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Jian Ghomeshi found not guilty on all charges as judge acquits him of sexual assault

TORONTO — Jian Ghomeshi was acquitted Thursday on all charges of sexual assault and choking following a trial that sparked an emotional nationwide debate on how the justice system treats abuse complainants as well as raucous courthouse protests over the verdict.

Justice William Horkins said he was unable to rely on the testimony from the three Ghomeshi complainants, describing their memories of alleged abuse at the hands of the former CBC broadcaster as “shifting” and suggesting their evidence at times strayed into outright lies.

All three women testified they were being romantic with Ghomeshi when he briefly turned violent in incidents dating to 2002 and 2003. The identities of two of the women are protected by a publication ban. The first witness alleged Ghomeshi pulled her hair in his car and punched her in his home, Lucy DeCoutere alleged Ghomeshi choked and slapped her in his home, and the third witness alleged Ghomeshi put his hands over her mouth in a Toronto park.

All Horkins had to go on, not unusual in sexual-assault cases, was the complainants’ credibility, which Horkins denounced without mincing words.

“What is troubling is not the lack of clarity, but the shifting facts from one telling to the next,” Horkins said at one point during his hour-long decision. He was referring to DeCoutere’s testimony.

Read the rest here.

Iranian of the Day: Ashraf Pahlavi (1919-2016)

Photo: "Painted lady," by Andy Warhol, 1977. Image credit: the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Inc; the Artists Rights Society, New York; DACS London

The New York Times: Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, who was the twin sister of the last shah of Iran and who was known for her diplomatic skill and sharp political instincts, died on Thursday. She was 96.

Robert F. Armao, an adviser, said the cause was “old age.” 

Mr. Armao said Princess Ashraf died in her sleep at home in Europe but declined to name the country, citing concern for the safety of her family.  

The princess was a close ally and staunch defender of her brother, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, throughout his reign and a royalist committed to the art and culture of her homeland after the 1979 revolution that replaced the monarchy with the country’s Islamic government, said Andrew Cooper, a professor who specializes in United States-Iran relations at Columbia University.

According to an internal secret history of the C.I.A., she also played a crucial role in the British- and American-inspired military coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and restored her brother to the throne.

Princess Ashraf was known as “a very strong personality and a very strong feminist,” said Mr. Cooper, who is writing a book on the royal family. Her advocacy for the rights of women and children won her admirers among younger Iranians, he added. 

Mr. Armao, who said he had been a senior adviser to the princess for almost 40 years, described her as an accomplished diplomat, establishing Iran’s relations with China and serving as the head of the Iranian delegation to the United Nations for more than a decade.  

She is survived by her son, Prince Chahram Pahlavi; five grandchildren; and a number of great-grandchildren, Mr. Armao said. Mr. Cooper said a second son, Shahriar Pahlavi, was assassinated on a Paris street in 1979.

Iranian of the Day: Bennetta Betbadal, among victims of San Bernardino shooting

The Sun: Bennetta Betbadal, born in Iran in 1969, fled to America when she was 18 to “escape Islamic extremism and the persecution of Christians that followed the Iranian Revolution,” her family said in a statement.

On Wednesday, she was among the 14 victims shot to death at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino by a husband and wife under investigation for possible Islamic extremism.

“There is no reason for evilness,” her husband, Arlen Verdehyou, said in an interview. “You just have to be strong for each other.”

The family statement said Betbadal settled in New York City after she came to America and eventually moved to California, where she married her husband, a police officer at Riverside Community College, in 1997.

They moved to Rialto and had three children, two boys and a girl now ages 10, 12, and 15. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in chemistry, Betbadal took a job as an inspector with the San Bernardino County Health Department in 2006.

“Bennetta was proud to work for the people of San Bernardino County,” the statement said. “She loved her job, her community, and her country.”

Verdehyou said he and his wife exchanged texts at 8 a.m. Wednesday. He told her he had withdrawn money from the bank and would do some Christmas shopping. He told her to have a great day.

Betbadal left the house excited about a presentation she was scheduled to give to her supervisors and co-workers at their annual meeting at the IRC.

