Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington D.C. – October 19, 2008… Top stories of the week included live coverage of the final Presidential Debate on location at Hofstra University; analysis and updates on the value added tax (VAT) initiative in Iran; news of measures undertaken by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to freeze bank assets; a chance at détente as a U.S. Interest Section in Iran is debated; and a victory for Iran against North Korea in a World Cup qualifying soccer match.
COVERAGE OF THE FINAL PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE
News and Views October 16 – PNN’s report from Hofstra University showed how Senator John McCain used the final debate of the presidential election on Wednesday night to raise persistent and pointed questions about Senator Barack Obama’s character, judgment and policy prescriptions in a session that was by far the most spirited and combative of their encounters this fall. At times showing anger and at other times presenting a methodical determination to make all his points, Senator McCain pressed his Democratic rival on taxes, spending, the tone of the campaign and his association with the former Weather Underground leader William Ayers, using nearly every argument at his disposal in an effort to alter the course of a contest that has increasingly gone Senator Obama’s way. Nevertheless, Senator Obama maintained a placid and at times bemused demeanor as he parried the attacks and pressed his consistent line that Senator McCain would represent a continuation of President Bush’s unpopular policies, especially on the economy. That set the backdrop for one of the sharpest exchanges of the evening, when, in response to Senator Obama’s statement that Senator McCain had repeatedly supported President Bush’s economic policies, Senator McCain retorted, “Senator Obama, I am not President Bush. If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.” Acknowledging Senator McCain had his differences with President Bush, Senator Obama replied, “The fact of the matter is that if I occasionally mistake your policies for George Bush’s policies, it’s because on the core economic issues that matter to the American people — on tax policy, on energy policy, on spending priorities — you have been a vigorous supporter of President Bush.” The debate touched on a wide variety of issues, including abortion, judicial appointments, trade and climate change as well as the economy, with the candidates often making clear the deep differences between them.
News and Views October 16 – PNN caught up with Babak Yektafer, the editor in chief of the Washington Prism. The Prism is an online journal of culture, politics and society in Persian. PNN spoke with Mr. Yektafer about the outcome of the debate. It is widely reported that there was no clear winner in this last debate. Mr. Yektafer commented that he believed Senator McCain was in clear control during the first 30 minutes of the debate. He stated Senator McCain was calm, bringing several new issues to the debate by separating himself from President Bush’s policies. In Mr. Yektafer’s opinion, Senator Obama took control of the latter part of the debate by presenting policies and an economic action plan backed with facts and figures.
Late Edition October 16 – PNN’s in depth coverage of the debates included a segment on
the campaign trail. Senator Obama warned his supporters to guard against overconfidence on Thursday as he and his Republican rival, Senator McCain, opened a 19-day sprint to Election Day. The two candidates hit the campaign trail – Senator Obama in New York and New Hampshire and Senator McCain in Pennsylvania – after their third and last presidential debate on Wednesday. The debate was seen by many as a testy face-off, which made an Ohio plumber famous. Senator McCain said Thursday that Joe the Plumber, whose questions about Senator Obama's tax policy became a centerpiece of the final presidential debate, was the real winner of the televised forum.
News and Views October 15 – PNN reported live from Hofstra University as Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama faced off in their final debate on Wednesday. Three weeks before the November 4 election, Senator McCain is running out of chances to reverse his slide in national opinion polls and gain ground on a surging Senator Obama. PNN reported that opinion polls show Senator Obama gaining strength nationally and in battleground states after weeks of economic turmoil and plunging stock markets. More voters are saying they trust Senator Obama's leadership on the economy. A CBS News/New York Times poll showed Senator Obama leading by 14 percentage points, the fifth survey this week to register Senator Obama's lead in the double-digits. Additionally, a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll gave Senator Obama a 4-point edge over Senator McCain. The final encounter at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York was the third and last debate between the presidential contenders and their final opportunity to reach a television audience of more than 60 million viewers. The manner of Wednesday's debate demonstrates how an up and coming university like Hofstra can use presidential events to build a national reputation, thereby enhancing its attractiveness to students. To accommodate 3,100 visiting members of the media and the large entourages of the Democratic and Republican campaigns, Hofstra mobilized 350 student volunteers, 200 university staffers and coordinated more than 200 vendors to prepare for its ninety minutes in the national spotlight. In the past 15 years, Hofstra's student body has swelled to over 12,000 students. As Hofstra began to attract more than half of its students from out of state, the university decided to build its reputation in two areas – presidential scholarship and conferences based at its National Center for Suburban Studies. PNN interviewed Dr. Meena Bose, the Peter S. Kalikow Chair for Presidential Studies at Hofstra University; Stuart Rabinowitz, President of Hofstra University; and college Republican and Democratic leaders:
Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz believed, "The third and final debate is going to be crucial but no matter who wins, Senator McCain or Senator Obama, Hofstra has already won it." Rabinowitz, who rang the opening bell of NASDAQ today, supports the government financial bailout plan now known as the Tarp Plan. He emphasized, "A healthy stock market and strong economy is very crucial for the success of the University."
Dr. Meena Bose, the Peter S. Kalikow Chair for Presidential Studies at Hofstra University said, "McCain has an uphill battle against Obama but 3 weeks in politics is a long time... I don't think a comparison between President Reagan in the last days of the1980 election with the current situation of Senator McCain is a right one."
PNN interviewed political members of both campaigns about post-debate polls, the impact of the financial crisis on U.S. military spending, public diplomacy, and democracy promotion programs:
Governor Jennifer Granholm (D-MI):
“Senator McCain needed something drastic to happen and the only thing that happened is that people saw somebody was angry and frankly looked a bit desperate and was talking about issues that were not relevant to what people here care about.”
Nicole Wallace, McCain Senior Advisor:
“It was a decisive victory for John McCain... I think all Americans care about the truth and so when we talk about Barack Obama and some of his lies about his associations, it's about getting at the truth and that's not a Republican issue, that's not a Democratic issue, it's something all Americans want to hear.”
Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-MN):
“McCain will work hard campaigning through the next 3 weeks to convince voters that he can fix our economy and health care system by doing that through patience rather than having the government take over like Senator Obama wants to do... he's come from behind on a lot of different occasions in his life and I think he can do it again here.”
Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL):
“I think that it is too essential to our national security interest not to make sure the world understands what we believe in, what we're fighting for and the values we represent.”
