The U.S. embassy in the Syrian capital of Damascus has come under attack. A group of gunmen attempted to storm the building earlier today armed with automatic rifles and hand grenades. Syrian security forces killed three of the attackers before any of them could breach the high walls surrounding the embassy. A member of Syria’s anti-terror squad was killed during the gunbattle. A Chinese diplomat was also injured by a stray bullet. After today’s attack, pools of blood lay splattered on the sidewalk outside the embassy, along with a burned car apparently used by the attackers.
Memorials were held across the world on Monday to mark the 5th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. In New York, a moment of silence was held to mark the times the towers of the World Trade Center were hit and the times when they collapsed. Family members gathered at Ground Zero to read the names of those that died five years ago.
To mark the anniversary of 9/11, President Bush gave a prime-time televised address. He said the United States was in the early hours of a struggle between tyranny and freedom. Much of the address focused not on the attacks of 2001 but on Iraq.
Several Democratic lawmakers criticized the president for politicizing the anniversary of 9/11. Senator Ted Kennedy said Bush “should be ashamed of using a national day of mourning … to seek support for a war in Iraq that he has admitted had 'nothing' to do with 9/11.”
In the Occupied Territories, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has announced that the governing Hamas party and his rival Fatah party have agreed to form a power-sharing government. Under the plan, the Hamas-led cabinet will soon be dissolved and a coalition cabinet will be formed.
Meanwhile an Israeli soldier has died in an ambush in Gaza. This marks the first time since the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June that Palestinian fighters had killed an Israeli soldier in Gaza. During the same period, Israel has killed two hundred and forty Palestinians, most of them civilians. One in five of the dead were children.
In Lebanon, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Beirut Monday to protest a visit by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair held a joint press conference with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. It was interrupted by Irish peace activist Caoimhe Butterly who yelled out “Shame on you, Tony Blair.”
The Lebanese environmental minister is warning that more people may die as a result of pollution unleashed by Israel’s bombing of Lebanon than perished in the month-long war itself. In an interview with the London Independent, Yacoub Sarraf said that a highly poisonous cloud spread over a third of the country from a fire in a bombed fuel tank that burned for twelve days. The same bombing released about four million gallons of oil into the sea. It was the largest ever spill in the eastern Mediterranean. On Monday the Lebanese government announced plans to sue Israel for causing the oil spill which will cost Lebanon at least one hundred million dollars to clean up. Only four hundred of the fifteen thousand tons of the spilt fuel oil has been recovered so far.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has published an interview with an IDF commander who has confirmed the Israeli military used phosphorous shells during the war even though they are widely forbidden by international law. The commander also estimated that the IDF fired about 1,800 cluster bombs, containing over 1.2 million cluster bomblets. The Israeli commander said “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.”
Here in the United States, a new study has revealed there are still wide gaps in mortality rates between African-Americans and other groups. An African-American man living in a high-crime city can expect to live 21 fewer years than a woman of Asian descent in the United States. The man’s life expectancy, in fact, is closer to that of people living in West Africa than it is to the average white American. According to the Washington Post, the study found that the United States is pocked by places where millions of adults face a risk of premature death like that in Angola, Mexico and Nigeria. The study found Asian women to have the longest life expectancy — just over 87 years. African-American men living in urban areas have the shortest — just under 67 years.
In news from Africa — United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has accused Sudan of violating the Darfur peace agreement by waging a series of recent military attacks.
Kofi Annan called on the international community to take a greater role in securing peace in Sudan.
In news on Iraq, a group of prominent conservatives are calling for President Bush to send more troops. In a column in today’s Washington Post, William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, and Rich Lowry, editor of National Review urged a “substantial surge in overall troop levels in Iraq.” They write “There is now no good argument for not sending more troops.”
A retired Army general has revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to consider planning for a postwar Iraq. In the lead-up to the war Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid served as the commander of the Army Transportation Corps. Scheid said “The secretary of defense continued to push on us … that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we’re going to take out the regime, and then we’re going to leave.” Scheid said Rumsfeld threatened to fire anyone who talked about the need for post-invasion plans. Rumsfeld reportedly feared the American public would not back the invasion of Iraq if they thought it was going to be a long war.
In Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley has vetoed a City Council ordinance that would have required large retailers such as Wal Mart to pay employees a living wage. Under the City Council rules, retailers with over one billion dollars in sales would be required to pay workers at least ten dollars an hour plus three dollars in benefits by the year 2010. Daley said the rules would drive businesses from the city. It was the first veto Daley has used in his 17 years as mayor. The City Council will now try to override the veto.
The Bush administration has proposed easing environmental regulations on oil refineries, pharmaceutical plants and chemical plants. The rule changes will allow businesses to change how they calculate whether they need pollution control equipment. Environmental groups say the proposed rules will allow industry to emit more pollution, evade pollution controls and save money.
In Detroit Michigan, thousands of striking Detroit teachers defied a judge’s order to return to work Monday. The city’s schools remain closed for a second week.
And in political news, nine states are holding primaries today. In Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee is trying to survive a challenge from former investment banker Steve Laffey. In Maryland, voters will be choosing among 18 contenders to be the Democratic nominee for an open Senate seat. In New York, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is facing a challenge from anti-war candidate Jonathan Tasini.