Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dem Wave in November

Bush will soon be relieved of the burden of running a government in which all three branches are under his thumb:
Our latest race-by-race review of Congressional districts around the country convinces us that a Democratic wave is building and that the party is poised to take control of the House of Representatives in the fall. The only question now is the size of the November wave.

The national mood remains bleak for Republicans. President George W. Bush’s job performance ratings are terrible, and the public still gives Congress low marks. A majority of Americans continue to tell pollsters that the country is headed in the wrong direction.

Therefore, we are raising our estimate of likely Democratic gains from 8-12 seats to 15-20 seats, which would translate to between 218 and 223 seats – and a majority – in the next House.


One Crazy-Ass M*therf*cker

Katherine Harris, the woman instrumental in ushering in the Bush era:
U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris has stunned Democrats and some in her own Republican Party by saying that the separation of church and state is "a lie" and that God never intended the country to be a "nation of secular laws".

Harris first came to national attention as Florida's Secretary of State when she certified George W. Bush as the winner in the state over Al Gore in 2000. She then capitalized on the notoriety to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and is now in a primary battle for the GOP nomination to run for the Senate.

She made her remarks on religion and the Constitution in an interview this week with the Florida Baptist Witness, a weekly publication put out by the Florida Baptist State Convention.

Harris told the Witness that not electing Christians to office would allow Congress to "legislate sin," and that "everything I do" is a product of her religious faith.

She went on to call same-sex marriage one example of sin. Harris voted in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. The measure failed to get enough votes in Congress to advance.

Harris told the publication that "we have to have the faithful in government" because it's " God's will".


World Geography, U.S. Style

No wonder we're so ignorant:

A geography teacher who was reprimanded and placed on paid administrative leave for refusing to remove Chinese, Mexican and United Nations flags from his Carmody Middle School classroom has decided to part ways with the school.

The overwhelming local and national attention brought to the school in Jefferson County has polarized parents, said Eric Hamlin, a seventh-grade teacher who was to return to his classroom today.

"I have already told them that I won't go back to Carmody because I want Carmody to move on," Hamlin said. "The school community feels a little bit torn apart ... There are some parents that strongly support the stance that I took.

"But there are certainly a portion that are opposed to that," Hamlin said. "That could stir things up."


Navajo Nation Leads the Way

Opening trade with Cuba, unlike the idiotic US government:
A Navajo Nation agriculture company has signed a letter of intent to sell its products to Cuba, marking New Mexico's first agricultural agreement with the communist country.

"This is a big market out there," said U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M. "I see this as laying the groundwork for many future trade deals with Cuba."

The agreement was signed Tuesday in Havana, Cuba, between the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry and Cuba's state food-purchasing agency, Alimport.
Udall said he and Cuban officials also discussed the possibility of setting up a cultural exchange between New Mexico and Cuba.


Destabilizing Democracy

The United States is up to its usual dirty tricks in South America again:
The U.S. government is spending millions of dollars in the name of democracy in Venezuela - bankrolling human rights seminars, training emerging leaders, advising political parties and giving to charities.
But the money is raising deep suspicions among supporters of President Hugo Chavez, in part because the U.S. has refused to name many of the groups it’s supporting.
Details of the spending emerge in 1,600 pages of grant contracts obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information Act request. The U.S. Agency for International Development released copies of 132 contracts in all, but whited out the names and other identifying details of nearly half the grantees.


Friday, August 25, 2006

A Little Closure

Let the bastard rot:
The long road to justice for murdered transgendered teen Gwen Araujo finally came to an end Friday with the sentencing of the fourth man involved in her slaying in 2002.

Jaron Nabors, 23, who pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter shortly after his arrest in exchange for testimony against the three other accused, was sentenced to 11 years in prison on Friday.

In an impact statement Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, looked directly at Nabors and said that as he faced prison she and her family were living in a prison of their own.

"When my daughter died, a part of me died, too, and the pain in my heart will never go away," she said.



One more awe-inspiring creation lost to us. But well done, passers-by:

A fire gutted a 19th century cathedral in the heart of Russia's second city on Friday, destroying its famous azure domes which attract thousands of tourists every year.

