And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine.

Two members of the Iowa congressional delegation are trying to get the military to give "imminent danger pay" to soldiers guarding Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners in Cuba. Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Jim Leach – both Republicans – wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld inquiring about the $150 per month bonus.  One Iowa woman told the lawmakers her army reservist husband – a police officer in civilian life – makes about $800 less per month as an M.P. at Camp X-Ray than as a law enforcement officer at home.

Author Salman Rushdie – whose book The Satanic Verses angered Muslims and led the Ayatollah Khomeini to advocate Rushdie's killing – has taken another swipe at religion. In an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, Rushdie blames both Hindus and Muslims for widespread violence in his native India. Rushie writes that "religion is the poison in the blood" and concludes by saying, "what happened in India has happened in God's name. The problem's name is God."

A conservative doctors' group called “Physicians Consortium” wants the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to remove from its Web site a link to a self-described "guerrilla sex education group." The doctors say that group – the Coalition for Positive Sexuality, " or CPS – offers youths explicit advice about homosexuality, sodomy and masturbation.  One "Physicians Consortium" member said he was "appalled" to learn that federal dollars were being used to provide links to a site that he said, "borders on pornography."  A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said H.H.S. would review the site link.

Police in Long Island, NY, say five people were arrested yesterday following an overnight standoff in which some employees were held hostage in a Staples office supply store.  Police say one of the suspects tried to get away by claiming he had been a customer at the store when an aborted holdup took place. Two of the men arrested were guards who work for a private company that provides security at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.