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.     


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.


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.”

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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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 destruc