Iranians Don’t Approve of Their Leader…
Der Spiegel Online reported on December 19:
“The hardliners in Iran have suffered a major setback at the hands of the Iranian electorate. A combination of a high turnout and close cooperation between the reformists and moderate conservatives succeeded in giving President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a bit of a bloody nose at the ballot box. Partial results from last Friday’s elections for local governments and the powerful Assembly of Experts indicate that the president’s supporters have been widely rejected by the voters… However, the election results do not directly affect the Iranian government, and while it is likely that the poor showing by his allies will weaken the president, it is uncertain if this will provoke any change in policy or rhetoric.”
… But He Continues to Be Controversial
The Associated Press reported on December 16:
“Iran’s president said Saturday his country was ready to transfer nuclear technology to neighboring countries, Kuwaiti television reported, a week after Arab states on the Persian Gulf announced plans to consider a joint nuclear program… Iran is at odds with the United States and its European allies, who accuse Iran of seeking nuclear weapons. Iran insists its nuclear program is aimed solely at the peaceful production of nuclear energy.”
The Middle East Is Facing Worst Crisis…
The EUobserver reported on December 15:
“EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday… said the Middle East is facing one of the ‘worst crises in years’ after fighting broke out on Friday between rival Palestinian factions, and Lebanon continues to stand on the verge of internal conflict. ‘The Israeli-Arab conflict is at the heart of this crisis,’ the EU said, urging Israel and Palestine to live ‘side-by-side.'” …
USA Is Not Winning in Iraq
AFP reported on December 20:
“President George W. Bush warned Americans of the need for new ‘sacrifices’ in Iraq next year, and said hard choices await in a war he now grimly admits the United States is not winning. A somber Bush, under fierce pressure to change course in Iraq, also said in a year-end news conference he had not yet decided whether to send a surge of more troops into the country, and said his heart broke for slain US soldiers.”
In a related article, AFP added:
“New US Defense Secretary Robert Gates met top generals in Baghdad to discuss whether or not to send tens of thousands of extra American troops into war-torn Iraq… On Tuesday, a Pentagon report confirmed that sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq was at an all-time high, due in part to the provocations of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia, the Mahdi Army… Washington had hoped to clip the cleric’s wings by persuading a ‘moderate coalition’ of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to unite behind the ruling coalition and give it the backbone to face down the gunmen. But on Wednesday a leader of the main Shiite parliamentary bloc earmarked for this task, Hadi al-Ameri of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), described this idea as ‘madness’…
“Despite the latest bloodshed, US forces in Iraq handed responsibility for security in the Shiite province of Najaf to local provincial forces… British and Italian forces have already passed control of two southern provinces to local governors, but Wednesday’s ceremony was the first of its kind in the more volatile US-controlled regions of central Iraq. More provinces are expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.”
In spite of all the rhetoric, the question is this: Are the American people willing to bring more sacrifices in Iraq, including sending more American troops into Iraq, for a war which is admittedly not being won?
Japan Is Becoming More “Patriotic”
CNN reported on December 16:
“Japan’s conservative government chipped away at two pillars of the country’s postwar pacifism, requiring schools to teach patriotism and upgrading the Defense Agency to a full ministry for the first time since World War II. The measures, enacted Friday in a vote by Parliament’s upper house, form key elements of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to bolster Japan’s international military role, build up national pride and distance the country from its post-1945 war guilt…
“The call for more patriotism in the schools coincides with a push by some local governments to crack down on teachers and students who refuse to stand for the national flag or sing an anthem to the emperor at school ceremonies. Postwar Japan has been solidly pacifist under the 1947 U.S.-drafted Constitution, which foreswears Japan from using force to settle international disputes, and Tokyo maintains fighting forces only for self-defense.”
Germany Wants To Become Permanent UN Security Council Member…
The German Press Agency (dpa) reported on December 15:
“Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday she would push hard for a permanent German United Nations Security Council seat in the coming years. ‘We will have this interest–but also an interest that the UN Security Council is reformed,’ she said at a news briefing. Berlin would seek a UN revamp and an upgraded role for Germany in the world body ‘with great intensity,’ she added.
“Present UN Security Council permanent members are Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States. The Security Council also has 10 further non-permanent members, positions which are held on a rotating basis. Germany has for years sought a permanent Security Council seat, although some observers claimed it was unclear whether Merkel would continue the effort after her foreign policy successes since taking up office in autumn 2005.”
… While Hoping to Unite a Peaceful Europe
The Week in Germany reported on December 15:
“Germany takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency from Finland on January 1, and Chancellor Angela Merkel outlined three key priority areas…: strengthening Europe’s economy, promoting peace and justice and pressing ahead with a new plan for the European Constitutional Treaty… Merkel… recalled that the EU, which turns 50 next March, was created to maintain peace based on common values, including freedom, justice, democracy, the rule of law and human rights.”