Robert Portman, Senator McCain’s senior economic advisor:
“Defense spending is very important particularly in supporting our troops overseas but there's also fat and waste and bureaucracy at the Department of Defense and Senator McCain has never been afraid to go after that. He has supported, as you know, the increases in funding that Congress and President Bush have agreed to with regard to so called soft diplomacy.”
Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM):
“There may be some cuts of unnecessary weapons systems, but we need more men and women in the Army and the Marines. I think it's important that we enhance our commitment to public diplomacy, to reach out to the third world, to reach out to the Muslim world.”
Congressman Pete King, ranking member of House Homeland Security Committee (R-NY):
“He [McCain] would get more out of our military spending. He is an expert on that but it's a dangerous world and we can't be cutting back on our military strength. Whether it's President McCain or President Obama we are going to be very strong in urging democracy, trying to encourage democracy.”
NewsTalk October 15 – PNN aired a live interview with Shahin Nabi, an Iranian-American member of Senator McCain’s campaign. Mr. Nabi was born and raised in Boston. Currently he is a political science student at Hofstra University. He helps the McCain Campaign in Pennsylvania. PNN asked Mr. Nabi what viewers could expect in the weeks leading up to the election, "Senator McCain told me in person that you will see him getting tough on Senator Obama for his association with domestic terrorists and he will criticize him for his tax proposals and his health care plan." Mr. Nabi also told PNN that he had a phone conversation with Governor Sarah Palin, in which she thanked him for his dedication. Mr. Nabi said one of the reasons he is supporting Senator McCain is because of his approach towards Iran, "During the past 30 years, the situation in Iran and the Persian Gulf has changed a lot and we need to talk to Iran, but as Senator McCain has rightly said, with conditions and at a lower diplomatic level."
NewsTalk October 15 – PNN spoke with journalist Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh and analyst Dr. Mohsen Sazegara about the U.S. presidential campaign. In answering a question on Middle East policy, Dr. Nourizadeh mentioned that the democrats are more in support of Israel, and the republicans are more in favor of the Arabs. He also noted that President Bush is the first U.S. president to emphasize the need to have a two-state solution for the Middle East. Dr. Sazegara agreed and added that former Ambassador Dennis Ross, who was a Clinton Administration official, is also a member of the Washington Institute. He explained that this organization is “funded by individuals deeply committed to advancing Israel's agenda. Also, Mr. Ross is a strong adviser for the Obama Campaign and if Senator Obama is elected President, he could end up as a high ranking official in the administration.” It is reported that Mr. Ross has mentioned that we cannot wait for China or Russia to enact a Security Council sanction against Iran. Instead he is looking to limit Iran's oil revenue and to reduce the amount of gasoline Iran is importing. Dr. Nourizadeh suggested that the change of military leadership in Iran is because Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that military leaders who were trained during the Shah's regime are still under the auspices of corrupt teachings. However, he also noted that Ayatollah Khamenei believes that a veterinarian, who overnight became the commander of all armed forces in Iran, is very qualified. Dr. Sazegara stated that Iran's economical woes have little to do with the current world economic crisis, because Iran keeps withdrawing funds from the foreign exchange reserve.
STREAMLINING THE CAMPAIGN SYSTEM
News and Views October 15 – A federal appeals court ordered Ohio's top election official to set up a system by Friday to verify the eligibility of newly registered voters and make the information available to the state's 88 county election boards.
News and Views October 15 – PNN assessed possible topics of the last presidential debate. According to many financial analysts, neither of the candidate's financial plans is pragmatic nor concrete. Tonight's debate will most likely revolve around the financial meltdown and the two rivals' rescue plans. Some analysts have asked, "What is the price of carrying out these plans and what would the cost be?" The average poll says Senator Obama is favored over Senator McCain by 6.7 %.
News and Views October 14 – With less than three weeks to go until the presidential
election, PNN reported that the economy is likely to stay the central issue in both presidential campaigns. Senator Obama talked about his economic plan in a rally in Ohio. As polls show Senator McCain sliding, the republican Senator laid out his economic plan.
Late Edition October 16 – Senator Obama is making U.S. political history by placing the first presidential campaign ads in online video games. The Democratic Illinois senator is using the Internet ads, featured in 18 games through Microsoft Corp's Xbox Live service, to promote his online voter registration and early balloting drive in 10 battleground states, a campaign spokesperson said on Wednesday. Unprecedented in U.S. presidential politics, the videogames mainly target young adult males who are difficult to reach through more traditional campaign advertising. Late Edition reported that sources close to Senator Obama confirm that the Senator has also purchased 30 minutes of time on CBS and NBC during prime time and he is in talks to purchase spots on other networks. The 30-minute ad will air from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday Oct. 29. It is the first political ad buy of that length since Ross Perot ran for president in 1992.
Late Edition October 16 – PNN reported on politics through the eyes of Hofstra students by taking a closer look at a student magazine called Nonsense. The aim of this Late Edition segment was to highlight for viewers freedom of speech principles at American universities.
Brandon Smith, editor of Nonsense:
“Quite frankly when it comes to the parties, they both have gaffes and they both have things that people make fun of and deserve to be made fun of. And I guess irreverence is the biggest thing for us and so we don't hold anything sacred, no matter what it is. With straight journalism, it is hard to do things and not put your own personal politics into it and it is very difficult to be objective. With this, where you're just being silly and trying to get a laugh, personal politics, I think, are pretty irrelevant.”
Stuart Rabinowitz, President of the Hofstra University:
“We firmly believe in academic freedom here and free speech. If there's any place where you need to let all views heard and dissent and discussion flourish it is on a university campus. I feel very, very strongly about that. This is where ideas are tested with arguments each way and that is how one arrives at the truth or one's version of it. So we are very protective of that. We will have many demonstrators here on the night of the debate tomorrow. We have set up a whole area for the protesters, a place where they can use facilities, buy food at a commons area, and use a microphone if they wish to express their views away from the debate hall. So this is part of university life and a good part of it, a place where everyone can feel comfortable expressing different points of view.”
Brianna Gays, College Republican:
“I don't think that Nonsense truly represents the Hofstra population. Hofstra students are very aware of what is going on and they respect the debate and politics of McCain and Obama whether they so choose to vote for either one. I do not necessarily think that speaks for the students here. I think a group of individuals came together and that's what they published and there's a lot of humor in it and it's a relaxer but at the same time when it comes down to it we all have our opinions here and we're all different in that.”
