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Nobel Peace Prize Winner to U.S.: Let Me Be Free to Speak My Mind

By Richard Leiby
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page C03

Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and praise from President Bush for her pro-democracy work. But now she's suing the U.S. government, trying to get permission to publish her memoirs here. Blasting what she calls "enforced silence," the Muslim lawyer says in an affidavit filed in federal court, "I very much want this new book to reach an audience in the United States."

Ebadi hasn't actually written a book yet. In her suit, filed in New York, she says she doesn't want to write it in Iran and have to submit it for "official approval" by the mullahs. But she can't work with an American literary agent, her attorneys say, because of Treasury Department regulations that impose penalties on anybody who transacts business with Iran, a noted member of Bush's "axis of evil."


Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi has sued the U.S. government. (Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)

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"It seems ironic that a woman who has been honored by the Nobel committee for her work on behalf of free speech and human rights should find herself effectively barred from sharing her ideas with American readers," Wendy J. Strothman, a Boston literary agent who wants to assist Ebadi, told us.

The Treasury Department wouldn't comment on the suit. Its regulations do allow American publishers to reproduce, translate and edit "informational materials" from countries subject to U.S. sanctions. But even advising an author how to structure a book "would be a problem," says Philip Lacovara, a former counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor who has taken Ebadi's case free of charge. In her affidavit, the Nobel laureate says the Treasury rules "seem to defy the values the United States promotes throughout the world, which always include free expression and the free exchange of ideas."

'Daily Show' Parties Into the Tee-Hee Hours

• Late-breaking fake news: In New York, an elbow-to-elbow crowd of a few hundred revelers turned out for Comedy Central's election party at the Park, a sprawling West Chelsea restaurant with outdoor gardens and a bar in every corner. By the time "Daily Show" anchor Jon Stewart and his team of phony senior correspondents turned up after midnight, the chatter was all about the cruel joke known as exit polls.


Stephen Colbert, off to the gutter. (Comedy Central)
"We come from the world of comedy and we're so unaware of what these polls are about," Stewart, clad in his customary off-the-set leather jacket and baseball cap, told the Post's David Segal. "We thought they were scientific. Turns out they just ask a few guys who are hanging around after they vote." (Who knew?)

What will life be like with the election behind them? Correspondent Stephen Colbert predicted that the show would head straight to the gutter. "After this, nothing but Carmen Electra and Big Foot jokes, you know," he said. Then he drew in for a leer and a whisper. "And I'm going to be cashing in on some of this new street cred of mine to get some of the ladies, if you know what I'm saying."

The Goodbye Guy, Coming In a Little Early

• It's not over until the bald man concedes: For die-hards at the Democratic National Committee's celebration at the Capital Hilton -- sorry, make that a wake -- a shocking prophecy came relatively early Wednesday, when uber-loyalist James Carville, looming on a giant screen broadcasting CNN's coverage, gave up the ghost. "I think you have got to give a lot of credit to the president and his team and Mr. Rove and those people," Carville opined. "This was an election I thought it would be difficult for them to win. They've won it and they'll have a lot of celebration and the Democrats will have a lot of reassessment."

People clutching drinks in the ballroom looked up, aghast. "So you're saying, in the absence of our calling Ohio at this hour -- you think it's over for John Kerry?" Paula Zahn asked. Said Carville: "No sense in spinning people at almost 1 in the morning."

A no-spin zone on election night? Hmmm. Perched on a ledge outside the hotel, one disconsolate partygoer barked into his cell phone: "We suck." But he told us he wasn't talking politics. "No, I'm talking about the Redskins!"

SQUIBS

• Driving home last night in Georgetown, Ken Weinstein of the Hudson Institute passed by John Edwards's house on P Street and couldn't help but notice a large paper sign hanging on the porch. Its crayoned message: "Welcome Home Daddy." Said Weinstein: "It's very sweet. Very touching. The sign melted the heart of this Bush voter."

• Many wonder what it will take to restore social civility to Washington, to get Republicans and Democrats mingling again. Rock-ribbed Republican Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, proffered a solution, telling us that Democrats must accept the finality of their powerlessness. "Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they've been fixed, then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such." Norquist assured us that he meant neutered "psychologically" and his metaphor was "facetious." Of course: Let the healing begin.

• At least one senator was confident enough of reelection that instead of pounding the pavement, he sat back, relaxed and took in a movie yesterday. John McCain (R-Ariz.) chose "Ray," the Ray Charles biopic, as his diversion of choice. "It's something that he's historically done," an aide told The Post's Juliet Eilperin. "It's a tradition." Well, it works: McCain won handily.

With Anne Schroeder


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