Indigenous ceramic art purchased during trip to Patagonia in southern Chile.

NASA Welcomes Yasmin Moghbeli

The room fell quiet and all eyes were trained on the projection screen on stage as a livestream showed Jasmin Moghbeli graduating from NASA’s Artemis program. Moghbeli, who grew up in Baldwin, was one of 11 candidates welcomed to the agency, becoming eligible for spaceflight assignments, including trips to the International Space Station, Artemis missions to the moon and even missions to Mars.

More than 50 fifth-grade students sat in rows of chairs in the Lenox Elementary School gymnasium, joined by teachers, administrators and local media to watch Moghbeli, 36, a Lenox alumna, celebrate a special moment in her life at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston last Friday.


The new astronauts, NASA representatives said in a news release, completed more than two years of training and are the first to graduate since the agency announced its Artemis program. They were chosen from a “record-setting” pool of more than 18,000 applicants and will take part in assignments that “will expand humanity’s horizons in space for generations to come.”

After the ceremony, students Skyped with Moghbeli, asking her questions, moderated by Lenox Principal Asheena Baez, who noted that the astronaut “sat in the very seats you’re sitting in.”

“For me, it all actually really started at Lenox when I was in sixth grade,” Moghbeli said, recalling a book report she did on Valentina Tereshkova, a Russian cosmonaut who was the first woman in space. “It was that book report that really got me excited about becoming an astronaut and introduced me to that possibility, that that’s something I can do . . . and now I’m lucky enough to be here today and living out that dream.”

Moghbeli was born in Bad Nauheim, Germany, but considers Baldwin her hometown. She graduated from Baldwin High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering with information technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.



'An American dream': singer Andy Madadian becomes first Iranian on Hollywood's Walk of Fame



The Guardian: At age 22, Andy Madadian fled Iran with nothing, moved to Los Angeles and started playing guitar at nightclubs to pay rent.

Now 63, the internationally celebrated pop singer says he’s ready for another “new beginning”: Madadian is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the first Iranian artist to earn the honor.

“Many people may wonder: would you have a new beginning after 14 albums?” Madadian said days before the ceremony unveiling his groundbreaking star. “But to me it’s new … because a lot of Americans are just discovering me and my music. I’m hoping this Hollywood star will open some doors. We have a lot of great Iranian artists here in LA, and the western world has not discovered them yet.”

Sometimes nicknamed the “Persian Bono” or “Persian Elvis”, the Iranian-Armenian American artist is being honored on the Hollywood Boulevard sidewalk on Friday, after two tumultuous weeks of escalating conflict between Tehran, where he was raised, and the US, the country he has called home for decades.

“It’s a very difficult position to be in as an Iranian American artist, because whatever I produce is for my people – my American people, my Iranian people, my Armenian people,” he said on a recent afternoon, seated inside a bakery in Encino in the San Fernando Valley, not far from his home. “Unfortunately, all of them are in some kind of a clash.”
Iranian Americans on edge as tensions surge: 'The fear is palpable'
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Madadian grew up 7,000 miles away in Iran’s capital, in a neighborhood home to many Armenians. Born in 1956, he shared a single room with his parents, grandmother and five siblings, and for much of his early childhood, the family didn’t have any electricity or running water. “But we had love and music,” he recalled.

He excelled in math in school and some expected him to go into economics, but he always knew he would be a musician. His dad, who worked in road construction, helped him take out a loan to buy a guitar from a neighbor when he was 14 years old, and Madadian quickly started playing gigs with other singers to pay off the debt.

While others around him were interested in Iranian music, Madadian took a liking to British and American rock, falling in love with Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, Kansas and Chicago. “I was much more rebellious,” he said. Ray Charles was his vocal idol. A CBS recording branch in Iran discovered him when he was about 22 and helped him record a song he wrote in English, with plans to pitch him as an “Iranian Rod Stewart” given his similar raspy voice.

Enthralled with American-style music, Madadian knew he wanted to move to the US. But when he finally came to America, it wasn’t just to pursue his dreams. When the revolution broke out in 1979, many were forced to flee, and Madadian lost contact with the producers who had recorded the single. (“Maybe it’s better it didn’t come out, because my English was not good.”)

He got a student visa to play soccer for California State University, Los Angeles, and started playing guitar at nightclubs when he was not in school. He took the bus everywhere and invested whatever cash he saved in his instruments and paying for music lessons: “To me, that was success.”

He later formed a duo with another Persian singer, Kouros Shahmiri, and the two released several albums before Madadian went solo. Madadian eventually began working with the LA-based Iranian lyricist Paksima Zakipour, and in Persian markets, they became known as the “Elton John and Bernie Taupin of the Iranian industry”.

