The Guardian of London reports that more doubts are being raised that January’s elections in Iraq will not go forward as scheduled. On Thursday a senior aide to prime minister Iyad Allawi predicted the elections would be delayed. A day earlier 47 political parties announced they would boycott the elections. Allawi’s aide said, “I don’t think within the time available we can do everything, so I think a delay or postponing elections is more likely than holding them on time.”
Meanwhile in Fallujah, the US military is claiming it had “broken the back of the insurgency.” But fighting continues in many parts of Iraq. At least 19 people died yesterday in series of gun battles and bombings.
In Baghdad, U.S. troops and members of the Iraqi National Guard raided a holy Sunni mosque earlier today following Friday prayers. The site of the raid, the Abu Hanifa mosque, is considered to be one of the most important Sunni places of worship in Iraq. Arrested in the raid was the mosque’s imam.
The Washington Post is reporting that Secretary of State Colin Powell relied on a single, unvetted source when he claimed Wednesday that he had new evidence thast Iran was developing a nuclear weapon. The report was entirely based on information provided by a source who approached US intelligence with 1,000 pages of documents that purportedly showed nuclear weapons drawings. One governmental official told the Washington Post that the CIA remains unsure about the authenticity of the documents and how they came into the informant’s possession. Powell’s comments came in direct contradiction to findings by the United Nations. The International Atomic Energy Association announced earlier this week it had seen no evidence that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons program.
In news from Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee was warned Thursday that federal drug regulators are “virtually incapable of protecting America” from unsafe drugs. The warning came from Dr. David Graham who has worked for 20 years for the FDA as a drug safety reviewer. He went on to say, “We are faced with what may be the single greatest drug safety catastrophe in the history of this country or the history of the world.” Graham’s comments come weeks after the FDA pulled the popular drug Vioxx from the shelves after studies showed it increased the number of the heart attack or stroke. The drug however stayed on the market years after questions were first raised about its safety. On Thursday Dr. Graham named five other drugs that he claimed were too unsafe to remain for sale. They were the anti-cholesterol drug Crestor, the pain pill Bextra, the obesity pill Meridia, the asthma drug Serevent and the acne drug Accutane.
British Cameraman’s Family to Sue Israeli Government
The family of British journalist James Miller has announced plans to sue the Israeli government over his killing last year. Israeli troops shot and killed the 34-year-old Miller while he was working in a Gaza refugee camp.
Meanwhile the family of another journalist, Jose Couso, has called for an independent investigation into his death. Couso, a Spanish journalist, was killed when US forces opened fire on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad last year. Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk was also killed in the incident. Earlier this week it was revealed that an internal Pentagon report concluded the killings were in self defense. Also Thursday, the global managing editor of the Reuters news agency said charged the US military was entirely to blame for the deaths of three of its employees in Iraq who had been killed since the start of the war. Reuters chief David Schlesinger said “There is no understanding on the part of the US military regarding the exercise of journalism. We can’t run the risk that journalists will become targets. We must learn the lessons from these tragic cases.”
In Afghanistan, a new United Nations report has found that the country’s opium cultivation has reached the highest levels ever recorded in the country. Opium production now constitutes 60 percent of the country’s economic output. More than three-quarters of the opium is exported as heroin.
The Department of Agriculture has announced that preliminary tests show another animal in the U.S. might have mad cow disease. The government has come under increasing criticism for its handling of the mad cow threat since the first case of mad cow disease almost a year ago. A scientist from the Consumers Union said “The FDA must immediately close loopholes in its rules on animal feed that could allow the disease to spread.”
Teamsters President James Hoffa and the National Labor Committee has called on the State Department to urge the president of El Salvador to investigate the killing of Gilberto Soto, an American citizen and trade union leader who was shot dead on Nov. 5 while visiting El Salvador in part to organize workers. Soto was a longtime organizer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters who lived in New Jersey. Earlier this week Hoffa and AFL-CIO President John Sweeney met with Salvadoran Ambassador Rene Leon to ask for help in for an investigation. Soto died one day before his 50th birthday.
And more than 10,000 demonstrators are expected to protest this weekend outside the US Army’s School of the Americas at Fort Benning Georgia. The protests commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 assassinations of 14-year-old Celina Ramos, her mother Elba and six Jesuit priests in El Salvador. 19 of the 26 officers found responsible for the murders by the United Nations were trained at the School of the Americas. The US military has trained over 60,000 Latin Americans at the school over the past 50 years.