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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Roy Gutman, McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

TEHRAN, Iran – In a city ruled by the automobile, where crossing the street entails risking your life and a real downtown doesn’t exist, there could hardly be a more unusual weekend destination than the newly built Tabiat Bridge – perched over a busy expressway.

Not quite a year after opening to the public, this undulating, multilevel pedestrian bridge, with its curving walkways and sloping ramps, benches and cafes, has become the go-to place for young people on Friday or Saturday evenings. They stroll about with their friends, listening to music and showing the sort the intimacy between the sexes that the Islamic Republic frowns on in public places.

With well-tended parks at either end, the city lights twinkling to the south and traffic moving slowly on the Modarres highway below, the 890-foot-long bridge has become a gathering point for people from all over the city of 8.3 million.

It’s a new symbol for the Iranian capital, its popularity due in no small part to the fact that, in Tehran, there’s nowhere else to go.

“If I had a choice, I’d rather be at a rock concert,” said Soheil, a 20-year-old basketball coach who is getting a bachelor’s degree in physical education and asked to be identified only by his first name. “But the government always bans them.”

Soheil was among the crowd of people who packed the bridge on a Friday evening. In Aab-o-Atash Park, at the bridge’s eastern end, children frolicked in dancing water fountains as families played no-net badminton. In hilly, wooded Taleghani Park at the bridge’s western end, strollers walked along well-landscaped paths.

Gholamhassein Karbaschi, the former Tehran mayor renowned as the master builder of the city’s burgeoning park system, had Iran’s social constraints in mind when he launched the growth of the system, as did the young architect who designed the bridge at age 21.

“We don’t have dance clubs and nightclubs,” said Karabaschi, a reformist who served as mayor from 1991 to 1999 and might have been a candidate for national president until he was jailed on corruption charges in what appeared to be a political frame-up. Parks are “the only place people can go.”

With support from Ali Akhbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the centrist president who recruited him, and from his successor, reformist President Mohammad Khatami, Karabaschi built on a comprehensive urban plan designed before the Islamic revolution. He insisted on the best experts and architects available and rode herd during construction.

“I supervised all the details,” he told McClatchy.

It was thanks to a contest that Leila Araghian, then 26, was able to design the Tabiat Bridge. “They wanted something complex, to give an identity to those areas and become a symbol of Tehran,” she said. But Araghian wanted “something modest, but that has character and is interesting enough to have an identity.”

The result is not a utilitarian passage from one point to another, but a path full of unexpected turns, features and vistas. The bridge curves, blurring the destination, “so you won’t know where it is taking you.”

Having won the competition in 2008, Araghian then went to the University of British Colombia in Vancouver, where she wrote her thesis analyzing her own project. Her theme was “Modesty, Serendipity and Silence.”

It’s a very Iranian approach to design, she said. In Kashan, a city in central Iran, houses all have mud walls and a simple door as the entrance, and the way into the house is through a corridor, which then opens onto a huge garden. But there may also be a hidden private garden, where strangers are not welcome.

“It’s a labyrinthine style of building. You discover it through a continuous journey.” And she discovered that that is what drove her design. “I was not aware that that is how I think,” she said.

“The bridge is a serendipitous space,” she said. “When you hide things, there is a chance of discovering. And the excitement you have when you discover it by yourself is a better feeling than when you are expecting it.”

Photo: Blondinrikard Fröberg via Flickr 

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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