As flames leapt from the main dome of the Troitsky (Trinity) Cathedral -- one of the largest wooden domes in Europe -- passers-by helped to rescue priceless artifacts from its renowned art and religious icon collection.

"The fire services don't have long enough ladders to reach the top of the dome. They have been aiming their water guns at the middle section," Reuters photographer Alexander Demyanchuk said by telephone from outside the cathedral.

The cathedral had been covered by wooden scaffolding during reconstruction work when the fire started.

"The main dome has been destroyed but we could not stop the fire because it was so high and now other domes are in flames," a spokesman for Russia's emergencies ministry told Interfax news agency.



To counter the day's bad news....

....a few good mews.


About Time

How stupid are we, that it's taken this long? And that so many states still don't do this?
California lawmakers passed a bill on Thursday to permit condom distribution in the state's prisons, where the HIV infection rate is eight times higher than on the streets of Los Angeles.


Lying Bastards

This is exactly the sort of situation that makes me wish states would still exercise their right to revoke corporate charters. State Farm deserves the death penalty:

State Farm Insurance supervisors systematically demanded that Hurricane Katrina damage reports be buried or replaced or changed so that the company would not have to pay policyholders' claims in Mississippi, two State Farm insiders tell ABC News.

Kerri and Cori Rigsby, independent adjusters who had worked for State Farm exclusively for eight years, say they have turned over thousands of internal company documents and their own detailed statement to the FBI and Mississippi state investigators.

In an exclusive interview with ABC news, to be broadcast on 20/20 -- Watch 20/20 tonight at 10 --and World News, the Rigsby sisters say they saw "widespread" fraud at the State Farm offices in Biloxi and Gulfport, Miss.

"Katrina was devastating, but so was State Farm," says Cori Rigsby.

At one point, they say State Farm brought in a special shredding truck they believe was used to destroy key documents. State Farm says shredding is standard to protect policyholders' privacy.

The sisters say they saw supervisors go to great lengths to pressure outside engineers to prepare reports concluding that damage was caused by water, not covered under State Farm policies, rather than by wind.

They say reports that concluded that damage was caused by wind, for which State Farm would have to pay, were hidden in a special file and new reports were ordered.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Homophobic States

Dumb, and getting dumber:
Fears of a gay "brain drain" over Wisconsin's pending vote on banning same-sex marriage, and the lack of partner benefits for gay employees of state institutions, may be starting to come to fruition.

Rob Carpick, an associate professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher who has won millions of dollars in grants for his research in the field of nanotechnology, is leaving for the more gay-friendly University of Pennsylvania.

He takes with him the funding - some $3.4 million in grants from the National Science Foundation, branches of the U.S. military and private companies since 2000.

"After six and one-half years of working very hard, I found it's problematic to work in an environment where you are not treated equally," Carpick, 37, told The Associated Press. "Fortunately there are other entities that are more enlightened than the state of Wisconsin on this issue and the University of Pennsylvania is one of them."

Caprick married his his longtime partner Carlos Chan in Canada in 2003. The marriage is not recognized in Wisconsin and the couple is not eligible for spousal benefits.

To get health insurance Chan, a chef, took a menial job at the university.


Twisted Jeebus

That's some perverted religion:
WASHBURN, Mo. - The minister of a rural Ozarks church, his wife and her two brothers have been accused of molesting young girls from their congregation for years, sometimes as part of a religious ritual, officials said.

The county prosecutor says the Rev. Raymond Lambert, 51, of Grand Valley Independent Baptist Church, repeatedly had sex with two underage girls with the help of his 49-year-old wife, Patty, according to court records.

For 10 years, the pastor told the girls, “We are preparing your body for service to God,” the prosecutor said.


Shocking Incompetence

Except, not. The Repubs see every disaster as nothing more than a chance to line their own pockets:
The government awarded 70 percent of its contracts for Hurricane Katrina work without full competition, wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in the process, says a House study released Thursday by Democrats.

The report, a comprehensive overview of government audits on Katrina contracting, found that out of $10.6 billion in contracts awarded after the storm last year, more than $7.4 billion were handed out with limited or no competitive bidding.

In addition, 19 contracts worth $8.75 billion were found to have wasted taxpayer money at least in part, costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, according to the report. It cited numerous instances of double-billing by contractors and cases of trailers meant as emergency housing sitting empty in Arkansas.


