Some very impressive jumps, flips and acrobatics from this troupe. I'm not sure who's performing, or where this takes place - can anyone help?
My joints ache just looking at that!
The idle musings of a former military man, former computer geek, medically retired pastor and now full-time writer. Contents guaranteed to offend the politically correct and anal-retentive from time to time. My approach to life is that it should be taken with a large helping of laughter, and sufficient firepower to keep it tamed!
One dozy thief has been dubbed a 'numbskull' after stealing a handbag from a police officer - in a bar full of police officers.
Mark Jimenez eyed up laptops and bags, even while uniformed constables were arriving at the leaving do for Inspector Penny Mills.
The 46-year-old still went ahead and pinched a handbag during a speech before being rugby tackled and surrounded by 40 officers.
The incident happened at the Elk bar, just doors away from Fulham police station in west London.
Jimenez was a ‘numbskull’, said cllr Greg Smith, member for crime on Hammersmith and Fulham Council, adding: ‘I can’t believe anyone would be stupid enough to try and pinch a detective’s bag from a room full of officers.’
A police source said of the January incident: ‘It was fairly obvious they were all police.
'I mean, there were speeches going on praising Penny’s work and a few uniformed officers even popped in to say goodbye.’
Inspector Mills said: ‘He put his hands up and said “fair cop”, which is something, I suppose.’
The brass band from Yorkshire Main Colliery assembled outside the doctor’s surgery in Edlington, South Yorkshire, and began to play. From the window above fluttered a Union Jack; below, the doctor handed out drinks to the puffing bandsmen.
It was July 5, 1948, the first day of a new era: the age of the National Health Service.
But few of those people toasting the new arrival, born and bred in a country that valued stoicism, reticence and self-reliance, could have imagined how deeply their successors would sink into hypochondria and self-indulgence.
To the first NHS patients, the latest Department of Health figures — which show that the average Briton picks up a staggering 16 prescriptions a year and the Government spends an astonishing £22 million [about US $33 million] a day on prescription drugs — would seem utterly inconceivable.
For unlike their successors, those people who queued outside doctors’ surgeries in July 1948 were not whingers or hypochondriacs.
And what they would make of another report yesterday — that in an era of cuts and sacrifices, the Government’s ‘happiness czar’ Lord Layard is offering £80,000 [about US $120,000] a year for someone to run the new ‘Movement for Happiness’ — simply defies imagination.
They were the last in a long line of ordinary Britons who did their best to live up to the ideal of the stiff upper lip and saw life’s disappointments as troubles to be endured rather than as an excuse to demand yet more help from the state.
As the war had just shown, the average Briton had a strong sense of duty, believing in an obligation to give something to the state rather than the other way round.
‘What we want from the British people is self-discipline and self-restraint,’ said the founder of the NHS, the socialist firebrand Aneurin Bevan.
Sixty years on, those virtues seem to have evaporated.
. . .
We have become addicted to the idea that there is a pill for every ill.
You can even get pills for ‘cognitive tempo disorder’ — symptoms: dreaminess, sluggishness and laziness — and ‘intermittent explosive disorder’ — otherwise known as having a temper tantrum.
As Professor Busfield notes, this obsession with pill-popping is partly driven by the profiteering drug companies.
But it also says something deeper and more disturbing about our cult of self-indulgence, our insistence on instant happiness as an inalienable human right, and our reckless rejection of one of the oldest traits of Britishness: our resilience in the face of adversity.
Those first NHS patients had just come through the darkest time in British history, when we stood alone against Hitler’s tyranny. Yet what seems astonishing now is how few of them felt sorry for themselves.
. . .
Emotions are no longer kept in check by those suffering illness or misfortune, but instead permanently displayed. Tears spring readily to the eye and the notion of suffering in silence seems as alien to us as dragoons’ sabres or Bakelite radios.
Indeed, if the stoic spirit survives at all, it is in a few isolated bastions of the old order: the corridors of Buckingham Palace, where the Queen does her best to preserve a spirit of quiet service; or the deserts of Afghanistan, where our brave soldiers serve uncomplainingly despite grossly inadequate pay and equipment.
But in general, by comparison with our forebears, we have become a deeply spoiled and self-indulgent people.
We expect perfection in our daily lives, and when, inevitably, it fails to materialise, we turn to the government for handouts and to the doctor for pills.
Barely half a century after millions of Britons struggled grimly through their daily lives with hernias, rotting teeth and broken bones because they simply could not afford the doctor’s bill, we hand out 10,000 prescriptions a week for ‘anti-hyperactivity’ drugs, known as the chemical cosh, to ensure order in the classroom.
