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Dispatches The Buzz

KASHMIR Aid workers in India and Pakistan's quake-torn Kashmir region said traditional forms of assistance need not apply. "We need to pray for donkeys!" said one after a 7.6 quake on Oct. 8 left 2 million people homeless and perhaps over 40,000 dead in rough terrain and a dangerous region (See "Wanted: nurses and donkeys").

COURTS Normal procedure did nothing to robe ongoing debate among conservatives and between Republicans and Democrats over the nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee sent Ms. Miers a routine questionnaire on Oct. 12 ahead of hearings likely to begin next month, and the White House named former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to guide her through the nomination process.

With Justice Sandra O'Connor filling her own vacancy, the Court began its 2005-06 docket considering a federal challenge to Oregon's assisted-suicide law. The court could be forced to reargue close cases, however, if Ms. O'Connor's departure leads to tied verdicts (See "Old hand, new docket").

MEDICINE Parents will further reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if they will offer pacifiers at bedtime and let infants sleep in the parents' room-but not in their beds. The new recommendations are part of a long-running effort by the American Academy of Pediatrics to lessen SIDS, which remains the leading cause of death in U.S. infants between ages 1 month and 1 year. More than 2,000 U.S. babies die of it each year, but the rate has fallen dramatically since AAP recommended that infants sleep on their backs rather than their stomachs.

MILITARY The U.S. Army announced last week that it had fallen short of its goal of 80,000 new recruits for 2005. The Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps all met or exceeded their recruiting goals, but the Army fell short by 6,627 recruits. Even before the announcement, the Pentagon had already begun retraining thousands of airmen and sailors to be prison guards and customs inspectors in Iraq, in order to make up for the shortage.

IRAQ Despite military shortfalls, retired Army Gen. Robert Scales returned from Iraq hyped about U.S.-Iraqi military progress. Iraqi units are "better than we are, in the sense that they're better able to gather intelligence," he said. "They can spot insurgents by their body language. . . . They can spot foreigners far better than our soldiers can."

But retired CIA officer Warren Marik says the Pentagon is to blame for Iraq's still-thin military posture. "A soldier in the U.S. infantry is generally considered to be ready for combat after 20 weeks of training," he said. "The Bush administration has had approximately 180 weeks in Afghanistan and 120 weeks in Iraq to recruit and train professional military and paramilitary forces drawn from populations that have had extensive experience in war."

GERMANY Conservative leader Angela Merkel reached a "good and fair" deal Oct. 10 that will make her Germany's first female chancellor in a power-sharing agreement that would end seven years in office for Gerhard Schroeder and the Social Democrats.

SYRIA Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan, Syria's interior minister who presided over its proxy control of Lebanon, committed suicide Oct. 12 just as completion of an investigation into the killing of Lebanon's former prime minister nears. Gen. Kenaan was among seven senior Syrian officials questioned last month about the targeted bombing that killed President Rafik Hariri in February. The UN's report is due Oct. 25.

VOTES Iraqis began a four-day national curfew Oct. 13 but looked ready to pass an Oct. 15 referendum on a new constitution. With Iraq's leading Sunni party agreeing to support the document, will al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Zarqawi make war on Sunnis, too? The terrorist said in an audiotape it was OK to attack Iraqi Shiites because of their "heretics collaboration with the infidel occupiers."

Voters in Liberia turned out to elect a leader in the west African country's first multiparty elections in more than a decade. Waiting hours in line to vote was nothing compared to waiting 14 years for civil war to end (See "Worth the wait").

RELIGION The Roman Catholic sex-abuse scandal reemerged as the Archdiocese of Los Angeles posted files on the internet of 126 priests accused of child molestation during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. The posting was related to settlement talks in over 560 lawsuits against the archdiocese. "What we have here is a church that is embarrassed, that is contrite, that is ashamed of what happened in the past and is committed to reforming it to the extent that it is humanly possible to do so," said J. Michael Hennigan, lead attorney for the archdiocese. Plaintiffs' attorneys said that the posting did not go far enough, with limited information given on what they say is only about half the number of priests accused of abuse.

VENEZUELA Hugo Chavez once accused U.S. drug agents of spying on him; now the Venezuelan president believes U.S. missionaries are. Mr. Chavez said he will expel workers from Florida-based New Tribes Mission, whom he called "imperialists." One of the largest mission organizations working in Latin America, New Tribes became a presidential target following remarks by U.S. televangelist Pat Robertson, who suggested Mr. Chavez could be a candidate for assassination. Venezuela has frozen all missionary visa applications and restricted some pastors. "A careless remark from someone who is widely perceived by Latin Americans as an important evangelical leader has led, as predicted, to pressure and persecution of evangelicals in Venezuela," Latin American Mission spokesman Ken MacHarg told WORLD.