Fear of a Ninth Planet

Pluto loses
Astronomers today voted to create the first scientific definition of the word "planet", and Pluto did not make the cut.

In a redefinition of our solar system agreed at a conference of 2,500 astronomers in the Czech capital, Prague, the dinky and remote Pluto was classified as a "dwarf planet".

Under the new guidelines, agreed after a week of sometimes passionate debate, to qualify as a planet a celestial body must have "cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit".

Pluto, which has been widely regarded as a planet since its discovery in 1930, has an oblong orbit that overlaps with Neptune's, so is disqualified full planet status.

The new classification means that the science textbooks will have to be ripped up, as the solar system is now made up of the eight "classical planets", plus a number of dwarf planets. The classical planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Astronomers from 75 countries were involved in today's vote of International Astronomical Union (IAU) members. The result of the vote was met with applause, but there had earlier been real disagreement over the "battle of the planets".


Not Bad

California leads the way:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state lawmakers reached a deal late Monday to hike the minimum wage to the highest level in the nation, aides said on Tuesday. The agreement between the Republican governor and the Democrat-led legislature's leaders would increase California's minimum wage by $1.25 over the next year and a half to $8 an hour.



Corporate largesse leaves much to be desired:
School children across the United States have raised more money for Katrina relief efforts than many major U.S. corporations, according to a non-profit group, RandomKid, which has tracked donations by children.

Over $10 million was raised by school kids through bake sales, lemonade stands, car washes and other fundraisers, according to RandomKid. That's more than almost every major U.S. corporation gave. More than wealthy oil and petrochemical companies, such as Chevron and ConocoPhillips. It's more than what AT&T and Verizon gave combined. And it's more than major brand name corporations like GE and Coca-Cola gave.

Only five U.S. corporations gave more than what was raised by the school kids, according to recently released report by the Foundation Center, a non-profit organization that has tracked Katrina relief donations.


Coalition Crumbling

I can't say I'll be shedding any tears:
Three disgruntled state affiliates have severed ties with the Christian Coalition of America, one of the nation's most powerful conservative groups during the 1990s but now buffeted by complaints over finances, leadership and its plans to veer into nontraditional policy areas.

Giles predicted further defections and said the coalition was now left with only a half-dozen strong state chapters and a weak presence in Washington.

"In our prime, we were rated the seventh-most powerful lobbying organization in the country," he said. "Now, there's not even any blip on the radar screen."


On the political left, an activist who monitors conservative organizations said the coalition never recovered from Reed's departure — with its staff and annual budget shrinking.

"They've been in free-fall ever since," said Peter Montgomery of the liberal group People for the American Way. "It's not surprising that local affiliates want to distance themselves from this floundering organization."

Steve Scheffler, who led the breakaway of the coalition's Iowa chapter in March, blamed Combs herself for much of the friction, saying she didn't treat the heads of the state affiliates with respect.

"The relationship has been very poor — an F minus to say the least," he said. "Her abilities in leading a national organization are not good."

"The sooner the organization goes completely away, the better," he added. "They're a total disgrace."



Took 'em long enough:
Women may buy the morning-after pill without a prescription - but only with proof they're 18 or older, federal health officials ruled Thursday, capping a contentious 3-year effort to ease access to the emergency contraceptive.


The Good Old Days

They never went away, for some:
Nine black children attending Red River Elementary School were directed last week to the back of the school bus by a white driver who designated the front seats for white children.

The situation has outraged relatives of the black children who have filed a complaint with school officials.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

So Long, Scientologist Sucker!

Good riddance to weird rubbish:
After a lucrative 14-year partnership, Paramount Pictures has decided not to renew its contract with Tom Cruise, citing the War of the Worlds star's off-screen antics as a concern. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount," explained Sumner Redstone, chairman of Viacom Inc, which owns the studio.
While Cruise's money-making potential is not in doubt, his public pronouncements have attracted increasingly negative publicity over the past year. He was widely ridiculed for his couch-hopping exploits on the Oprah Winfrey show and has faced criticism for his views on Scientology.


Tehran's Friends in Washington

Well, as long as we were helping al-Qaeda's recruitment efforts, why the heck not do this too?
The US-led "war on terror" has bolstered Iran's power and influence in the Middle East, especially over its neighbour and former enemy Iraq, a thinktank said today.