Over the years, Madadian has fused styles of his Iranian-Armenian heritage with western dance music, Spanish flamenco guitar, African rhythms and more. He has long attracted audiences overseas but also got mainstream US attention in 2009 when he collaborated with Jon Bon Jovi to record a Stand By Me cover in English and Farsi to show solidarity with protesters in Iran.

Bon Jovi learned the Farsi lyrics in a day, and Iranian fans thought he sang with a “cute accent”, Madadian said. “This is a New Jersey kid singing Farsi for the first time.”

Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson’s father, introduced Madadian to his daughter La Toya Jackson and the two recorded a song in Farsi called Tehran in 2016. The song, like much of Madadian’s work, was hugely popular in Iran, though all of his music is officially banned by the Iranian government. Bootlegged versions of his music have spread across the country, but he doesn’t make any money off of album sales there.

Because of the ban on his work, Madadian hasn’t been back to Iran in the 41 years since he left. While some Iranian pop stars are exiled, Madadian hasn’t tried to return and doesn’t know what would happen if he did.

‘We have a lot of great Iranian artists here in LA, and the western world has not discovered them yet,’ Madadian said.

“It’s the country I grew up in and I love – beautiful people, beautiful place, beautiful culture,” he said. “I would like to go back when it’s a free democratic country, and my music is not banned but is on the radio and TV. One of my biggest wishes is that one day Iran and America will be good friends where we can visit and play in both countries, and live in both countries.”

A vegetarian whose charity work focuses on animal rights, Madadian said he stays away from political activism. But he noted that that the devastating deaths from the Tehran plane crash caused by an accidental military strike were weighing heavy on him as he prepared to celebrate his Hollywood star and the triumph it represented for Iranian Americans.

Madadian will receive his star alongside a number of world-famous American musicians joining this year, including Elvis Costello, Billy Idol, Alicia Keys, 50 Cent and Muddy Waters.

The honor is a full circle moment for the artist, who remembered his first gigs in LA 40 years ago, which he would promote by posting flyers along lampposts on Hollywood Boulevard.

“I’ve lived most of my life in Los Angeles, so I am truly an Iranian-Armenian American and can say this is an American dream,” he said, adding, “The majority of Iranian artists live in LA. This is our Hollywood, also.”

Iran's sole female Olympic medalist says she's defected


CNN: Iran's sole female Olympic medalist Kimia Alizadeh announced that she has permanently left her country for Europe.

"Let me start with a greeting, a farewell or condolences," the 21-year--old wrote in an Instagram post explaining why she was defecting. "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who they have been playing with for years."

Alizadeh became the first Iranian woman to win an Olympic medal after claiming taekwondo bronze in the -57kg category during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Affectionately known in Iran as "The Tsunami," Alizadeh announced she was leaving her birth country with searing criticism the regime in Tehran.

"They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me," she wrote, adding that credit always went to those in charge.

"I wasn't important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools," Alizadeh goes on to say, explaining that while the regime celebrated her medals, it criticized the sport she had chosen: "The virtue of a woman is not to stretch her legs!"

Reports of her defection first surfaced Thursday, with some Iranians suggesting she had left for the Netherlands. It's unclear from her post what specific country she's gone to.

On Friday, the head of Iran's Taekwondo Federation, Seyed Mohammad Pouladgar, claimed that Alizadeh had assured both her father and her coach that she was traveling as part of her vacation, a trip he claimed was paid for by the Iranian government. He dismissed the reports of Alizadeh's defection as politically motivated rumors amplified by the foreign media.

Alizadeh confirmed the rumors Saturday, saying she "didn't want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery" and that she did not want to be complicit with the regime's "corruption and lies."

"My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies. I wish for nothing else than for Taekwondo, safety and for a happy and healthy life, she said adding that she was not invited to go to Europe.

She said the decision was harder than winning Olympic gold. "I remain a daughter of Iran wherever I am," she said.

Her defection comes amid anti-government protests in cities across Iran on Saturday and international pressure after Iran admitted it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian flight, killing all 176 people aboard.

Canada, Sweden and other countries whose citizens were killed have increased demands on Tehran to deliver a complete and transparent investigation against the backdrop of fresh US sanctions on Iran and a dangerous escalation with Washington.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus commented on Alizadeh's defection.

"Iran will continue to lose more strong women unless it learns to empower and support them," she said. 

Aryamehr University Application Form (circa 1977/78)

Patrimoine mondial (World Heritage Site)

World Heritage Site is a landmark or area, selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for having cultural, historical, scientific or other form of significance, which is legally protected by international treaties. The sites are judged to be important for the collective and preservative interests of humanity. As of July 2019, a total of 1,121 World Heritage Sites (869 cultural, 213 natural, and 39 mixed properties) exist across 167 countriesChina and Italy, both with 55 sites, have the most of any country, followed by Spain (48), Germany (46), France (45), India (38), and Mexico (35).

