Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told a television audience January 8 that while Iran may be laying the groundwork for nuclear weapons, it is not yet far enough in the process to build any yet. Appearing on a pre-recorded segment of the CBS program Face the Nation, “Panetta cautioned against a unilateral strike by Israel against Iran’s nuclear facilities, saying the action could trigger Iranian retaliation against U.S. forces in the region,” reported the Associated Press.
In the clearest indication yet, a high French government official confirmed last week that an FTT — Financial Transaction Tax — will be implemented by the European Union by the end of 2012, a year earlier than planned. Jean Leonetti (left), France’s Minister for European Affairs, said on television that “This is on the program for the next European summit [on January 30]. [French President] Nicolas Sarkozy and [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel have decided on this and it will be put in place before the end of 2012.”
The announcement from the German Economy Ministry over the weekend confirmed that the long-awaited European recession has officially begun: German factory orders dropped to the lowest level in three years, down nearly five percent in the past month. The ministry also revealed that orders from outside the EU dropped by 10.3 percent.
Another Middle Eastern despot may be facing a violent end for atrocities his accusers say he perpetrated against his own people. Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, who enjoyed 30 years of mostly undisturbed rule under a nearly perpetual “Emergency Law,” is being tried along with his security chief and six top police officers for their complicity in the killings of hundreds of protesters during last year’s uprisings that ended Mubarak’s rule.
In the aftermath of a series of bombings on Christmas Day, Nigerians have reason to worry that Islamic terrorism will continue to increase in their country. Boko Haram, the organization behind much of the escalating anti-Christian violence in that African country, is dedicated to a campaign of fear and murder in a society where Muslims and Christians constitute nearly equal proportions of the population.
China has been hit once more by a food safety crisis, as officials in that country attempt to assure its own people, as well as consumers in the United States and elsewhere, that its products are safe. The Chinese government’s official Xinhua press agency reported on December 30 that food safety inspectors in the southern city of Shenzhen had discovered carcinogenic mildew in peanuts and cooking oil at some markets and restaurants.
German airline carrier Lufthansa warned passengers on Monday that the European Union’s (EU) new carbon tax on airlines will translate into higher fares, as the carrier plans to avoid shouldering new costs generated from an EU carbon trading scheme. Analysts say Lufthansa is among the airlines most influenced by the measure, along with rival carriers British Airways, United Continental (the two have merged), Air France, and Singapore Airlines.
In her article on Monday, financial journalist Jessica Mortimer said that the euro had just set a new record low against the Japanese yen: Its value is now the lowest it’s been in 10 years. The irony wasn’t lost on her as she also noted that it was just 10 years ago that the euro was first denominated in coins and currency, three years after being introduced electronically among the member states.
Hysteria over Iran’s alleged nuclear-weapons program has been steadily rising among some U.S. and Israeli officials. But Tamir Pardo (left), the chief of Israel’s intelligence service known as the Mossad, said last week that a nuclear weapon in the hands of the Iranian government would not necessarily pose an “existential threat” to the Jewish state.
A senior communist officer who helped bring an end to a standoff between local government officials and residents of the village of Wukan, located in China’s Guangdong province, warned Chinese officials to prepare for more protests and takeovers by Chinese citizens with grievances over government corruption that has included land confiscation and other abuses.
The prayers of faithful Christians in Nigeria were interrupted by bombs detonated by Islamic militants during worship services on Christmas Day — attacks that are becoming perennial in a nation that rests on one of the theological fault lines between Christianity and Islam.