Go home? No, not just yet

At least 12 members of Iraq's military are at no risk of having to face coalition forces in combat. In fact, they can take the war off if they wish, browsing in the shops or lingering over lunch in seaside cafes. How can this be? Because they "maintain" two gunboats that were impounded by order of the UN in 1991, just as their construction was being finished at a shipyard in La Spezia, Italy, where they remain, rusting in the salty air. Each year, new crews are sent to hoist the Iraqi flag over them daily. That complete, they may spend the rest of their time at leisure.

Just curious

Speaking of Iraq and war, they seem to have become the top search subjects for surfers of the web. On Yahoo's Buzz index and on Britain's Freeserve, the two have - at least for the moment - pulled ahead of such traditional favorites as sex and Britney Spears.

Golden arms: big-league baseball's best-paid pitchers

With Major League Baseball teams finalizing their rosters - the 2003 season opens Monday - hard-throwing Randy Johnson of the Arizona Diamondbacks has signed a two-year contract extension that makes him the best-paid pitcher in history. The top 10 contracts for hurlers, according to the Associated Press, the teams that paid them, the years covered, and the average yearly salaries (in millions) in each case:

1. Randy Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks (2003-04) $16.5
2. Roger Clemens, New York Yankees (2001-02) 15.5
3. Mike Hampton, Atlanta Braves (2001-08) 15.1
4. Kevin Brown, Los Angeles Dodgers (1999-2005) 15.0
5. Mike Mussina, Yankees (2001-06) 14.8 (tie) Greg Maddux, Braves (2003)
7. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks (1999-2002) 13.1
8. Chan Ho Park, Texas Rangers (2002-06) 13.0
9. Pedro Martinez, Boston Red Sox (1998-2003) 12.5
10. David Cone, Yankees (2000) 12.0

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