Sean Hutchinson, College Democrat:
“I think Nonsense is definitely important. I think it is not something to be taken literally, because it is a comedy. It's a comedic piece and this is a lot about satire but I think it's important because it shows another view about this election and it's not so much straightforward but I definitely don't think that it's something that should be taken literally or too serious because it's definitely just a play on everything.”
GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS CONTINUES
News and Views October 13 – The financial crisis continues to drag down the global economy as world leaders try to find solutions to the crisis. European stock markets rebounded strongly on Monday after last week’s historic low. European shares are up as investors are more optimistic in early trading. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, addressed the media after an EU emergency summit meeting. She described the summit as “successful.” Chancellor Merkel said the EU would provide liquidity to the markets, lend capital to banks and guarantee loans between banks.
News and Views October 14 – PNN reported that Asian markets soared for a second day, led by a 14 % jump in the NIKKEI Tokyo index, after last week’s plunge. The American and EU governments have taken steps to tackle one of the core financial problems by reviving bank-to-bank lending. Asian stock markets rallied strongly after concerted government efforts and central bank bailouts worldwide. Investors remain wary despite the stocks rallies. Analysts warn that the bounce in stocks may be temporary. World markets closed up as the U.S. and EU moved to buy shares in banks.
News and Views October 14 – Paris-based economist Jamshid Assadi spoke with PNN about the global financial situation. He believes the situation will slowly improve due to the various financial aid packages being implemented by governments around the world. On a question regarding Nobel laureate Paul Krugman's statement that the financial crisis is threatening the global economy with recession, Mr. Assadi described Krugman as a Marxist economist and said he was not too happy to hear that he was awarded the Nobel Prize.
News and Views October 15 – President Bush and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson continued discussions aimed at a government buyout of up to $250 billion in bank stocks. President Bush said the FDIC would take decisive steps to tackle one of the core financial problems by guaranteeing and reviving bank-to-bank lending. In spite of the steps taken, global key stock indexes remain depressed. Stocks on Wall Street initially rallied but announcement of the plan caused the market to decline. Most key Asian indexes remained down after a two-day rally, however Japanese share prices remained higher.
News and Views October 17 – Following up last week’s analysis of the global financial crisis, PNN invited Dr. Massoud Yahyazadeh to News and Views. Dr. Yahyazadeh is a Professor of accounting and finance at George Mason University’s School of Management. According to Dr. Yahyazadeh, the roots of the current banking problems stem from American real estate holdings. He stated that from 2000 to 2005, “We witnessed the sharp increase in the real estate market. This sharp increase stopped when millions of bank customers were unable to meet their obligation to banks.” In translating to viewers how this led to the current crisis, which has pervaded world markets, he commented, “Increasing defaults led to a shortage of bank capital.” These defaults, he added, made it increasingly impossible for banks to meet their own loan obligations to international banks. Thus, world financial crises have ensued. Changing subjects, Dr. Yahyazadeh spoke about the effects, if any, that these crises will have on Iran. Because in Iran the government owns banks, he said that the public will expect government intervention to save any failing banks. He concluded by saying, “The greatest pending crisis for Iran would be the decline of oil revenue and a resulting 30% inflation.”
NORTH KOREA REMOVED FROM TERRORISM BLACKLIST
News and Views October 13 – Diplomats in Geneva say North Korea has allowed United Nations nuclear monitors to return to the country's main nuclear facility after kicking them out last week. North Korea barred IAEA inspectors from the site last week in an act to pressure the U.S. to remove the country from a terrorism blacklist. The U.S. removed North Korea from the blacklist on Saturday, saying Pyongyang had agreed to all of its nuclear inspection demands. Nuclear negotiators say the turnaround will be an opportunity to get the six-party nuclear talks back on track. North Korea promised to allow U.S. and UN nuclear inspectors to verify the dismantling work and announced it would resume disabling the Yongbyon facility. Taso Aro, Japan's Prime Minister, said President Bush told him in a phone conversation that Japan's issue with Pyongyang over the abducted Japanese citizens would not be forgotten in the talks. Victor Char, former deputy head of the U.S. delegation for the 6-party talks and current director of Asian Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., believes there are many loopholes in the agreement but the decision is preferable to any other course of action. The Financial Times has reported that the U.S. and its allies are discussing a 'coalition of willing' states that would impose sanctions on Iran's energy and financial sectors without UN backing. Meanwhile the German news agency, Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA), reports that a French parliamentary delegation says it came out of talks with Iranian officials in Tehran, yet no real progress was made. According to DPA, the French delegation made it clear to Iranian officials that Paris would not tolerate any violation of Israel’s security.
TRILATERAL TALKS BETWEEN IRAN, IRAQ AND THE U.S. POSSIBLE
News and Views October 15 – PNN relayed news of a pledge by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to explore every possibility to reach a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians before the end of President Bush's term in office in January. She also stated, while speaking at a Palestinian Business and Investment Forum, that security cannot be attained without a positive economic outlook. Secretary Rice said Palestinians must do more to uproot terrorism and Israelis should stop settlement activities. In other world news, the Iranian Speaker of the Parliament said sanctions and threats will not make Iran suspend enrichment. During his attendance at the inter-parliamentary Union in Geneva it was announced in Tehran that the Bushehr power plant would be operational by March 2009. A BBC-Persian website report says that the Iranian ambassador to Iraq has announced the country's readiness to participate in trilateral talks. Department of State spokesman, Sean McCormack said he was unaware of any Iranian request through official channels to have a 3-way meeting in Baghdad via the Crocker channel. Mr. McCormack added, “We'll take our cues from the Israeli and the Palestinian negotiators." Under further questioning, Mr. McCormack reiterated that the security situation in Iraq has improved, but said he can't say that the "Iranians consciously had anything to do with that," and that in fact he doubts that they had anything at all to do with the matter.
News and Views October 16 – U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling for greater cooperation from the international community to stabilize Afghanistan. During a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Wednesday, Secretary Gates said international efforts add up to less than the sum of the parts. He repeated his frustration over the limitations that some NATO countries place on how and where their forces serve in Afghanistan. The U.S. Defense Secretary also said success in combating the Taliban insurgency relies not just on military power but on increasing development in Afghanistan.
