News from Israel and Argentina

Tuesday's World Events   —   Posted on September 4, 2012

ISRAEL – Israelis say UN report strengthens Iran warnings

In this Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 photo, two Israeli women drink coffee in a shopping mall after collecting their gas mask from a distribution center in Jerusalem. A new U.N. report adds credibility to Israel’s warnings about Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Israeli officials said Friday, commenting on findings that could provide ammunition to Israeli calls for military action against Iran’s suspect nuclear program.

JERUSALEM | Israeli officials said on Friday that a new United Nations report adds credibility to their warnings about Iran, as tensions grow between the Jewish state and its allies over how to tackle Tehran’s suspect nuclear program.

The report by the U.N. nuclear agency, which emerged on Thursday, concluded that Iran had stepped up the installation of centrifuges capable of making weapons-grade material in an underground bunker at its Fordo underground facility, safe from most aerial attacks.

The U.N. report also said Iran has effectively shut down inspections of a separate site – the Parchin military complex – suspected of being used for nuclear weapons-related experiments, by shrouding it from spy satellite view with a covering.

It drew rapid criticism from Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, who said Friday the assertion about Parchin ‘‘does not make any technical sense.’’ Iran denies the West’s claims that it is seeking to develop weapons but its government makes no secret that it sees expansion of its nuclear program [for peaceful purposes to generate power] as a right.

An Israeli official said that the U.N report ‘‘confirms what Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu has been talking about for years now, that the Iranian nuclear program is designed to achieve a nuclear weapon.’’ He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Israel has been weighing unilateral military action against Iranian nuclear facilities amid faltering international efforts to persuade Tehran to scale back its uranium enrichment, a process that would be key to bomb-making.

The United States opposes Israeli strikes. The strain between Washington and its longtime Israeli ally has been on full display this month, with a top U.S. military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, twice speaking out against a go-it-alone strike. He was quoted on Thursday as saying he would ‘‘not want to be complicit’’ in such an assault.

NOTE ON URANIUM ENRICHMENT:
Enriched uranium is a critical component for both civil nuclear power generation and military nuclear weapons. The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) attempts to monitor and control enriched uranium supplies and processes in its efforts to ensure nuclear power generation safety and curb nuclear weapons proliferation (buildup).

  • ARGENTINA – Government tax agents to track all credit card buys

    BUENOS AIRES |  [The Argentine government is implementing new policies for credit card purchases.]  One measure published in Friday’s official bulletin adds a 15 percent tax every time people make a purchase outside the country using a card issued by an Argentine bank. Another requires the banks to report every credit card purchase, home or abroad, to the tax agency. …

    AFIP chief [AFIP = U.S. IRS] Ricardo Etchegaray, the government’s top tax collector, presented the moves as populist measures that would only affect the wealthiest Argentines, and mainly when they travel outside the country…

    But a closer look shows the measures go much farther, giving the government powerful new tools to combat widespread tax evasion.

    Tax and customs agents now will be able to compare better what Argentines declare to the customs and tax agencies with what their credit card bills say. Before, the reporting requirements applied only to expensive charges of more than 3,000 pesos (about $645). Now, every single purchase by every co-signer must be reported. And if the totals show people are living large while claiming to be paupers, they could get into big trouble.

    ‘‘From October onward, (card-issuers) must report in detail all purchases made by cardholders and their co-signers, starting in September, both within and outside the country,’’ said Etchegaray. ‘‘With this move, AFIP seeks to assure that taxes are paid by those contributors who are able to pay more.’’

    Argentines don’t have to declare their income unless they are salaried and make more than $20,000 a year or are self-employed and make more than $30,000, so many register with the tax authorities as if they make less than the limit, dealing in cash and trying to keep their income and purchases off the books.

    But Argentina also taxes accumulated wealth, giving the government license to scrutinize people’s private property to an extent that foreigners are ill-accustomed to.  …..

    Cardholders will pay the new tax as part of each month’s credit card bills, with the government promising to reimburse the totals each May to taxpayers whose sworn declarations show they paid more than they owed in taxes the previous year.

  • ARGENTINA – President’s Party Moves to Lower Voting Age

    Argentine President Cristina Kirchner

    BUENOS AIRES | An influential congressman in Argentine President Cristina Kirchner‘s ruling party has sponsored legislation that would grant suffrage to millions of teenagers ahead of midterm elections next year.

    Senator Anibal Fernandez – Mrs. Kirchner’s former cabinet chief – has submitted a bill to lower the voting age for citizens and permanent foreign residents to 16 from 18.

    Mr. Fernandez said that today’s children are more mature than in the past and that there is a trend to recognize adult rights and responsibilities at a younger age.