A report published by Chatham House said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had removed Iran's main rival regimes in the region.


Bring the People Home

Unlike Bush, who just spouts lies on top of lies, Nagin is actually doing something to rebuild the city:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin opened the first of a planned series of service centers designed to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees outside Louisiana return to their hometown and rebuild it so it's "no longer a city of haves and have nots."

The city is troubled but ready to welcome them back, Nagin told evacuees at the opening Tuesday of a Houston center run by his office and the city of Houston.

"Let me just be honest with you about the realities of New Orleans," Nagin said. "There is still a lot of devastation in the Lower Ninth Ward and in certain areas of New Orleans East. You may want to consider temporarily moving to a different part of the city until your section is back up and operational.

"For some reason there are powers that be that want to change this city forever. And we can't allow that to happen. We must work together."



The next generation of military rapists is learning well:
Almost 20 percent of the female cadets at The Citadel last spring reported they had been sexually assaulted since enrolling at the military college, according to results of a survey released by the school Wednesday.

About 4 percent of the male cadets also reported being sexually assaulted since joining the formerly all-male school, according to the results of the survey.


More Bushit

After watching Spike Lee's documentary the past two nights, reading this fills me with even more rage than it already would have:
"It's a time to remember that people suffered and it's a time to recommit ourselves to helping them," Bush said Wednesday. "But I also want people to remember that a one-year anniversary is just that, because it's going to require a long time to help these people rebuild."

Bush spoke on the South Lawn of the White House after meeting in the Oval Office with a New Orleans-area man who lost his home in the storm. Rockey Vaccarella, 41, of Meraux in St. Bernard Parish, has been traveling the Gulf Coast region to mark the Katrina anniversary.

Nearly a year after the hurricane, criticism lingered.

In a report entitled "Broken Promises," House and Senate Democratic leaders described what they called "the failed response" of the administration since the hurricane hit.

Released Wednesday by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid, D-Nev., the report asserted that "thousands of families are still waiting" for FEMA trailers and that a significant proportion of money that FEMA has spent there "has been waste, fraud and abuse."

"The Republican Congress didn't enact needed housing money for homeowners in Louisiana until June, 10 months after Katrina - and the money has still failed to reach these homeowners," it said.


The president was designating Tuesday, the Katrina anniversary, as a National Day of Remembrance to honor those who lost lives and property and those who helped rescue victims, said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Bush is spending two days in the Gulf region next week to mark the anniversary. He will be in Mississippi on Monday, to have lunch with community leaders, walk through a neighborhood, and deliver a speech on the rebuilding effort, before traveling to New Orleans, where he was scheduled to have dinner with state and local official and spend the night. On Tuesday, Bush is attending a service of prayer and remembrance, conducting a roundtable discussion on an effort headed by first lady Laura Bush to restock Gulf Coast libraries. He also will give a speech and visit with local residents, Perino said.


American Citizen Deported, Serves 3 1/2 Years in Prison for Trying to Return

Feel secure yet?
Duarnis Perez became an American citizen when he was 15, but he didn't find out until after he had been deported and then jailed for trying to get back into the country.

He was facing his second deportation hearing when he learned he was already a U.S. citizen. Still, federal prosecutors fought to keep him in custody.

Last week, a federal judge scolded prosecutors for the mistake.

"In effect, the government is arguing that an innocent man who was wrongly convicted should not be released from the custody of the United States," U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn wrote. He ruled that Perez never should have been deported.

The case has gotten the attention of immigration observers, who call it a striking example of the gaps in an overworked immigration system.

Perez became a citizen when his mother was naturalized in 1988 but apparently wasn't aware of it. His lawyer, J. Jeffrey Weisenfeld of New York, declined to release details other than to say that Perez, now in his early 30s, remains in the United States.

"He would like to get on with his life quietly," Weisenfeld said. "It was an unpleasant experience for him."

Perez was deported to the Dominican Republic in 1994 after a drug conviction.

In 2000, he was caught trying to re-enter the United States from Canada. But he wasn't informed he was a citizen until the spring of 2004, after serving three-and-a-half years in prison for that 2000 arrest.