FINANCIAL ACTION TASK FORCE FOCUSING ON IRAN
News and Views October 16 – The U.S. Department of the Treasury issued a statement today on Iran by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) during its plenary meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statement by the FATF marks the fourth time in the past year that the organization has warned the world of the serious threat posed by Iran's lack of a sufficient anti-money laundering and counterterrorist financing regime. FATF expressed particular concern about Iran's lack of effort to combat terrorist financing and declared that this continues "to pose a serious threat to the integrity of the international financial system." FATF further declared that "urgent action" by Iran to address these concerns is necessary. As a result, FATF called for countries throughout the world to strengthen measures to protect their financial sectors from these risks posed by Iran. PNN reported that Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey released the statement today following Australia's designation of individuals and entities involved in Iranian proliferation activities, including Iranian state-owned banks Melli and Saderat. "The U.S. Government welcomes the Australian government's imposition of financial and travel sanctions on individuals and entities involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs, including freezing the assets of Bank Melli and Bank Saderat. We applaud Australia for taking steps to further isolate Iran and we encourage countries around the world to take similar steps.”
UN SECURITY MANDATE IN IRAQ WILL EXPIRE
News and Views October 14 – PNN reported that Iraq's Sunni Vice President told McClatchy Newspapers that time is running out on the U.S.- Iraq Strategic Security Agreement saying that “an accord is unlikely by the end of this year.” The current UN mandate will expire December 31. While the Iraqi Prime Minister wants an agreement and timetable for the pullout of U.S. troops, both Iraqi officials believe that "a sudden withdrawal may harm security." Susan Ziadeh, a U.S. embassy spokesperson, says, "Both sides are working hard to come to an agreement". In other news, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates returned from his European tour on Friday. The Washington Post quoted General Ray Odierno as saying that according to intelligence reports, Iran is bribing some Iraqi legislators to prevent an agreement. He admitted though that there is a lack of hard evidence. The Iranian state media charged "Washington is trying to force Maliki into selling its sovereignty." If an accord in not reached, there are options available including an extension of the UN mandate or a handshake agreement on maintaining the status quo until the next U.S. administration can enter talks with Iraq.
News and Views October 14 – Live from Irbil, PNN learned that Iraqi authorities
announced the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Agreement would be signed in the next few days. It is reported that pro Al Sadr lawmakers will oppose with the agreement. President of the Autonomous Kurdish Government in Iraq Massud Barzani is in Iraq to talk about the plan. Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Seyyid Ali Al Sistani supports the U.S-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will be in Iraq to sign the pact. The U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, believes Iran is bribing Iraqi lawmakers to oppose a security pact allowing U.S. forces to stay beyond the end of this year. Iran has denied this report.
News and Views October 15 – Live from Irbil, PNN’s stringer reported updates on Iraq. Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell released a statement regarding a critical need to secure an agreement for British forces to stay in Iraq as the UN mandate is set to expire at the end of 2008. Mr. Rammell stated the importance of securing an agreement similar to the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement. He further stated that failure to reach an agreement would undermine the progress currently made in Iraq. Iraq’s Parliament is set to vote on the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Security Agreement on Friday. The U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces have reduced violence in Iraq; however, some northern regions remain volatile. There are concerns that lawmakers who are sympathetic to cleric Moqtada Al Sadr will oppose the agreement.
News and Views October 18 – PNN confirmed that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talked by phone to Iraqi leaders regarding agreements on the future presence of American troops in Iraq. The two sides have still not settled a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) for U.S. troops due by December 31. Iraqi and U.S. officials have differed over issues such as granting immunity to U.S. soldiers for acts committed in Iraq, U.S. power to detain Iraqi prisoners and the future command of military operations in Iraq.
IRANIAN GOVERNMENT DELAYS VAT TAX
NewsTalk October 14 – PNN examined news from Iran and the globe with guests, Nasser Mohammadi, the Deputy Editor of Kayhan of London newspaper, and freelance journalist Elaheh Boghrat. NewsTalk looked at why economic tension in Iran is rampant and why the government has delayed implementation of the value added tax (VAT) policy. Some analysts believe that the struggle between business owners and the government over the VAT policy is a prelude to the upcoming presidential elections in Iran. Other reports indicate that former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani believes that the agriculture industry in Iran is on the verge of bankruptcy. Mr. Mohammadi believed that the angst over the VAT policy is solely an economic issue. However, Iranian newspapers have alluded that this disagreement could be part of an anti-government movement. President Ahmadinejad believes the problems stem from a “bunch of thugs who have attacked the businesses and bazaars in Iran.” Further, he feels that this is what has prevented businesses from opening up and has dismissed notions that these are strikes against the VAT policy. Mrs. Boghrat was also in agreement with Mr. Mohammadi in that levying a tax is a correct one, but the current economic status of Iran does not allow for such massive tax implementation at this time. Mrs. Boghrat noted that those who have bigger incomes ought to pay more in taxes. She stated that the issue of VAT came about due to the decrease in oil prices. Mrs. Boghrat believed that the strike amongst bazaar merchants in Iran is a sign that the government is losing control and noted that Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, has talked about the destruction of communism and Marxism, as well as liberalism. According to Mrs. Boghrat, Ayatollah Khamenei is wrong in the comparison of Marxism, liberalism, and communism, and their relevance on the economic policies of the world. During a phone conversation with an Iranian student from Shiraz University, where Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani met with the students, Mr. Mehrdad Hamidi noted that there were several large crowds gathered to talk to Mr. Larijani. When some members of the crowd were not permitted entry to the auditorium, crowd members broke barriers to enter. Reports indicate that it was during this time that audience members booed Mr. Larijani.
News and Views October 14 – PNN has learned that the gold merchants in Tabriz are still on strike and the gold bazaar in Tehran is still partially closed. Ali Akbar Arabmazar, head of Iran's taxation organization, was quoted as saying that the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) has been put off following talks with President Ahmadinejad. "More than 400 merchants in the Tabriz bazaar are on strike and have shut down their shops for 10 consecutive days. This is the first time since the revolution in 1979 that the shopkeepers in the bazaar have gone on strike to such a length," stated a local journalist in Tabriz. Some analysts believe that the strike reaction was out of proportion to the probable implementation of the VAT. Economist Mojtaba Kazzazi, stated that since this law was instituted prices have risen between 5 to 10 %.
