Dr. Kamangar said advances in healthcare and science have reduced the number of cases of stomach cancer in the US and other developed countries in the past 60-70 years. But as is the case with other diseases, less developed countries lag behind. He said one area of northwestern Iran, Turkaman Sahra, once had the world’s highest esophageal cancer rate, but now has only one-third the number of cases, primarily due to better sanitation conditions. Dr. Kamangar said the northern city of Ardabil, in Azerbaijan province, still has a high rate of gastric cancer. He said a paper published in the International Journal of Cancer blames the high cancer rate on a bacteria called helicobacter pylori, as well as on volcanic dust from the Sabalan volcano in Ramsar, a northern coastal city overlooking the Caspian Sea. Dr. Kamangar said a number of renowned people have died from problems like gastric cancer and ulcers that are caused by helicobacter pylori – including Napoleon Bonaparte, Ayatollah Khomeini and Pope John Paul II.

Today’s Woman December 12 looked at women in real estate with realtor and broker Mehri Bayat, an Iranian-American who has found success in the metropolitan Washington area with her own firm, Bayat Realty, Inc. Ms. Bayat talked about how people can break into the business and develop a career as a realtor, as well as learning about the market and financial concerns. She said to become a broker in the United States, you need to earn a certificate after attending about 60 sessions on loans, contracting and laws particular to the state you want to work in. Ms. Bayat said she has had to deal with some challenges as a woman broker, and that she has been discriminated against by a number of male Middle Eastern clients who view her with distrust because of her gender. But she encouraged other women to dare to start their own business – whether in real estate or in another field, saying that following one’s dream will lead to success. Real estate, she said, is particularly good for women because it can be very flexible in adapting to the demands of their schedules.

Panelists on NewsTalk this week talked about the National Intelligence Estimate released earlier this month; a conference in Italy on defending democracy in the world of Islam; Muammar Gaddafi’s trip to France; violence in Lebanon; the human rights situation in Iran; Iran’s support of terrorism (“Iran’s export of terrorists, training of terrorists and funding of terrorists is what makes it dangerous – this meddling in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan and in the establishment of bases in Sudan”); student protests in Iran; blaming the student protests, in part, on the government’s “iron fist” tendencies (“pointing out that Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi is a worse human rights violator than most, with responsibility for the murder of thousands on his watch”); problems besetting Iran’s labor movement; IAEA technical talks in Tehran; the reduced likelihood of new sanctions in the wake of the revised NIE; the meeting in Edinburgh of defense ministers from the US, Canada, Britain and five other NATO countries whose troops are doing the bulk of fighting in Afghanistan’s violent south; how improved Iranian-Arab relations would probably moderate Iran’s hard-line policies; and Kazem Darabi’s release from a German prison and his return to Tehran.

PNN’s stringer in Rome covered the conference on “Fighting for Democracy in the Islamic World,” which took place December 10-11 as a follow-up to a conference on democracy and security held in Prague in June. The Prague conference saw wide attendance by dissidents from nations where freedom is denied, so the Rome conference picked up from there to challenge the west to do more while helping dissidents better understand the relationship between freedom and security. One panel of particular interest to PNN was “Regime Change from Within,” moderated by Natan Sharansky with student activist Amir Abbas Fakhravar speaking about spreading Islamic fundamentalism through Iran’s public schools. Mr. Fakhravar was a panelist on NewsTalk December 13 and he talked further about the conference with PNN’s viewers.

This week’s History Channel segments included a profile of the battle of Antietam, known as the bloodiest single day in American history with more than 23,000 casualties on both the Union and Confederate sides. In the final tally, more men lost their lives at Antietam than in all other wars fought by this country in the 19th century combined. Another segment profiled Pete Sampras, who became the youngest men’s tennis champion at the US Open at the age of 19 in 1990. Before retiring in 2002, Sampras would win 11 Grand Slams and be tied for the longest stint as the world’s #1 player. The third segment profiled Chris Evert and detailed her legendary career and life from the early years learning the game from her father in the Fort Lauderdale suburbs to her role as super mom, most recently in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The last two segments looked at George Washington, who everyone knows as larger than life, an icon of almost mythic proportions. But before he became America’s first president … before he became the Father of His Country … before he became an enduring national symbol, George Washington was a soldier. He was Washington the Warrior.

This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – answered a viewer’s question on whether PNN is totally independent from VOA. “The Persian language service was a part of the Southwest Asia Division until recently,” Mr. Mahmoudi answered. “As Persian language television programming increased, VOA’s management decided to create the Persian News Network as a separate entity from the Southwest Asia Division. But we are still a part of VOA and are governed by the VOA charter and its journalistic code.” Another viewer asked if PNN is controlled by the US government. “As we’ve discussed previously,” Mr. Mahmoudi said, “in the United States, the government has no authority to censor and/or control any medium of communication, especially the press. Unfortunately, it is normal for dictatorial regimes to control all aspects of their citizens’ lives, including the press. In the free world, the press plays an important role in the system of checks and balances, a concept that is alien to dictators and absolute rulers. We are lucky that our network is operating freely in this ideal environment.”

PNN’s question of the week was, “Do you think the National Intelligence Estimate will resolve Iran's nuclear issue?”

Out of 6653 respondents, 68% said yes, 27%said no, while 5% did not know.

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The Persian News Network’s television programming complements our simulcast radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four adult Iranians tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs are also streamed on our website, www.voapnn.com.

PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of news breaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows: Today’s Woman, PNN’s newest program, had its debut September 27, 2007. The one-hour program features influential women from around the world discussing a full spectrum of topics, including social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business. News and Views, PNN’s existing flagship, is now 2 hours in length, and features live news coverage of the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe. Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health. Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails.

Late Edition begins with a wrap up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture. NewsTalk is a new journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.