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Arrest of Writer and Translator Arash Ganji

Writer and translator Arash Ganji arrested and denied visitation from family or legal representation

January 3, 2020

PEN America (New York, NY) – The arrest and detention of writer and translator Arash Ganji in Iran is an unwarranted attempt to stifle free expression, and he should be immediately released, PEN America said in a statement today.

Ganji is a well-known writer and translator, and currently serves as Secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association (IWA). On December 22, 2019, authorities raided Ganji’s apartment and confiscated his belongings, including his laptop, books, and notes, and then arrested him on undisclosed charges. According to his sister, his family has since learned that he is being detained at Evin Prison in solitary confinement, where he is being subject to interrogation and denied visitation from either his family or legal representation. In addition, he suffers from a serious heart condition that requires medical care, which they fear he is being denied.

“The Iranian authorities have blatantly targeted Arash Ganji for his writing and work to foster free expression and cross-cultural literary understanding,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “As secretary of the Iranian Writers’ Association, Ganji is a courageous leader in a country where free expression is all too often met with harassment or imprisonment. Ganji has committed no crime; he should be released immediately, and provided with all necessary medical attention in the meantime.”

Authorities have a long history of harassing the IWA; in February 2019, three members of the IWA were arrested, and in April they were each sentenced to serve six years in prison on unsubstantiated charges of “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security.” PEN America’s work on freedom of expression in Iran includes its advocacy on behalf of imprisoned writers and journalists, including Narges Mohammadi and Nasrin Sotoudeh. Sotoudeh was honored with PEN America’s Freedom to Write Award in 2011; after being released in 2013, Sotoudeh was rearrested in 2018, and is currently serving a sentence of 38 years in prison and 148 lashes.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications,, +1 202 309 8892

Ramin Karimpour's Pizzeria Antica


Champain Center

Pizzeria Antica is an Authentic Neapolitan Pizza Restaurant in the heart of Downtown Champaign, Illinois. Antica strives to perfect the art of pizza as practiced in the City of Naples in the Campania Region of Italy. CCP spoke with owner Ramin Karimpour.

When did Pizzeria Antica open?

Summer 2014.

What’s your background and how did you get into the pizza business?

My wife and I moved to Champaign twelve years ago to get PhDs at the university. After graduating, instead of moving to jobs outside of Champaign, my spouse was hired by UIUC. I was done with academia. Both of us decided that if we were going to live in Champaign, our community should have a “serious grade pizzeria” so we took it upon ourselves to open one up.

What is a Neapolitan pizza? How’s it different from regular pizza?

Alright, so in the world of pizza the Neapolitan is serious pizza. Much like coffee, beer and craft whisky, Neapolitan is craft pizza. It originates from Naples, Italy where a pizza maker is an artist and puts extreme care into the product. At Pizzeria Antica pizza making is truly a craft.

What’s your most popular pizza?

We are best-known for the Margherita. It’s a simple recipe. Toppings are crushed tomato, basil, cheese, olive oil and salt. Pizza perfection.

What made you decide to open Pizzeria downtown?

Downtown Champaign is where we wanted to be. Pizzeria Antica is a downtown-type business; it wouldn’t work in a strip-mall or convenience location. We wanted a building that reflects the history of our craft and a place where people have spent time and effort to preserve the architecture.

What’s your favorite season downtown? Why?

Always the beginning of spring and summer, when the weather is beautiful, and people are sitting outside. Downtown Champaign on a Friday night is magical! It’s a party – mellow, relaxing, and family-friendly.

What are your hopes & dreams for Pizzeria & downtown Champaign?

Our hope is to become part of the fabric of Champaign. I’d like to see us full every day and every night with people that know us and love our pizza – regulars. We’re getting there.

Follow Pizzeria Antica on Facebook at @anticachampaign.


Karlie Kloss, Austria, American Vogue 2013

Photograph by Mario Testino, on exhibit at his gallery (MATE) in Lima today.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh Stunner

Cesar Azpilicueta scored the first Premier League of the new decade but a brilliant bicycle kick from Alireza Jahanbakhsh earned Brighton a deserved point in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea.

Azpilicueta celebrated his 100th start as Chelsea captain with the opening goal, guiding the ball home from close range in the 10th minute after Tammy Abraham's shot was blocked near the goal line by Brighton's Aaron Mooy following a corner.

The result at the Amex Stadium helped Brighton end a run of nine straight league defeats by Chelsea stretching back to 1983 while Frank Lampard's side were left to rue the missed chance to seal back-to-back league wins for the first time since November.