“She decorated a beautiful Christmas tree,” her husband said.

The couple, religious Roman Catholics, were married in March 1997.

According to her LinkedIn account, Betbadal also had a bachelor of science degree in biotechnology. She spoke Farsi and Assyrian and listed her skills as government, policy, research, training, analysis, community development, policy analysis and program development.

On Sept. 5, 2009, she wrote a Facebook post to Ashur Bet Sargis, an Assyrian pop singer: “My dearest Ashur, I thank God for creating you, for creating such a wonderful loving human, and for giving you such a great talent. May our Lord Jesus be with you all the days of your life.”

On Thursday, Verdehyou was with his two sons and daughter at their Rialto home as they awaited word of Betbadal’s fate. Although he had not heard from her since their Wednesday morning text exchange, he was holding out hope.

The news finally arrived when coroner’s officials came to the door.

Family members said Betbadal’s greatest love was for her husband, her children and her extended family. A gofundme account was established to assist them.

In the statement issued to the news media, the family said: “It is the ultimate irony that her life would be stolen from her that day by what appears to be the same type of extremism that she fled so many years ago.”

Michelle Obama hosts a Nowruz celebration at the White House

Photo from Omid Memarian's Facebook page.

Nazanin Boniyadi Just Picked for New Ben-Hur Film as Esther

Hollywood Deadline Exclusive: EXCLUSIVE: After a heated competition, Homeland actress Nazanin Boniadi has scored the offer to play the female lead opposite Jack Huston in the Timur Bekmambetov-directed remake of Ben-Hur for MGM and Paramount Pictures. Boniadi plays CIA operative Fara Sherazi on the Emmy-winning Showtime drama starring Claire Danes. She will play Esther in Ben-Hur, the role that Gal Gadot was in discussions before conflicts knocked her out.

Iranian of the Day: Kayhan, Musician in New York

From Humans of New York page: "My name's Kayhan, but I go by 'Lefty.'"

Iranian of the Day: Javad Nekounam, Soccer Player

From 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil:

    Iran
    Midfielder
    138International Caps
    37International Goals
    33years old
    188cm
    First internationalJordan - Iran 30 May 2000
    Date of Birth07 Sep 1980
    Current clubKuwait SC (KUW)

According to Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, Javad Nekounam "has been playing a key educational role" in his transitional side. It is, indeed, a tribute the 33-year-old midfielder more than deserves, considering his status as the squad's most experienced player.

The Team Melli captain is Iran's second most capped player in history with 136 international appearances, trailing only legendary goal-king Ali Daei's 149.  Since making his national team debut against Syria in a friendly in May 2000, he went on to impress in Iran's opening two matches at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. Although he was suspended for the closing group match and his side failed to progress to the second round, his eye-catching displays earned him a high-profile move to Osasuna.  During six years with the Spanish La Liga side Nekounam established his place as one of Iran’s most successful overseas-based players. That, allied with his consistent performances with the national team, saw him inherit the captain’s armband from the talismanic Mehdi Mahdavikia in 2009.

Deployed as a central midfielder, Nekounam plays a key role in both Iran’s defence and attack. Aside from dealing with rival offences, he has always been at the centre of Iran’s more positive intentions, with his tally of 37 international goals making him the current squad’s top marksman.

While steering Iran to their fourth global appearance, Nekounam maintained no-less-impressive form during Team Melli’s qualifying for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. He finished as the tournament's second top-marksman as Iran sealed progression to the continental finals. Recently he has been found excelling with his new club Al Kuwait, scoring five times in just 12 appearances.

With the maestro in his best shape, Iran can at least harbour their own share of hopes of progression from a tough group which also features Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Nigeria.

Photo from here.

Female bikers outside Tehran

Women in eastern Tehran mountains welcoming the Iranian Motorcycle Federation's announcement that women can participate in Motorcycle competitions.

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Food of Life
Songs of My Homeland, Honiball Joseph, February 25, 2017 - Cupertino, CA
Fared Shafinury Concert, Buriel Clay Theater, San Francisco, January 28, 2017