News and Views October 16 – PNN continued coverage on the VAT initiative. According to merchants, the VAT initiative will have detrimental effects on the bazaar by increasing the tariffs on goods, which may lead to smuggling. Economist Mojtaba Kazzazi emphasized that there is complete confusion in the private sector about the economic programs the government is promising to execute because the government does not publicize the information on these programs.
News and Views October 17 – PNN learned that the Iranian State Tax Organization has denied reports that it sent a letter to banks asking for the release of private banking information. According to Tabnak, a news website, sources report that the government is under pressure from internal factions, which have advised the Majlis to halt implementation of the plan. PNN spoke with two analysts to gain insight on this development, Dr. Bizhan Bidabad and Mojtaba Kazzazi. Dr. Bidabad authored the VAT tax initiative in Iran and was the top economical adviser to President Khatami. Mojtaba Kazzazi is an exporter of petrochemicals and an economic expert in Tehran. Dr. Bidabad confirmed that a letter was sent to banks asking for private banking information, which is a violation of current banking regulations. He also stated that executing the VAT initiative would assist the middle and lower socio-economic levels by taxing high-spending consumers: "Value added tax is determined by deducting the expenditures from income,” added Dr. Bidabad to PNN. Bazaar merchants are criticizing the move saying that the government did little to educate merchants about the initiative. Mr. Kazzazi commented, “Even the Parliament has stressed that the government should release the information on this program so that they can evaluate it, but there have been no publications regarding what the government is doing in the economy and therefore there is widespread confusion among the bazaaris."
IRAN’S MEMBERSHIP IN THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL REJECTED
News and Views October 18 – PNN spoke with Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba about the reasons for Iran’s rejection of its application to become a member of the UN Security Council. Dr. Diba stated that Iran was unlikely to have a good chance based on several reasons. He said, “First, Iran was competing with Japan, a powerful country that is very involved with the UN. Second, Iran’s attitude towards the UN Security Council has not helped its membership.” Many countries like Japan contribute millions in funds annually to UN programs in order to assist their chances of membership. Being a member of the Security Council carries great weight because member countries have a more effective role in UN programs and decisions. Turning to Iran, Dr. Diba responded to a question regarding reports that the Majlis Speaker Ali Laijani is processing the request of some American political figures to open the talks between the two countries. Dr. Diba stated, “There is a possibility of talks. We must consider that we are close to Iran’s presidential election, and Mr. Larijani is using this issue for his election campaign.” “However,” he stated, “I don’t think the talks would have any results because Iran has expectations which the U.S. cannot accept.”
IRAN’S OIL ECONOMY MAY BE AFFECTED BY UPCOMING OPEC MEETING
Roundtable October 14 – focused on oil prices and their effect on the Iranian Economy in its interview with Dr. Hassan Mansour, a professor of economics at Schiller International University. Dr. Mansour began by giving PNN some background information regarding the oil market. He noted that oil is a product with an elasticity of supply and demand. He explained this concept by demonstrating that if the oil supply is increased by 2 %, oil prices could go up by 30-40 %. Conversely, if the demand for oil is reduced by 2-3 %, its price could drop by 50 %. With this base concept in hand, Dr. Mansour explained how in the last few months oil prices increased because of massive demands by China and India. He stated that oil is also considered to have a geopolitical cause and effect ratio. For example, when the President of Iran speaks of Israel’s demise, “oil prices soar, because it creates a bubble and, that could be interpreted as the reason for such rhetoric by the Iranian leader.” Accordingly, “recent research conducted on the Iranian economy shows that if the price of oil falls below $80 a barrel, the government will not be able to meet its financial obligations and an economic “catastrophe” could result. In closing, Dr. Mansour stated that the market is a very sensitive one, one that is directly dependant on the politics. He added that any small event would affect it enormously and would cause significant fluctuations in price.
News and Views October 15 – PNN spoke with petroleum consultant Dr. Parviz Mina about the impact of the declining oil prices on Iran’s economy and way of life. Dr. Mina spoke of the significant role of oil in Iran’s economic and industrial development adding “more than 50 % of the budget and about 90 % of foreign exchange is secured by oil revenue.” As Iran’s budget deficit grows, importing goods and commodities becomes increasingly more difficult. At first, Dr. Mina declined to comment on the upcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna and instead focused on the geopolitical causes of the decline in oil prices as background. Dr. Mina then answered the question by saying that if the trend in declining oil prices continues, OPEC may decide to cut the level of oil production at the meeting scheduled in Vienna for November 18.
News and Views October 16 – International energy consultant Mehdi Varzi, founder and President of Varzi Energy, an international consultancy based in London, spoke to PNN about the upcoming OPEC meeting in Vienna in November. Mr. Varzi stated that OPEC decides supply and demand rates for the global oil market and if OPEC wants to keep the price per barrel at $80.00, it should cut production. The problem remains that if OPEC cuts production, OPEC must explain to the world why they are taking such action during a time of crisis. Focusing on Iran’s economy, Mr. Varzi commented, “No country can be immune in the world. Iran's economy is dependent on oil and oil products.” He further stated that despite the high price of oil, Iran is experiencing numerous problems because the economy must still create jobs.
News and Views October 17 – Professor Hamid Akbari, associate professor at Northeastern Illinois University, talked about Hashemi Rafsanjani's recent remark regarding Mossadeq and its significance. He is also the author of “Mossadeq and the Future of Iran.” He was formerly the executive director of the International Society for Iranian Studies.
