We shine the spotlight this week on Iran:
IRAN MINISTER: ISIS + USA
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli made an incendiary claim this week during a joint appearance with the Syrian interior minister, connecting ISIS objectives with those of the West. He said that ISIS doesn't just discredit Islam but also poses a danger to "unity, solidarity and stability in the Muslim world in cooperation with the West, the U.S. and reactionary countries in the region." He did not elaborate on this accusation.
He also said Iran, Syria and Iraq were actively fighting "violence" in the Middle East represented not just by ISIS but also Israel, IRNA agency reported.
DIPLOMATS HEAD FOR LUXEMBOURG
Iran's foreign minister and other negotiators are in Luxembourg this week for another round of talks designed to forge an agreement about the scope of Iran's feared nuclear program. Iranian media quoted the minister as saying that an agreement was feasible if all sides "moderated" their demands.
Iran's parliament recently voted to limit snap inspections of Iran's nuclear installations, which the West insists on, though it also effectively abandoned its own ability to veto an agreement reached between Iran and the West, leaving that to a security body headed by the president and taking its cue from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Radio France Internationale reported.
This could actually ease the work of Iranian diplomats, by reducing the number of intervening parties. Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqhchi told the press in Vienna that differences were "narrowing" but that progress remained slow.
WOMEN CAN WRESTLE "VEILED"
How to combine Islamic norms with modern living, and avoid ridicule in the process? This has been a challenge for Iranian authorities since the 1979 revolution that made Iran an Islamic Republic. Newspaper Aftab-e Yazd reported this week that the regulatory body United World Wrestling agreed to Iran's request that its female wrestlers "respect the full hijab," or Islamic clothing norms, while taking part in a Tehran wrestling event scheduled for Aug. 7.
That presumably means the women will be covered from head to toe â€" no tight T-shirts and the like â€" and that the audience won't include men. This comes amid renewed debate in Iran on whether to allow gender-mixed public entertainment. The country will reportedly allow women into volleyball matches, but not soccer or wrestling.
In a similar move to protect public decency, the London-based Kayhan newspaper reports that Iran's soccer federation has told players not to display tattoos on their arms and legs, or make a "spectacle" of their hair or face. In a country with a booming youth population, how do you curb and regulate desire? Iranian authorities are doggedly working on that, every day, almost 40 years after the Islamic Revolution.
CLERIC CALLS AYATOLLAH'S FAMILY "IDIOTS"
One of Iran's most conservative theologians, Ayatollah Mohammad Mesbah-Yazdi, recently characterized "some relatives" of the country's late leader and Islamic Republic founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as essentially fools. Ayatollah Khomeini remains a more or less venerated figure in Iran decades after his death in a country where relatives often enjoy the social benefits of a prestigious name. But several younger members of the Khomeini family have in recent years inclined toward moderate or reformist elements, earning themselves the ire and contempt of conservatives elements such as Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi.
The cleric was a mentor to Iran's last radical President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Kayhan quoted him comparing Khomeini relatives to "Abu Jahl," or the Father of Ignorance, a title given to one of the Prophet's opponents in Mecca. "They have failed their test" with Islam, Mesbah-Yazdi said. Khomeini's grandson Hasan Khomeini is the keeper of his mausoleum outside Tehran. He is also associated with reformists, though generally he tries to keep a neutral political profile.
DOZENS HELD FOR EATING DURING RAMADAN
A police official in the western city of Hamadan said 72 people had been detained so far for breaking the Ramadan fast in public and would be prosecuted, though it was not immediately clear how they would be punished. In Iran, citizens are forbidden from drinking, eating or smoking in public during the the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began June 19. People have been known to be whipped for doing so, though punishments vary.
Police Col. Mansur Maleki said the violators had been detained for "disrespecting Ramadan" â€" for example, by eating in their cars, the official IRNA agency reported. He said hundreds of officials and volunteers were on the lookout across the Hamadan province to ensure the fast was respected.
With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.
CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.
Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.
It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.
Abundant sunshine, low temperatures
The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.
Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.
It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.
Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park
Chinese want to expand
The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.
The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.
The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.
The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.
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