May 4th, 2009
04:17 PM ET

Dear Iran: Free Roxana Saberi - Now

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/04/30/iran.journalist/art.saberi.afp.gi.file.jpg caption="Roxana Saberi records video in Tehran, Iran, in this photo taken in September 2003."]

Arsalan Iftikhar | BIO
Founder, TheMuslimGuy.com

To the 65.8 million wonderful people of Iran:

As an American Muslim human rights lawyer, I write to you today to kindly ask for the immediate release of American journalist Roxana Saberi. In order to continue the advancement of peaceful dialogue between our two nations, it is an absolute moral (and religious) imperative to release Ms. Saberi immediately so that she can continue her work in journalism and continue to give a voice to the majority of voiceless Iranian people to the rest of the world.

Roxana Saberi was first arrested in January 2009 in Iran; her family was told it was for simply buying a bottle of wine - an act banned under the country's Islamic legal code.

However, Iranian prosecutors have since then decided to accuse her of working as a journalist ‘without a valid press card,’ and finally, last month, of being a ‘spy’ for the United States.

And between January and March 2009, Ms. Saberi was only able to contact her family in the United States twice, according to international human rights group Amnesty International.

“The fact that Roxana Saberi faced a shifting tide of accusations from the time of her arrest until her trial is an indication that the Iranian authorities were looking for any excuse to detain her,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program for Amnesty International. “There is no reason for holding Roxana Saberi, unless the Iranian authorities can provide convincing evidence that she committed a recognizable criminal offense…”

Ms. Saberi has told her family that she has not been physically harmed in jail, but was finding life difficult in the notorious Evin prison; near the capital of Tehran.

According to Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders), Roxana Saberi has been on a hunger strike since April 21, 2009. In solidarity with their fellow reporter, several journalists from Paris to New York to Washington DC have also participated in hunger strikes.

“Roxana has been considerably weakened by her hunger strike and, like her family, we are very concerned for her health,” Reporters Without Borders recently said in a statement. “We are therefore symbolically taking over her hunger strike in a gesture of solidarity, so that she does not have to continue it herself…”

Jamila Bey, a former NPR colleague and a friend of Saberi, told me in an exclusive interview for this column, why she was fasting in solidarity with Roxana: “I believe this unjustly imprisoned woman's work could bring about peace between our cultures," she said. “Roxana is a shining example that educating a girl, permitting her to travel and encouraging her to ask questions can produce a citizen of the world who can help us to better understand each other…”

Bey added that “it's harder to go to war with nations that share some connection. My hunger is a small sacrifice to pay so that this journalist may continue her work for truth, and perhaps, someday for peace…”

As a journalist and international human rights lawyer, I join with Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to call for the immediate release of Roxana Saberi. Allowing Ms. Saberi to go home to her loving family will send a resonating message to the rest of the world that the 65.8 million people of Iran are peace-loving people who want multi-cultural journalists of all religions and ethnicities to be able to travel the globe freely in their quest to help continue to give a voice to the voiceless worldwide.

Editor’s Note: Arsalan Iftikhar is an international human rights lawyer, founder of http://www.TheMuslimGuy.com and is a contributing editor for Islamica magazine in Washington.

Filed under: 360º Follow • Arsalan Iftikhar • Global 360° • Iran
May 4th, 2009
04:11 PM ET

Video: Woman recalls 1918 flu

Nearly a 100 years ago the world was dealing with another strain of the H1N1 virus, back then it was called the Spanish Flu. Rose Worth, a 100-year-old woman in Littleton, Colorado, remembers it well even though she was just 9-years- old when the pandemic reached Colorado.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Public Health
May 4th, 2009
03:48 PM ET

Jackson 'wardrobe malfunction' case to be re-examined

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Bill Mears
CNN Supreme Court Producer

The case of Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" on national television — and subsequent fines against CBS — will be re-examined at the order of the Supreme Court.

The justices' Monday sent the case back to a federal appeals court in Philadelphia that had thrown out a $550,000 government fine against the broadcast network and its affiliates for airing the incident during halftime of the 2004 Super Bowl. The pop singer's breast was briefly exposed during a performance with singer Justin Timberlake.

After viewer complaints and national media attention, the Federal Communications Commission said the Jackson incident was obscene. In addition to CBS Inc., 20 of its affiliates also were fined.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: 360º Follow • Supreme Court
May 4th, 2009
03:24 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Obama’s corporate tax crackdown

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Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

President Barack Obama today detailed his administration’s plans to close tax loopholes on U.S. multinational corporations that allow them to legally avoid paying billions in taxes, as well as crack down on overseas tax havens.

The goal is to help create new jobs in the United States and make the tax code fairer.

"I want to see our companies remain the most competitive in the world. But the way to make sure that happens is not to reward our companies for moving jobs off our shores or transferring profits to overseas tax havens," Obama said in announcing his proposals.

But tax policy experts and corporate lobbyists say such measures, unless accompanied by a reduction in the corporate tax rate, will push more companies to move their operations - and jobs - overseas to more tax-friendly countries.

In addition, the White House wants to tighten rules that have allowed thousands of wealthy Americans to open offshore bank accounts - think Switzerland and the Cayman Islands - in an effort to duck taxes at home.

No increase expected for Social Security Benefits

Recipients of Social Security checks are in for a shock: for the first time in more than 30 years, they will not be getting any increase in their benefits next year.