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VIEWER PERSPECTIVES

A viewer in Tehran sent in the photos below of a street girl in the Iranian capital – a sight that would have been unimaginable in previous years is becoming more common as Iran’s economy flounders.

One article this week in Rooz, a popular online daily in Persian, covered a speech made by a top Revolutionary Guards commander at a college campus in Tehran. He accuses the student movement of getting its marching orders from the West. “Iran is the heartland of the world, and will remain so for another 75 years,” he said. In his analysis, US domination of the Middle East is dominated by a desire to dominate Iran or, in his words, the heartland. Calling on current leaders of the student movement, he said, “The vanguard of the student movement, who were inspired by the liberals and imperialists, brought about the student uprising of 1999. They are now continuing their treachery of Iran by working at VOA….Don’t even think of following their steps because the last stop for liberal student leaders will be working for VOA.”

From an Iranian viewer in Dubai: “Authorities have replaced scarves and hats with black veils, lengthened Capri pants to full-length, taken away make-up, taken every effort to hide every strand of hair. The young men, too, have had to give up fashionable denims and western hairstyles. Forget about people’s privacy and civil rights. Go to hell with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which the former dictator of Iran was a signatory….We people of Iran accept all of this. But in turn, you, the respectable authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran! Have you forgotten that all of these unruly teenagers – the ones who you try to rein in by force of Islam’s moral code guardians – were born and brought up during your years in power? You may be successful in changing their appearance according to your rules, but how can you change them from within? Weren’t your revolutionary values supposed to conquer the hearts of the people of Iran? Do you think you have succeeded?”

From an Iranian viewer living outside Iran: “As an Iranian, I am very sorry that our president is such an uneducated man. Those of us who live outside Iran are seen as terrorists (because of him).”

From a viewer in Shiraz: “I must say that I truly enjoyed the Roundtable program tonight (Friday, December 14) which was dedicated to the social and psychological effects of slogans in Iranian society. Your choice of guests was just superb. Dr Saeed Payvandi and Dr. Nehzat Farnoudi were fantastic. The discussion was thoughtful, well balanced and directly on point. I am sure the effect on viewers will be a simple AWAKENING and that is exactly what Iranian society needs. I was glued to the television and listening to every word discussed on the program. Please, please, please continue such programs. Iranians need to point their fingers at others less and look at themselves in the mirror more. We need to change the mentality and outlook that this nation has been accustomed to for centuries if we want people to start using their minds and analyzing their way of life, asking questions and joining advanced nations.”

From a viewer in Kurdistan: “By freeing Kazem Darabi and his accomplice, the government of Germany has paved the way for terrorists supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran to continue their acts of terrorism more and more blatantly.”

From a Late Edition fan in Karaj: “You have to be proud of yourself because you have one of the best shows on VOA.”

From a viewer in Iran: “I don’t think that interrupting a program to do newsbreaks makes any sense. You already have two hours of news a day, which is more than enough.”

IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency) had this to say on December 11: “The propaganda of psychological operations against the Islamic Republic is now taking shape in a ridiculous form. Media connected to the White House accuse the judicial branch of the Islamic Republic for violating human rights under various pretexts, and their claims are usually based on what the relatives of prisoners of security crimes have to say. In one of their latest broadcasts, they claim the son of one of the leaders of the July 1979 riots in Tehran has caught a cold because of budget cuts. After visiting his father in prison, the son told VOA, the Department of State’s organ, that his father’s physical condition is not satisfactory and that he was pale as a result of the cold. He claimed that prison conditions are poor on the comfort scale and that the main reason for this is the Ahmadinejad government’s cutting of the prison’s budget.” (Editor’s Note: Ali Tabarzadi, the son of Heshmatollah Tabarzadi, gave an interview to PNN radio on December 10, talking about his father’s ill-treatment at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Mr. Tabarzadi was imprisoned after appearing on Roundtable with You October 22, where he said authorities are resorting to torture, “obtaining confessions” and getting “students to say things they have no knowledge about.” “Torture,” he said, “makes you say what people want to hear.”)

From a viewer in Afghanistan who likely doesn’t realize that most Americans aren’t watching Late Edition: “I think you are the best of all the networks. And I am happy that a girl of the Persian race [show anchor Luna Shadzi] is driving the American people crazy.”

From a viewer in Isfahan: “There are three brothers who have been murdering innocent people and robbing others of their money at gunpoint for the last three months. They were arrested and taken to court last month, but two managed to escape justice. They are now at large, and have threatened to take more lives unless the third brother is freed from prison. I am writing to draw the attention of the extremist rulers of Iran that all this happens at the exact time when they are executing their so-called “mission to improve security in society” in the capital and major cities of Iran. But this ridiculous and humiliating mission does not go beyond forcing people to obey the Islamic dress code.”

The Iranian Political Prisoners Association sent in a link to their blog and an entry called “A Human Rights Activist has Spent More than 200 Days in Solitary Isolation, which looks at journalist Saeed Matinpour, who wrote at the Yarpach newspaper in Azeri: “In a letter that Mrs. Atiyeh Taheri [his wife] has written, one can read, ‘Dear God, it has now been more than 200 days that my husband Saeed has been confined in solitary isolation, been tortured, had insomnia, been humiliated, doesn’t see the sun, and they want him to confess to uncommitted crimes, sit in front of the camera and testify against himself. I don’t have any news about him and don’t know what they are doing to him.’” (Editor’s Note: the blog is at http://iranppa.blogspot.com.)

A number of viewers wrote in about December 21 being Shabeh Yalda, an ancient Iranian celebration of the winter solstice (or longest night of the year), reminding Iranians – inside and outside Iran – to remember and celebrate their national feast days and not to have such days forgotten “in the shadow of Islamic rules.”

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