German-French Spy Satellite Program
The following was stated on December 19 in an article of Spaceflight Now:
“The first of a fleet of five identical all-weather German spy satellites was launched Tuesday aboard a Russian rocket to collect high-resolution images of the ground 24 hours a day. Called SAR-Lupe 1, the 1,587-pound craft is Germany’s first reconnaissance satellite. It is fitted with a large radar dish antenna that can pierce darkness and thick clouds to resolve targets. The radar data can be analyzed and turned into images… The craft was built for the German Federal Ministry of Defense by OHB-System AG, an aerospace company based in Bremen, Germany.
“Control of the satellite will be handed over to the German military in mid-January to begin its 10-year reconnaissance mission… Four more SAR-Lupe spacecraft are scheduled for launch at intervals of four to six months until the constellation is completed around 2008. The fleet will orbit about 300 miles above Earth in three orbital planes to maximize the number of passes over potential targets.
“The SAR-Lupe program is also a key element of a joint reconnaissance initiative signed between Germany and France four years ago. In the treaty, the two nations agreed to share data from each country’s reconnaissance satellite system. France will be allowed access to German SAR-Lupe imagery, while French optical and infrared data from the Helios 2 system will be shared with Germany, according to the agreement. Tuesday’s launch was the 60th space mission to successfully reach orbit this year.”
Poland at Odds with the EU and Russia
AFP reported on December 20:
“Poland refused to lift its embargo on the opening of EU talks on a wide-ranging agreement with Russia [which it imposed in retaliation to a Russian embargo on Polish meat], despite a fresh initiative from the EU presidency… Since November, Poland has been blocking the start of talks between the whole of the 25-nation EU and Russia on a new political, economic and energy deal, which is meant to replace a decade-old accord that expires in a year… The EU attaches great importance to the new accord, which will have a large chapter on energy supply, aimed at securing a reliable flow from Russia’s massive oil and gas fields as well as tackling the issue of access for EU companies.”
Even though Poland’s concerns towards Russia might very well be justified, it is becoming more and more obvious that the present European system does not work which allows just one country to sabotage proposed agreements between the EU and other countries. We will soon see a revision of this present impractical procedure.
A Crime or Not a Crime?
AFP reported on December 20:
“An Austrian appeals court ruled that the convicted British Holocaust-denier, David Irving, should be released from prison and serve the remainder of his three-year sentence on probation… Irving, 68, has already served 13 months in jail, after being arrested in November 2005. He was sentenced to three years in February this year after being found guilty on three counts of Holocaust denial in remarks he had made in Austria 17 years before… Austrian authorities were debating whether to ban Irving from staying in Austria and were holding him meanwhile in an immigration prison… In presenting the ruling, chief judge Ernst Maurer cited the ‘exceptionally long time since the crime’ as well as Irving’s argument that he no longer denies the Holocaust took place…
“Irving had insisted that he no longer questioned the existence of gas chambers at the Nazis’ Auschwitz concentration camp… Irving was also on trial for saying the November 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom against the Jews was not the work of the Nazis, but of ‘unknown’ people who had dressed up as stormtroopers, and that Adolf Hitler had in fact protected the Jews. He was found guilty on all three denial counts by an eight-person jury. Irving was prosecuted under an Austrian law targeting those who ‘deny the genocide by the National Socialists or other National Socialist crimes against humanity.’ Austria is among 11 countries that have laws against denying the Holocaust, in which some six million Jews were slaughtered by Nazi Germany, mainly in the later years of World War II. Irving became notorious worldwide for attempting to establish, against the evidence, that Hitler was not party to the Holocaust and that the number of Jews slain by the Nazis was greatly exaggerated.”
That the Holocaust is a historical fact, and that the Nazis were responsible for the Kristallnacht, as well as the murder of over six million Jews and millions of other innocent victims, cannot be denied. The question pondered in the USA is, however, whether it should be a crime to do so, or whether this would be a violation of the constitutional right of free speech. According to the universally held understanding in the USA, it clearly would be unconstitutional to enact such a crime. This shows, then, how far certain European countries and the USA are apart in their value systems, even when applied to the fundamental understanding as to whether or not to “criminalize” statements which would be protected under the US Constitution.
The real danger is that Europe will in time enact other laws, making it a crime to express opinions which might be correct, but not in accordance with the politically desired understanding of certain European governments.
This development is clearly prophesied to happen. Please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”
New IRS Rules for Charitable Donations
The Associated Press reported on December 15:
“Beginning in the 2007 tax year, taxpayers must provide bank records or other information when claiming deductions for charitable donations of money, the Internal Revenue Service said in newly released guidelines. The IRS said that bank records can include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements and credit card statements that show the name of the charity and the transaction posting date. Taxpayers may also submit a written communication from the charity with the organization’s name, the date of the transaction and the amount of the contribution.
“Money donations are defined as those made in cash, or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card or payroll deductions. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, W-2 wage statement or other document showing the amount withheld for charity along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity. Previously, taxpayers could back up donations of money with personal bank registers, diaries or notes made around the time of the donation. Such records are no longer sufficient.
“There’s no change in the requirement that a taxpayer get an acknowledgment from the charity for each deductible donation of $250 or more… The tax agency also reminded people making year-end donations that donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2006, even if the credit-card bill isn’t paid until next year. Checks also count for 2006 as long as they are mailed this year.”