It was not clear why Perez's status wasn't discovered when he first faced deportation. Messages left over three days seeking comment on the case from Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Washington were not returned.


Make 'Em Pay

No, Ralph, it's your own disingenuousness that has cast a pall over third-party campaigns:
Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his running mate must pay more than $80,000 in expenses for the lawsuit that challenged their nominating papers and kept them off the 2004 ballot, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

There was an implication of "fraud and deception" in their petition drive, the court said in its ruling.

A group of Pennsylvania voters sued to block Nader and Peter Camejo, who were running as independent candidates, from being placed on the ballot.

As a result of the lawsuit, the state Commonwealth Court found wide-ranging improprieties among Nader and Camejo's petition signatures and disqualified nearly two-thirds of the 51,000 signatures they submitted.

In Wednesday's ruling, five justices said Nader and Camejo must pay the plaintiffs' transcription and stenography costs. A sixth justice said he did not think the law permitted the award of such costs, and the seventh said only about half of the bill was permissible.

A lawyer representing Nader and Camejo had argued that forcing them to pay costs would discourage future third-party candidates.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Watch It

When the Levees Broke by Spike Lee is showing on HBO. Part I just aired, Part II airs tomorrow, and they're showing the whole thing on the anniversary of Katrina.

It's arduous, I will not lie.


Dark Matter

Of interest to astronomy geeks:
Astronomers say they have found the best evidence to date for "dark matter," that mysterious invisible substance that is believed to account for the bulk of the universe's mass.

Using a host of telescopes, researchers focused on the collision between two galactic clusters. They found that most of the gravitational pull from the aftermath of the encounter comes from a relatively empty looking patch of sky, a strong suggestion that there is something more there than meets the eye.

"This provides the first direct proof that dark matter must exist," said Doug Clowe, a research astronomer at the University of Arizona.


Renewed Pan-Tribalism in Aotearoa New Zealand

Good news from the Maori:

Iwi leaders will convene in November at the place where the establishment of the Kingitanga was planned 150 years ago in what some hope will mark the resurgence of a pan-tribal political forum.
The event is being hosted by Tuwharetoa and will involve the opening of a wharenui at Pukawa.
Pukawa is the site where the powerful Tuwharetoa chief Iwikau te Heuheu Tukino III called iwi leaders together in 1856 to discuss turning the Kotahitanga (unity) movement into a more concrete political force - the Kingitanga.
He wanted Waikato's Ngati Mahuta leader Potatau Te Wherowhero to take the job, but he twice refused before finally accepting in 1857. Te Wherowhero was crowned at Ngaruawahia the next year.
Key kaumatua from iwi around the country met at Ngaruawahia on Sunday to offer Tainui their support for the new Kingitanga leader, announced yesterday.
While it was widely accepted that the succession was an issue for Tainui tribes, the leaders debated the wider political significance of the Kingitanga heading into the future.
Ngai Tahu kaumatua Sir Tipene O'Regan laid a challenge to the gathering, calling for the re-energisation of the movement as a vehicle for gathering iwi together to discuss the "macro issues" facing Maori.
Sir Tipene said that with the Maori Council a "dead duck" and the Maori Congress no longer operating, there was no national pan-tribal body.


McCain Never Learns

You'd think, of all the Republicans, he'd be one of the first to remember the lessons of Vietnam. But, no:
On NBC’s Meet the Press this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for immediately adding more U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq. Echoing the failed strategy behind the escalation during the Vietnam War, McCain suggested that putting more troops in the middle of Iraq’s civil war would help the U.S. to ultimately prevail.


Not Your Body Anymore

So, I suppose that it's also okay to rape women in prison, since they don't have any rights to their own bodies, then:

Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon said on Wednesday that "he will appeal a federal court ruling requiring the state to take pregnant inmates to abortion clinics when they request the procedure," the Associated Press reports.

In 1992, a Missouri Department of Corrections policy on the healthcare of pregnant inmates "specifically stated that the government would pay to transport an inmate for an abortion, although it would not pay for the abortion itself," the AP reports. But the department reversed the policy in July 2005, citing costs and security concerns, and agreed to transport only inmates whose lives or health was endangered.

