Berlusconi defends Mussolini at Holocaust memorial event

As I noted earlier this month, it's not particularly unusual for mainstream Italian politicians to defend Benito Mussolini these days, but a Holocaust Remembrance Day event was probably not the most appropriate forum for it: 

"It's difficult now to put yourself in the shoes of people who were making decisions at that time," said Berlusconi, 76, who is campaigning ahead of elections in February.

"Obviously the government of that time, out of fear that German power might lead to complete victory, preferred to ally itself with Hitler's Germany rather than opposing it," he said. "As part of this alliance, there were impositions, including combating and exterminating Jews. The racial laws were the worst fault of Mussolini as a leader, who in so many other ways did well."

In 1938, Mussolini passed laws barring Jews from academia and many professions. After 1943, when Germany occupied parts of the country, more than 7,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps, with many perishing at Auschwitz.

Berlusconi's remarks have been criticized by Jewish groups and Berlusconi's leftist opponents, one of whom is calling for a criminal investigation of the remarks. But it's not exactly news that Berlusconi -- whose party is allied with the late dictator's granddaughter's bloc in parliament -- admires Mussolini. In 2011, he compared himself to the wartime fascist dictator shortly before leaving power. In 2003, he told the Spectator that Mussolini "never killed anyone" and merely "sent people on holiday to confine them."



Iran successfully sends monkey into space

Forget nuclear ducks. This morning Iran revealed its latest science and technology development: a space monkey.  According to Iran's Al-Alam TV, a monkey, launched in a Kavoshgar rocket, successfully reached a height of 120 kilometers, before returning safely to earth.

This launch comes on the heels of a tragic failed attempt to send a monkey into space in October of 2011. After having successfully launched a turtle, a mouse, worms, and even a monkey doll into space, Iran's first actual monkey did not return alive. 

These forays into space travel have prompted Western concerns that this is all really part of Iran's growing nuclear program:

Western countries are concerned the long-range ballistic technology used to propel Iranian satellites into orbit could be used to launch atomic warheads. Tehran denies such suggestions and says its nuclear work is purely peaceful.

Iran joins a long list of countries who have employed monkeys and other mammals to bravely go where no man has gone before, including the US, China, France, and Russia. Unlike these other countries, Iran doesn't seem to name their animals. Maybe it's better not to get too attached.