    “My father was considered an adult at 22 years old, I at 21 and my son at 18…It’s been proved that kids are maturing,” he said in radio comments Thursday.

    That could extend the vote to about three million people, swelling voter rosters by more than 10% from the 28.8 million people who cast a ballot in the 2011 presidential election.

    The bill shouldn’t have any trouble getting passed as Mrs. Kirchner’s Peronist Party faction and its allies have a working majority in both houses of Congress.

    Analysts see the move as an attempt by Mrs. Kirchner to harness her popularity among young people who became teenagers during the impressive economic boom Argentina has enjoyed under her government. In her almost daily public speaking appearances, Mrs. Kirchner frequently calls on young people to be actively involved in politics.

    The 59-year-old leftist needs a strong showing in next year’s congressional elections if she plans to change the constitution to remove term limits currently blocking her from running again in 2015. Constitutional amendments require a two-third majority in the Senate and Lower House.

    (The news briefs above are from wire reports and staff reports posted at Boston.com on Aug. 31 and WSJ.com on Aug. 30.)

    Questions

    1. For each of the 3 countries, give the following information:
    a) location/the countries that share its borders
    b) the religious breakdown of the population
    c) the type of government
    d) the chief of state (and head of government if different) [If monarch or dictator, since what date has he/she ruled? – include name of heir apparent for monarch]e) the population

    [Find the answers at the CIA World FactBook website. For each country, answers can be found under the “Geography” “People” and “Government” headings.  Go to worldatlas.com for a list of continents.]

    2. For ISRAEL:
    a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
    b) In 2002, 10 years ago, Iran’s secret nuclear program was discovered.  Since that time the U.N. has been asking the Iranian government to end their nuclear program, even imposing various sanctions on them.  Read the information about Iran’s nuclear program below.  The world knows Iran is attempting to build nuclear weapons, and the Iranian government has called on numerous occasions for the destruction of Israel.  The Israeli government is considering attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.   Do you think they should?  Explain your answer.
    c)  What support do you think the U.S. should give to our long-time ally Israel?  Explain your answer.
    d)  Ask a parent the same questions.

    3. For ARGENTINA – news brief #1:
    a) list the who, what, where and when of the news item
    b) Do you think a government should have access to citizens’ credit card records?  Explain your answer. Be specific.

    4. For ARGENTINA – news brief #2:
    a)  list the who, what, where and when of the news item
    b)  Why will Sen. Fernandez’s bill most likely become a law?
    c)  What is President Kirchner’s motive for getting this bill passed? Be specific.
    d)  What do you think the legal age for voting should be?  Explain your answer.


    Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a weekly email with answers.

    Background

    IRAN’S NUCLEAR PROGRAM:

    • Iran’s 20 year secret nuclear program was discovered in 2002. Iran says its program is for fuel purposes only, but it has been working on uranium enrichment which is used to make nuclear bombs.
    • Under the United Nations’ NPT (Non Proliferation Treaty) countries are not allowed to make nuclear weapons (except for the 5 that had nuclear weapons prior to the treaty – the U.S., Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom).
    • Safeguards are used to verify compliance with the Treaty through inspections conducted by the UN’s nuclear watchdog, the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency).
    • The IAEA issued a report on Sept. 15, 2008 that said Iran has repeatedly blocked an investigation into its nuclear program and the probe is now deadlocked.
    • The U.N. Security Council has already imposed three sets of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear defiance. Despite the sanctions, Iran has refused to end its nuclear program.
    • A group of U.S. and Russian scientists said in a report issued in May 2009 that Iran could produce a simple nuclear device in one to three years and a nuclear warhead in another five years after that. The study, published by the nonpartisan EastWest Institute, also said Iran is making advances in rocket technology and could develop a ballistic missile capable of firing a 2,200-pound nuclear warhead up to 1,200 miles “in perhaps six to eight years.”
    • The Iranian government has called for the destruction of Israel on numerous occasions. It is believed that once obtained, Iranian President Ahmadinejad would use nuclear weapons against Israel.

    IAEA CENSURES IRAN:

    • The board of the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency censured Iran on Nov. 27, 2009 for its nuclear program, in a motion endorsed by all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
    • Twenty five nations in the 35-member board of the International Atomic Energy Agency voted in favor of the censure motion, which calls on Iran to halt construction of a recently revealed uranium enrichment plant.
    • The measure says the plant violates a United Nations Security Council resolution. The motion also demands that Iran cease enriching uranium.
    • The vote was significant because Russia and China voted in favor of the censure motion, along with the three other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council – the United States, France and Britain – as well as Germany.
    • While the motion may not make a difference in itself, it carries weight in a push for tougher U.N. sanctions against Iran.

    ———————————-