DIVERSITY VISA LOTTERY PROGRAM
Roundtable with You October 13 – Immigration attorney Dr. Homayoun Moghtader joined Roundtable to speak about a popular topic – the Diversity Visa Lottery Program – also referred to by the public as the ‘Green Card Lottery.’ Dr. Moghtader noted that there is a strict format that Iranians must adhere to when applying for the program. Dr. Moghtader mentioned that the necessary information must be displayed correctly and each applicant must print the final page of registration for his or her own records. The applicants' pictures must adhere to the following format: JPEG format, 24-bit color, 600x600 pixels, and no more than 240 KB, wearing no hats, and if for religious purposes, headscarves are okay. Dr. Moghtader also noted that Iranians who were born outside Iran but now reside in Iran must use Iran as their Country of Eligibility and Country of Chargeability. In regards to questions about pregnant women who will give birth after the registration deadline passes, Dr. Moghtader noted that a pregnant woman can only apply for herself, her husband and any other children under the age of 21; and if successful, she can submit the name of the child as another dependent. Dr. Moghtader also clearly stated that there is no fee charged for filing this form. Further, organizations and websites that advertise for such services should not to be trusted as they are not authorized agents of the U.S. Government nor the visa program. Full information about the program can be found in Farsi on the VOA/PNN website at www.voapnn.com
DÉTENTE MULLED AS U.S. INTEREST SECTION IN TEHRAN CONSIDERED
48 Hours October 18 – PNN followed up on a scoop in the Washington Post about a possible U.S.-Iranian détente. Columnist David Ignatius wrote last week that the Bush administration plans to take the step of announcing the opening of a U.S. Interest Section in Tehran. This would happen by mid-November, according to the columnist's sources. The administration had planned to announce the interest section in August, but Russia's invasion of Georgia and worries about U.S. election politics intervened, Ignatius wrote. Hooshang Amir-Ahmadi, President of the American-Iranian Council, started off by arguing that the Islamic Republic is not yet ready to have the Bush Administration open an Interest Section in Tehran. "Unfortunately, those who hold sway in Iran are opposed to the idea so President Ahmadinejad needs to lobby harder within Iran's power structure to make this Interest Section a reality," he added. According to Mr. Amir-Ahmadi, Washington's emphasis on regime change in Iran has fostered an atmosphere of distrust in Iran. "We need to persuade Iranian leaders that Washington is not after toppling their clerical rule," he said. Addressing the significance of U.S.-Iranian relations for the prospect of a more democratic Iran, he said that history has shown that only countries that have ties with the United States have any chance of developing civic institutions and establishing some sort of democratic rule." However, news analyst and former Iranian official Mohsen Sazegara dismissed the idea. He discounted the story written by David Ignatius and said that in all likelihood no U.S. Interest Section will be opened in Iran until after Iran's presidential election in June 2009. "Contrary to the common perception, there is a greater opposition to the normalization of relations in Washington than in Tehran," he added. According to Mr. Sazegara, in opening up relations with Tehran, the U.S. administration needs to set some pre-conditions that will take into account the human rights situation in Iran. "A good model would be the Helsinki Accord, which contained provisions concerning human rights. These provisions happened to turn the Helsinki Accord into one of the most important human rights documents of its time. These provisions were formally binding on all Western and Soviet-block countries. The same model would be useful for dealing with Iran," he concluded.
THREE MILLION ECSTASY PILLS CONFISCATED IN TEHRAN
News and Views October 13 – In PNN’s follow up from last week, PNN’s investigative report on Iran focuses on the latest discoveries regarding designer street drugs in Iran. General Hosein Abadi, chief of the narcotics division of the Iranian Police, recently told ISCAN news that during the past six months police have confiscated more than 3 million ecstasy pills. PNN has found out that the government conceals the number of fatalities caused by drugs by putting them among the fatalities caused by "poison". According to guest Dr. Kazem Attari, director of the physician’s media organization in Iran, there are no official figures as to how many people die every year due to drug overdose. According to statistics released by the Iranian National Center for Addiction Studies (INCAS), Iran has 4.3 million addicts. PNN has learned that there are currently 116 centers for drug rehabilitation in Tehran, which can serve up to 3,000 addicts every two months. Adding to the mix, the Ministry of Health, which is the administrator of INCAS, has announced that it is facing a $550 million deficit this year. Dr. Attari stated that because “these rehab centers are unable to solve the fundamental problems of their patients; most of these people start their drug use within a short period of time after being cleansed." PNN asked Dr. Attari the main causes of drug addiction among Iranian youth today. He answered, "Depression, stress and psychological problems are the main causes of drug addiction among youngsters." According to recent studies, more than 63 % of Iranian youngsters spend their free time alone in their homes. "Obviously if there were enough sport centers or recreational centers that the youth could spend their time in, it would help rehab centers decrease the addiction level in the country," said Dr. Attari to PNN.
STUDIES DISAGREE ABOUT BRAIN TUMORS AND CELL PHONE USAGE
Roundtable with You October 15 – PNN educated viewers about the controversy of the effects of cell phone use and brain tumors. Evidence varies as some studies have shown that cell phone use can cause brain tumors, while other studies have rejected the idea. According to the American Cancer Society, there have been 16 studies conducted on this issue. Only two have shown a real connection between cell phone use and brain tumors. The Radiation Research Trust has stated that those who are under the age of 20 and use cell phones extensively are five times more likely to develop a brain tumor than others. PNN invited Dr. Saeid Jamshidi to Roundtable to give viewers more insight on this topic. Dr. Jamshidi stated that all devices such as televisions, computers, even alarm clocks on nightstands transmit Electro Magnetic Radiation. Dr. Jamshidi asserted that cell phones emit two types of waves: short waves and long waves. Short waves cause cells to synthesize more protein, which can lead to changes in a cell’s make-up. If a cell divides abnormally due to this protein synthesis, it can cause tumors. Heat is also another cause of tumor development, and in fact, after 15 minutes of continuous cell phone use, an individual's temporal cavity could be so heated that it could lead to further cell synthesis and unnecessary cell production, which might lead to cancer. Dr. Jamshidi noted that the development of a brain tumor can take anywhere from 10 to 20 years. He advised that everyone ought to be diligent about excessive cell phone usage and people should be extremely careful about signs of trouble.
HUMAN RIGHTS UPDATES
NewsTalk October 13 – PNN spoke with three human rights activists in Iran about the current state of affairs. Journalist Shokouh Mirzadegi, Human Rights Activist Elaheh Sharifpour Hicks and Spokesperson for the Consortium of Iranian Human Rights, Ahmad Batebi, contributed their opinions to the show. The Iranian Minister of Social Welfare has dismissed the claim that 40% of the Iranian population lives under the poverty line. The Minister of Social Welfare has been noted as saying, “that a person with empty pockets is not poor, whereas someone with an empty mind is poor.” PNN also reported that over 2 million children in Iran are breadwinners for their households. In closing, the show examined how religious minorities continue to face severe hardship for their beliefs.
