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CULTURE DIGEST: Iran wants to host debate on reality of Holocaust ; Journal says Christians can learn from Irwin; …


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Amid Iran’s tension with the international community over nuclear weapons comes a controversy over the historical accuracy of the Holocaust, with Iran displaying caricatures of victims and planning to host a conference dismissing the event as “exaggerated.”

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s president, has called the Nazis’ killing of 6 million Jews a myth and has said Israel should be wiped off the map or moved to Germany or the United States, the Associated Press reported Sept. 3. Now an Iranian official has said the nation may sponsor a conference debating the reality of the Holocaust.

“God willing, a conference on the Holocaust will be held in the autumn,” outgoing Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, according to AP. “I have visited the Nazi camps in Eastern Europe. I think it is exaggerated.”

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed disapproval of an exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust, which opened in Tehran in response to Muslim outrage over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that appeared in newspapers worldwide.

Annan told Iran’s Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, that “we should avoid anything that incites hatred.” One cartoon by an Indonesian man shows the Statue of Liberty holding a book on the Holocaust in its left hand and giving a Nazi-style salute with the other, AP reported.

The Hamshahri newspaper in Iran, which sponsored the exhibition, said it wanted to test the West’s tolerance for drawings about the Nazis’ slaughter of European Jews during World War II, AP said, and the top drawing of 204 entries was to be awarded $12,000.


The international community is still considering consequences for Iran’s refusal to halt uranium enrichment by the U.N. Security Council’s Aug. 31 deadline. Among the possible consequences are economic penalties, banning air travel or breaking diplomatic relations with Iran, though the use of military force is being ruled out at this time.

‘CROC HUNTER’ DELIGHTED IN NATURE — Steve Irwin, known worldwide as the “Crocodile Hunter,” is being remembered for his fearless encounters with wild animals after his death Sept. 4. Irwin, 44, was struck by a stingray barb to the chest while filming a documentary on marine life on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Kairos Journal, which seeks to equip church leaders as they engage the culture for Christ and has several leading Southern Baptists on its editorial team, said Christians could learn a lesson from Irwin.

“One aspect of Irwin’s life stands out. He was unashamedly enthusiastic about the wonders of the natural world,” an article posted at www.kairosjournal.org stated. “Children adored him because he showed them what it might mean to love animals whether great or small. The sight of Irwin wrestling a mammoth crocodile or running in the desert to catch a scorpion was almost guaranteed to implant in children a playful delight in living beings.

“Tragically there is no indication that Irwin was a Christian, indeed, he and his wife welcomed their children into the world with Buddhist ceremonies,” the article said. “Yet his life is one long rebuke to Christians who take little delight in their Father’s world. If a man could love the creation this much and not know the Creator — how much more should those who love God take delight in the work of His hands?”

INDIANA FIGHTS YOUTH GAMBLING ADDICTIONS — A recent study in Indiana found that more than 35 percent of sixth-graders and 55 percent of 12th-graders had done some type of gambling in the past year, according to USA Today Sept. 6. That’s why the state is stepping up efforts to educate youth on the dangers of gambling just as they do for alcohol and drugs.

The rise in popularity of celebrity poker games broadcast on cable TV has driven the rise in teen gambling, studies indicate, though it is still unclear how many teens are addicted to gambling nationwide.

“In the last couple of years, the issue of youth gambling has been more and more on our radar,” Mary Lay, coordinator of the Problem Gambling Initiative at the Indiana Prevention Resource Center, told USA Today.

Jeanie Alter, an evaluations specialist at the resource center, said studies have found that teens vulnerable to gambling addictions have the same risk factors as those vulnerable to substance abuse.

Indiana is unique in trying to incorporate gambling education into after-school programs on drug and alcohol abuse that enroll about 14,000 students ages 10-14 each year, USA Today said. The gambling prevention course explains the odds of winning, describes how to recognize addiction and offers suggestions for dealing with friends or family members who have gambling problems, the newspaper noted.

Other states are considering similar courses of action to prevent a further rise in youth gambling addictions.

GOOGLE COOPERATES WITH BRAZIL ON CHILD PORN — Google Inc., the company that powers one of America’s most popular Internet search engines, is cooperating with Brazilian officials by turning over data that could help authorities bust child pornography purveyors.

“It’s almost a defining moment for the industry,” Marc Rotenburg, executive director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center, told The Washington Post. “They need to decide if they want to become a one-stop shop for government prosecutors.”

Although Google in the past year refused to give U.S. authorities search data helpful in the fight against children’s access to pornography, the company recently joined the Technology Coalition and the Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography, two major initiatives aimed at fighting the exchange of online commercial child pornography. The initiatives are tied to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Civil libertarians, however, say that as long as Internet companies keep data that can identify people — which they use for marketing purposes — they will have law enforcement officials asking for that information in order to track down criminals, The Post noted Sept. 2.

“Suppose the Chinese government sought the identities of people who visited dissident websites? Or the Iranian regime wanted to identify those who posted material critical of Islam?” David Sobel, senior counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation in Washington, told The Post.

Another popular search engine, Yahoo Inc., last year gave Chinese authorities information that led to the conviction of a Chinese journalist accused of leaking state secrets.

Google is complying with Brazilian court orders after being threatened with a fine of $23,000 a day for noncompliance in a case involving Google’s social networking site, Orkut, which is especially popular in Brazil.

Google can provide registration information such as names and e-mail addresses that could “help identify users accused of taking part in online communities that encourage racism, pedophilia and homophobia,” The Post said.