In response to this change in the policy, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action suit against the state demanding that transportation for abortion be made available to all women inmates. U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple of Kansas City sided with the ACLU last month, concluding that the policy "violated constitutional safeguards for due process and against cruel and unusual punishment." Indeed, if Nixon were to win his appeal, incarcerated women in Missouri would cede control over their bodies upon entering prison.


Sunday, August 20, 2006


Capitalist vultures, feeding on New Orleans. Sickening:

A year after Hurricane Katrina, the reconstruction of the devastated Gulf coast is being severely hampered by waste and inefficiency overseen by "disaster profiteers" who are making million of dollars, according to a watchdog group. The group claims the inefficiency - along with the companies' political connections - follows a pattern similar to what happened in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With much of New Orleans still in ruins and its population half of what it was before the hurricane, a new report claims millions of dollars has been squandered by wasteful processes that have seen 90 per cent of the first wave of reconstruction contracts awarded to firms outside Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Local firms have been frozen out while immigrant workers have been exploited and often unpaid.


War All the Time

Fighting "them" over "there" is a mirage. The mentality of war is poisoning the nation and has been doing so for some time:

In a shift from trends of the past decade, violent crime is on the rise, fueling criticism of Bush administration policies as a wave of murders and shootings hits smaller cities and states with little experience with serious urban violence.

From Kansas City, Missouri, to Indianapolis, Indiana, places that rarely attract notice on annual FBI crime surveys are seeing significant increases in murder. Boston, once a model city in America's battle against gun violence, is poised to eclipse last year's homicide tally, which was the worst in a decade.



America's "success" in Afghanistan is being revealed as the sham that it is:
"If we die, we are martyrs - if we live, we are victors," say the Taliban in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province. They have taken control of the area in less than two weeks. For, with ever accelerating speed, the Taliban are reconquering south-west Afghanistan from the government, American and Nato forces sent to fight them.


Victory in Afghanistan, Cont'd

Just a reminder: That war has not ended, and it's not going well:

Coalition troops clashed with insurgents in two battles Saturday in fighting that left four U.S. and two Afghan soldiers dead and six other Americans wounded, officials said.

The fighting was reported to be some of the heaviest in recent months and came as war-battered Afghanistan celebrated its independence day.


Heaven Forfend!

Again, who knows who's talking shit in this situation, but the notion that the United States does not have spies in Venezuela, seeking to undermine the present government, is hopelessly naive:

President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela has caught four people spying for the American government, but a U.S. embassy spokesman said Saturday that he had "no idea what the president is talking about."


Back You Go, Then

Once again, men and women who believed they'd served their country are dragged back in to support a criminal war:
Spc. Chris Carlson had been out of the U.S. Army for two years and was working at Costco in California when he received notice that he was being called back into service.

The 24-year-old is one of thousands of soldiers and Marines who have been deployed to Iraq under a policy that allows military leaders to recall troops who have left the service but still have time left on their contract.

"I thought it was crazy," said Carlson, who has found himself protecting convoys on Iraq's dangerous roads as part of a New Jersey National Guard unit. "Never in a million years did I think they would call me back."

Although troops are allowed to leave active duty after a few years of service, they generally still have time left on their contract with the military that is known as "inactive ready reserve" status, or IRR. During that time, they have to let their service know their current address, but they don't train, draw a paycheck or associate in any other way with the military.

But with active duty units already completing multiple tours in Iraq, the Pentagon has employed the rarely used tactic of calling people back from IRR status, a policy sometimes referred to as a "backdoor draft."

According to the U.S. Army Reserve, approximately 14,000 soldiers on IRR status have been called to active duty since March 2003 and about 7,300 have been deployed to Iraq. The Marine Corps has mobilized 4,717 Marines who were classified as inactive ready reserve since Sept. 11, and 1,094 have been deployed to Iraq, according to the Marine Forces Reserve.


Secure Baghdad

A target-rich environment, I suppose:

At least 15 people died and 200 were wounded in Baghdad today in attacks on pilgrims who had gathered in their hundreds of thousands for a sacred Shi'ite festival.

"Most of the attacks are taking place when pilgrims are crossing the neighbouring areas into Kadhimiya," a Health Ministry spokesman said, referring to the northern suburb where a sacred shrine is the focal point of the event.

Heavy security was meant to lower the ever present danger of sectarian strife at a festival with a bloody history.