ARTICLE 23 OF FAMILY PROTECTION BILL OMITTED
Today's Woman October 13 – The Family Protection bill in Iran with Toronto-based lawyer and human rights activist Ms. Leili Pourzand was discussed. After gaining strong opposition, Article 23 of the bill was omitted. Article 23 would have allowed a husband to practice polygamy without the consent of his initial wife. However, the article provision has resurfaced with a member of the Iranian judiciary committee contending that the article needs alteration, not omission. Ms. Pourzand stated that there is no way to correct the article because the entire concept is unjust. The next portion of the show discussed a report released by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) called “Mockery of Justice: The Framing of Siamak Pourzand.” In a phone interview, IHRDC board member Dr. Ramin Ahmadi discussed the functions of the IHRDC and the reasons why they chose to report on Siamak Pourzand, a journalist imprisoned in Iran for five years. Ms. Pourzand, daughter of Siamak Pourzand, discussed the restrictions political prisoners face when they are released from custody. She contended that political prisoners who are released are not entirely free; acknowledging that although her father was released he is not permitted to leave the country and safe passage for his family members is not permitted.
Also on PNN…
IRAN BEATS NORTH KOREA 2-1 IN WORLD CUP QUALIFIER
Late Edition October 17 – PNN covered Iran’s 2010 qualifying World Cup game against North Korea at the stadium in Tehran. Sports journalist and soccer analyst Hassan Al Safar joined PNN for Late Edition. In an exciting match, Iran beat North Korea 2-1 in its second qualification game in the Asian group B. Despite the win, Mr. Al Safar commented that it was not Iran's best performance. He felt that North Korea dominated the field during the second half. Mr. Al Safar suggested Iran’s head coach, Ali Daie, review his tactics to come up with more varied plays and lineups for future games. Still, Mr. Al Safar praised the coach for his successes thus far. Mr. Al Safar strongly voiced his opinion that star player Ali Karimi should be invited back to the national team. Mr. Al Safar criticized the Iranian Football Federation for their mismanagement in supporting the national team. He cited their involvement as one of the main reasons why Mr. Karimi, who was Iran’s best player, ended his career with the national team. This is a huge letdown for the Iranians. Coach Daie and the IFF are facing growing pressure to bring Mr. Karimi back to the winning team.
GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY: A SCHOOL WITH NO BARRIERS
Late Edition October 18 – PNN introduced viewers to a unique institution of learning, Gallaudet University in Washington DC. Gallaudet University was the world's first university founded to educate the deaf and hard of hearing. Today, more than 144 years later, it is still the world's only university designed specifically for deaf and hard of hearing students. Chartered by Congress in 1864, the school has become the cultural center for the deaf in the United States. As PNN reported, it is a place where the silent community is able to make its voice heard: “Here at Gallaudet there are no barriers, there is nothing that we as deaf people can’t do so that’s given us the sense that we can move forward, we achieve whatever we want to do and explore what we want to learn, have goals for ourselves and actually carry them out,” remarked one professor.
Late Edition October 16 – Late Edition aired an original six-minute story shot, voiced, edited and produced by PNN video journalist Saman Arbabi. Mr. Arbabi’s story is about a young African-American-Iranian law student named Tehran, who comes from Washington, DC. This fast-paced story included a short bio of Tehran told while driving in the streets of Washington and sprinkled with images of his childhood. Next the character talked about his first experience visiting Iran at age six while the voice over was covered by a short, original animation produced by Mr. Arbabi. In the final section of this story, the PNN video journalist gives Tehran an “Iranican” multiple choice test to see what percentage of Tehran is Iranian American.
THE GREEN PARTY ANNOUNCES TICKET FOR 2008 ELECTION
Late Edition October 18 – PNN’s political coverage for 2008 included a Late Edition story on the Green Party in Los Angeles, California. Sara Amir-Ebrahimi introduced The Green Party as the third-most powerful political party in America. The Green Party of the United States was formed in 2001 as a reincarnation of the older Association of State Green Parties. Its initial goal was to help existing state parties to grow and to promote the formation of parties in all states and colonies. Ms. Amir-Ebrahimi said, “We are grassroots activists, environmentalists, advocates for social justice, nonviolent resisters and regular citizens who've had enough of corporate-dominated politics.” She introduced the Green Party's presidential ticket for the 2008 election, Cynthia McKinney and Rosa Clemente. She said, “We are so excited to have two minority female candidates this year. This is a great achievement for the Green Party.” Ms. Amir-Ebrahimia stated that it was unlikely that they would win the election. Instead, their goal is to reach the vote threshold of 5% in order to establish themselves as a political party and to benefit from federal aid in the future. In closing, she said there are many young Iranian Americans in the Green Party and many remain active in local politics.
REVIEW OF MAJOR STORIES IN IRAN AND THE MIDDLE EAST
48 Hours October 20 – London-based journalist and news analyst Alireza Nourizadeh made his bi-weekly appearance on 48 Hours to give his analysis of Iran's major news stories and Middle East updates from the past two weeks. Mr. Nourizadeh commented on a story last week, which alleged that the Nixon and Ford administrations created conditions that helped destabilize Iran leading to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A trove of declassified documents brought to light by scholar Andrew Scott Cooper suggested that the Nixon and Ford administrations, angry with the Shah for his support for raising oil prices, worked to curb his ambitions. "Cooper's report shows that the Shah didn't play a subservient role to Washington, but on the other hand, the U.S. administration was able to dictate oil policy to the Saudis," he said. In another part of the interview, Mr. Nourizadeh said that the recent strike in Iran's traditional bazaar showed the economic incompetence of the government. "The old bazaaris were the allies of Ayatollah Khomeini but this new generation has come to the conclusion that they cannot get along with the clerical regime," he added. A recent government decision to levy 3% VAT touched off widespread strike in the Tehran and Esfahan bazaars. He speculated that the reason behind the decision to impose the 3% levy was to collect money from the merchants in order to buy votes for the upcoming presidential election. In closing, Mr. Nourizadeh introduced a new topic on Iran stating, “By constantly showcasing its military might and weapons technology, Iran has accelerated the arms race in the Persian Gulf region.”
