ThinkFast: March 27, 2006

81: Number of Iraqis reported killed on Sunday and Monday, “one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods in weeks.” Thirty of the victims, most of them beheaded, were “found dumped on a village road” north of Baghdad.

The U.S. embassy in Iraq faces criticism for “hiring its local staff from neighboring Jordan, rather than recruiting Iraqis.” One “highly placed American official…told a reporter he hired only non-Arab guards. “I don’t trust Iraqis,” he said.

Predatory lending is increasingly aimed at low-income minorities. A 2005 Federal Reserve study “showed that blacks and Hispanics are far more likely to receive high-cost home loans than whites, even when adjusting for factors such as income.”

Ohio can no longer charge some unmarried people under the state’s domestic violence law because “it conflicts with the state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage” passed in 2004, an appeals court has ruled.

The nation’s railways, which “transport more than 1.7 million shipments of hazardous materials every year,” remain dangerously vulnerable to attacks. “Chemical transport is clearly the greatest vulnerability in the country today and for some reason…the federal government has not acted,” said Richard Falkenrath, President Bush’s former deputy homeland security adviser.

Air Force retreat: Under pressure from evangelical groups and right-wing members of Congress, the Air Force has again revised its guidelines on religious expression. The new rules open “the door to sectarian prayer” and to “inappropriate religious pressure on cadets and service members.”

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has closed the new Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council from the public eye, waiving a law requiring such groups to meet in open session and make public its decisions.

Increasingly under pressure to meet reading and math testing requirements laid out in President Bush’s No Child Left Behind, many schools are eliminating or trimming courses such as social studies, science, and art.

In January 2003, President Bush proposed “flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in U.N. colours” in order to bait Saddam Hussein into violating a U.N. resolution and provoke a confrontation.

And finally: “Country radio may be ready to make nice with the Dixie Chicks.” The Chicks’ new single, “Not Ready to Make Nice” — a response to their conservative critics — “is now in rotation in several major markets, pushing it to No. 36 on Billboard’s country singles chart after its first full week of airplay.”

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.