Fears of a civil war in Iraq grew Sunday after bombings in the country’s two holiest Shiite cities left 66 dead and injured over 200 more. The deadliest bombing came in the center of Najaf just 300 yards from the holy Imam Ali Shrine. 52 died in the attack. In the neighboring city of Karbala another 14 died in the city’s deadliest attack in nine months. Sunni fighters have been accused of carrying both bombings. One prominent Shiite cleric said, “They are trying to ignite a sectarian civil war and prevent elections from going ahead on time.”
Meanwhile in Baghdad three Iraqi elections workers were shot dead on Sunday in broad daylight in the middle of Haifa Street. 30 gunmen ambushed their car, dragged the election workers out into the street and then shot them dead. And their car was set on fire. The Knight Ridder news agency is reporting that State Department, the CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency have all recently told President Bush that the U.S. “isn’t winning” the battle against the Iraqi resistance. But on White House Chief Andrew Card appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and said the US had won the war and he attempted to downplay the attacks by the Iraqi resistance.
Meanwhile complaints about Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld increased over the weekend after the military publication Stars and Stripes revealed that the Pentagon has been using a machine to sign a copy of Rumsfeld’s signature onto condolence letters mailed to families of soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. One mother in Brooklyn whose son was killed last year said “It makes me feel awful and sad. So many families out there have lost their kids, and he couldn’t sign to show how much he cares?” Nearly 1,500 U.S soldiers have now died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The White House continues to defend Rumsfeld. On Sunday Andrew Card said Rumsfeld has been doing a “spectacular job.”
In other news from Iraq, Saddam Hussein has reportedly warned the Iraqi people about the upcoming elections. Last week Hussein met for the first time with an attorney and members of defense team passed on his messages. Bushra Khalil, a Lebanese member of the defense team, said Hussein “warned the people of Iraq and the Arabs to beware of the American scheme aimed at splitting Iraq into sectarian and religious divisions and weakening the nation.”
Drug giant Pfizer announced Sunday that it is pulling all advertisements for its popular pain reliever Celebrex. This comes two days after Pfizer admitted that studies showed high doses of the drug led to an increased risk of heart attacks. But Pfizer is keeping the drug on the market and the company will still market the drug to doctors. The watchdog group Public Citizen called on the Food and Drug Administration to ban Celebrex and another drug, Bextra. According to Public Citizen, researchers have known for years that drugs like Celebrex can increase the risk of heart attacks.
Friday was a devastating day for the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to Pfizer’s announcement about Celebrix, drug companies AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly also disclosed serious problems with drugs of their own. AstraZeneca revealed tests show that its lung cancer drug, Iressa, did not prolong lives. And Eli Lilly warned doctors that, Strattera, its drug to fight attention deficit disorder drug has caused severe liver injury in at least two patients. The announcements resulted in the three companies losing a total of $30 billion in stock value.
The news also raised new questions about how effective the FDA has been in testing new drugs. Sen. Edward Kennedy said the FDA role in protecting drug users as a “catastrophic failure.”
A new poll shows nearly half of the country now believe that government should strip Muslim-Americans of come of their civil liberties. And about a quarter of the country agreed that Muslim Americans should be required to register their location with the government and that the FBI and police should infiltrate Muslim groups and mosques. The poll conducted by Cornell University found respondents who considered themselves to be highly religious, those who paid close attention to television news and Republicans were the most likely to favor restricting the rights of Muslim Americans.
The Lebanese TV station al-Manar has been forced off the air in the United States. On Saturday the State Department took the unusual step of declaring the TV station a terrorist organization. The station is run by Hezbollah. The station’s news director, told The Associated Press, “This is a blatant attack on press freedoms and an exercise in intellectual terrorism against the voices that are opposed to U.S. and Israeli policies.” The station had been available in the United States by satellite TV.
Newsweek has obtained a secret Justice Department memo from 2001 that claims there are effectively “no limits” on presidential power to wage war — with or without Congressional approval. The memo written two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks reads in part “The President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the states that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of Sept. 11.” Newsweek’s Michael Isikoff reports the memo seems to lay out a legal groundwork for the president to invade Iraq-without approval of Congress-long before the White House had publicly expressed any intent to do so. In regards to war, the memo claims “the president’s decisions are for him alone and are unreviewable.”
In Election news, a lawsuit challenging the legality of the presidential election in Ohio has been refiled just days after the Ohio Supreme Court threw out a similar suit due to a technicality. The lawsuit was filed by 37 voters who cited reports of machine errors, double-counting of some ballots and a shortage of voting machines in predominantly minority precincts. Backers of the lawsuit include the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the Alliance for Democracy, and Green Party candidate David Cobb.
South African’s ruling political party, the African National Congress, has charged the US government of treating Africans as “guinea pigs” by sending unsafe AIDS drugs to Africa. The party’s accusations came days after the Associated Press revealed the Bush administration had hid evidence that the AIDS drug nevirapine was a dangerous drug in order to allow it to be used to treat unsuspecting patients in Africa.
Meanwhile in this country, the Rev. Jesse Jackson has called for a congressional investigation into the matter and for the Bush administration to immediately halt the distribution of the drug in Africa. He likened the drug’s distribution in Africa to the U.S. government’s 40-year syphilis experiment using poor African-Americans in Tuskegee, Ala., after World War II.
The Associated Press report came out just two weeks after the BBC broadcast a groundbreaking documentary exposing how New York City health officials are using African-American and Latino children to text experimental AIDS drugs.
And longtime antiwar activist and professor Seymour Melman has died at the age of 86. He was a retired Columbia University professor. He was an advocate for nuclear disarmament and frequently wrote about how the Pentagon’s massive budget compromised the quality of the nation’s domestic programs. Melman was co-chairman of the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy and chairman of the National Commission for Economic Conversion and Disarmament. MIT professor Noam Chomsky said “The country is a lot different than it was 30 to 40 years ago, and he had a big role in that.”