On the Record October 26 – PNN Executive Editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman explained why PNN occasionally invites people from minority groups, both religious and political, to express their views on this program. A viewer asked, “Don't you think this contributes to controversy. Some of them belong to separatist groups. How do you justify this?” Ombudsman Mahmoudi responded that presenting a variety of views about an important issue, such as atrocities against minority religious groups or issues related to human rights and unwarranted punishment like the death sentence of children, are very important. Moreover, he stated, “Most of our viewers are interested to hear the opinions of those outside of the government of the Islamic Republic -- of Iran's officials about these issues. PNN is among the very few media groups presenting a variety of views and options about these crucial issues.” Ombudsman Mahmoudi reminded viewers that it is important to honor principles of journalism by not taking sides, but instead to allow for a platform where different voices can be heard. In closing he said, “Our mission is to present, not to judge. Judgment is always up to you.”
This week on the History Channel – The week began with the biography of actor Tom Hanks. Biography traced the actor's amazing career, from a dysfunctional childhood, through his early career as a Shakespearean actor, and finally down the sometimes bumpy road to stardom. New interviews with Steven Spielberg, Penny Marshall, Garry Marshall, Peter Scolari, Gary Sinise, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper, Hanks' former drama directors and childhood friends helped round out the profile of the man who has been called "one of the nicest guys in Hollywood." Next, Biography examined a more sinister cast of characters as Inside the Hamburg Cell looked at the lives of the 9-11 hijackers. For years, they remained nearly invisible, a small group of dedicated men waiting for the perfect chance to strike. These men, now known as the ‘Hamburg Cell.’ were responsible for the cultivation of the Al Qaeda plot code-named ‘The Planes Operation.’ The group’s leaders were four well-educated Muslim men who shared a common belief in radical Islam. Though Mohamed Atta, Marwan al Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi Binalshibh hailed from different countries – Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Yemen – a spirit of brotherhood prevailed among them. And in time, they committed to a singular purpose – to translate their religious fanaticism into catastrophic action. The History Channel’s third segment took viewers back in time a century to San Francisco in 1906. The glittering city on the bay was a hub of trade and travel. Located just to the east of the San Andreas Fault, the bay area is interlaced with eight major earthquake-producing faults. Viewers learned how the devastating earthquake on the 18th of April 1906 destroyed the city and created shocks for 270 miles that could be felt along the Oregon coast to the north, as far south as Los Angeles and East into the middle of Nevada. The History Channel’s final segment took a somber look at the family of Saddam Hussein. The first part of this two-part series examined a family without limits. The saga of the Hussein family began with grand aspirations. Saddam Hussein had a vision of a dynasty that would live and rule for generations. This program looked at the family roots in central Iraq where no matter what the conflicts were inside the clan, nothing could take the place of a blood relationship when it came to trust and loyalty.
PNN’s question of the week was “Do you consider beneficial the legislation being discussed in the Majlis, according to which female students can only apply to their local college?” Out of 5,087 respondents, 733 or 15% said yes; 4,196 or 82% said no; while 158 or 3% did not have an opinion.
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on 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 newsbreaks 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.
PNN INSIDER - VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
Hessam from Sanandaj wrote: “The government of Iran claims, and has tried, to privatize the industries. This statement or action is meaningless; because, in the process of privatization, a factory is not given to ‘people’, but it is handed over to those who have influence in and connection with the government.”As for the ‘added value tax,’ it is good only for countries with a sound economic system. It is good for countries whose governments render services when they collect taxes. In our country, the government gives no service to people against taxes.”
A viewer from Iran wrote: “Hello to all the intellectuals and enlightened people at Today’s Woman show. I want to thank you for dedicating one of your programs to Ayatollah Brojerdi. I want to let you know that during this time of oppression and tyranny nobody can be more helpful to this oppressed ayatollah then you. I wish you all the best.”
Hamid Reza from Iran said: “Philosophers and sociologists believe that ethics and morality is the basic principle of a sound and civilized society. In our country, with its 2500 history of civilization, this principle, I regret to say that, has vanished only because the regime does not recognize any values, and is governing with deception and hypocrisy. Morality is undermined in this country. Seven hundred years ago, our poet, Sa’di said: “Peoples with ethics are alive; nations without ethics are dead.”
A citizen from Kermanshah commented to the Baha’is: “Do not think that you are the only ones who are subject to discrimination. All the freedom fighters in Iran are subject to torture, expelling from university, imprisonment and execution. Nobody is safe!”
Sohrab from Shah-abad-e Gharb wrote: “In an interview, Ahmadinejad has asked: how come the banks make trouble to give small loans to average Iranians, but they easily give huge loans to some others? Sohrab then asks Ahmadinejad: How come you, as the President, with all inspectors under you, cannot control the banks? Why do not you release the names of violators?”
Akbar commented: “Regarding the program you aired about the Farsi School in Virginia; We are very proud to see successful Iranian immigrants [women] who are active in preserving our culture aboard. The other interesting subject in your program is Sarah Palin’s life story. Since abortion is prohibited in our laws and culture, Sarah Palin’s family values are interesting to Iranian families. Her picture of holding her Down syndrome child in her arms has impressed us.”
A Today’s Woman viewer wrote: “Thank you for covering women’s rights in Today’s Woman program. Your program about Golshifte Farahani and veil was accurate. You discussed also honor killing in the show. From my point of view, honor killing is rooted in our culture. In my town, a father and his sons beat up his daughter because she wanted to marry a man she liked. I’ve seen several incidents like this. If woman protest, they label us as bad and cheaters. Unfortunately the lawmakers in our county are men and they do not watch Today’s Woman.”
Ramin from Tehran: “I regret to say that some of the so-called ‘intellectuals’ have announced that the closure of jewelry bazaars in Esfahan and Tehran is a mistake, and encourage people not to join the strikers. This is the best time to unite the people, and it is a step to reach democracy.”
Farhad from Iran: “Many of your analytical views given by your guests show that they are not knowledgeable about what happens in Iran. For instance, Mr. Nourizadeh said some days ago that VOA programs have 35 millions viewers. This is not right, because there are not many families in Iran who have dish to view VOA programs.”
Merhad wrote: “I enjoyed today’s program. You touched some sensitive issues regarding women’s veil and identity. You also invited Mrs. Davoodi after a long time! I see that she is the only woman who has kept her veil and still is coming to your program! It shows that you care about having different points of view in your program. I could not follow all parts of the program because Iranian National soccer team was playing game with North Korea during your program. I was switching in between every now and then! I will try to catch your repeated program late night! If I am still awake!”