Filed under: Andrew Torgan • auto bailout • Economy • Finance • Wall St.
May 4th, 2009
03:15 PM ET

Craigslist Ad: Sex & Murder


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Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

The Craigslist creepshow continues. And as expected, the personals section has become a common, and unwelcome destination for predators searching for their human prey.

One of the latest examples unfolded in Seattle, and on the very same day Phil Markoff was charged with murdering a woman he allegedly met on the online classifieds site.

But this time, authorities say the suspect didn't conceal his intent to kill. They insist he was actively soliciting for a victim.

According to detectives, Shawn Tyler Skelton posted an ad on April 22 in the Casual Encounters subcategory of Craigslist. The headline was "Strange Desire." Strange it was.

Skelton allegedly was looking for a woman to sleep with and to kill.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
May 4th, 2009
03:00 PM ET

Etiquette and the flu

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Letitia Baldrige
Special to CNN

Writers on etiquette receive a continuous flow of questions on subjects such as "When is it too early in the season to wear white accessories?" and "What is the proper gift to send to a family in mourning?"

But now, questions often apply to serious discussions of good manners and etiquette involving sickness, even if the H1N1 flu turns out to be limited in scope and relatively mild. The following are a few of my answers to recent questions on the subject:

1) If you're a naturally affectionate-hugger-and-kisser kind of person, in the present environment, restrain yourself when greeting friends and family. Cool down! Others may adore your effusiveness under normal circumstances, but these are not normal. Someone who has just seen a grid on TV of the transmission of thousands of flu germs may not want any contact of a close nature for a long time to come.

Keep Reading...

Filed under: H1N1 • Public Health
May 4th, 2009
02:59 PM ET

Swine flu cases rise worldwide as Mexico lowers its alert level

Program Note: Do you have questions about H1N1 (also known as swine flu)? Post them here. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be on to answer them tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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The number of confirmed cases of swine flu jumped to 1,025 on Monday, comprising 20 countries, the World Health Organization said.

The death toll climbed as well as Mexico's health minister announced that a 26th person in the country was confirmed to have died from the H1N1 virus, also called swine flu.

There has been one confirmed death outside Mexico, a Mexican toddler who was in the United States visiting relatives.

The WHO said there were no immediate plans to raise its alert to the highest level, Phase 6. That designation would mean "that we are seeing continued spread of the virus to countries outside of one region," WHO Assistant Director-General Keiji Fukuda said at a news conference.

"If you are seeing community outbreaks occur in multiple regions of the world, it really tells us if the virus has established itself and that we can expect to see disease in most countries in the world."

Keep Reading....

Filed under: 360° Radar • H1N1
May 4th, 2009
02:48 PM ET

Praying for rain

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/04/art.myanmar.anniversary.2.jpg caption="World Vision relief workers travel from village to village to distribute emergency supplies. In the months following the storm, there was often not enough land in the water-logged country to distribute supplies, so aid agencies would travel by boat."]

Mia Marina
World Vision

The second day of May last year was just another day for coconut and rice farmers in Myanmar like U Myint Khine. They were building a road to improve access to a jetty, and sell crops for higher prices in bigger markets. That one small road was supposed to change their village forever.

But something else would change their village that day.

Cyclone Nargis, one of the country's deadliest natural disasters ever, tore up the coast of Myanmar and the lives of 2.4 million people, killing 84,000 and leaving another 50,000 missing. The timing was disastrous for a country dependent on agriculture.

The cyclone struck just before planting season, maximizing the damage. A million acres of rice paddy were inundated with salt water – 85% of seed stocks were wiped out and 2 million head of livestock were lost. Ponds, hatcheries and jetties were destroyed; fishing boats, nets and equipment were damaged.

That meant Nargis hit Myanmar with a double-whammy. Many fishermen and farmers were too busy rebuilding their lives after the storm to get out to sea or raise crops. And the rest of the country didn't have the food to eat or keep the economy going. Nearly a million people needed international food aid to get by.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Global 360° • Myanmar
May 4th, 2009
12:48 PM ET

Photo Gallery: Myanmar one year later

Villagers begin their day before sunrise, waking up to catch fish to sell at the local market and feed their families. The majority of the population in Myanmar's Delta region is dependent on fishing for their survival.

World Vision relief workers travel from village to village to distribute emergency supplies. In the months following the storm, there was often not enough land in the water-logged country to distribute supplies, so aid agencies would travel by boat.


Filed under: Global 360° • Myanmar
May 4th, 2009
12:40 PM ET

God save this honorable cup of coffee

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Jack Gray
AC360° Producer/Writer

I’m a little disappointed, frankly, that Supreme Court Justice David Souter didn’t tell me personally about his retirement. I mean, come on, our families go way back: My grandmother once saw him in the grocery store.

Oh well, I’m more of a Justice Stephen Breyer fan anyway. I remember several years ago when I spent an afternoon at Justice Breyer’s home in Massachusetts. It was similar to the afternoon I recently spent on Lady Gaga’s roof, except I had been invited.

No, I wasn’t at his house to pitch my idea for a Supreme Court musical.  Antonin Scalia dance numbers? Yes, please. I was there producing a rare sit-down interview with the justice. And by producing I mean sniffing his furniture and stealing his ties.

The whole thing was surreal to say the least. To be in the home of one of the most powerful people in America left me almost speechless. It was like meeting Fabio all over again.


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