Perhaps it is not surprising that we have become so obsessed with a quick fix to every problem.
Thanks to the disgraceful neglect of history in the modern curriculum, many youngsters have no idea how lucky we are and no sense of the sacrifices our ancestors routinely had to make.
But the age of self-indulgence cannot last forever. In the next few years, deep cuts will mean there is no more money for happiness czars — and less money, I hope, for spurious prescriptions to be thrown around like confetti at a wedding.
In an age of austerity, we will need to rediscover the older values of stoicism and self-reliance. We will have to get used to looking after ourselves, rather than expecting the state to do it for us.
Few of us, thankfully, will have to put up with anything as dreadful as our forebears were forced to endure, whether from the great conflicts or terrible diseases that imperilled their lives.
But is it too much to hope that we can still learn something from their example?
Across Japan the arrival of spring is bringing out the cherry blossom but it is also making people reach for their handkerchiefs as, at this time of year, hay fever is rife.
A company called the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory has developed what it claims is a cure.
For relief, sufferers need only wait for a call on their mobile phone. The sound is supposed to dislodge pollen if the user holds the handset up to their nose.
Another of the so-called therapeutic ring tones is for those trying to lose weight.
The Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory is led by Matsumi Suzuki, an expert in voiceprint technology of the kind used to authenticate tapes of Osama Bin Laden.
He was behind a device for dog-owners called Bow-lingual which, it is claimed, can interpret the meaning of barking.
But now ring tones are his speciality.
There is a range specially tailored for the needs of people with different star signs, such as one for Taurus, the bull, complete with mooing.
Index, the mobile phone content provider which markets the therapeutic ring tones, admits the technology behind them is perhaps a little unproven but insists the number of downloads suggests they may be working.
Police in Connecticut say even they were surprised by the actions of these criminals: two would-be robbers called a bank ahead of time to get the money ready and were arrested at the scene.
Fairfield police say they arrested 27-year-old Albert Bailey and an unidentified 16-year-old boy on robbery and threatening charges Tuesday afternoon at the People's United Bank branch on Stratfield Road.
Sgt. James Perez says the two Bridgeport residents called the bank and told a worker to get a bag of money ready. Perez says they showed up at the bank 10 minutes later, but police had been notified and arrested the suspects in the parking lot.
Perez told the Connecticut Post he classifies the suspects as "not too bright."
The dashing young airman who became the poster boy of the RAF during World War II has been revealed – 65 year after the conflict ended.
Squadron Leader Ian Blair, now 91, was 22 years old when the famous snap was taken in 1940 after his daring flying in north Africa earned him a medal.
But he didn’t realise his fame until two years later when, on a break in Bournemouth, he saw his face on a propaganda notice warning 'Careless Talk May Cost His Life'.
The poster, aimed at raising morale on the Home Front and spreading vital educational messages, was one of the most enduring images of the war.
Last week, a recently unearthed stash of mint condition pictures sold at auction for more than £25,000 after attracting bids from around the world.
Mr Blair, from Brentwood, Essex, who was born the year the RAF was formed, yesterday told of the moment in 1942 when he first saw the poster.
He said: ‘I wasn't even aware that it had been produced. The photo had been taken two years earlier, in North Africa, when I was a 22-year-old corporal.
‘I didn't think anything more of it, and then all of a sudden, there I was, hanging on the wall of a post office.’
In the famous image, Mr Blair is smiling in his airman's kit as if he hadn't a care in the world.
But just the day before, the former air ace of 113 Squadron had saved himself and a comrade with an act of bravery that won him the coveted Distinguished Flying Medal.
He said: ‘I look cheerful in the photo. I always look cheerful. But it doesn't tell you the true story - the full picture.
‘The day before, we had been sent out to bomb an enemy airfield at Derna, about 400 miles west of Alexandria.
‘We were in a Blenheim bomber, and I was the observer. That's the guy in the front who does the navigation and drops the bombs.Bristol Blenheim Mk. I bomber
‘But as soon as I had released the bombs, a fighter-plane attacked us.’ Glasgow-born Sqn Ldr Blair still has the blood-stained flight log he made that day. The pencil entries end suddenly.
He said: ‘There was an almighty bang. When I looked round, the pilot - a chap called Reynolds - was slumped forward on the controls.
‘I think it was the very last round that killed him. It was really unfortunate. His luck had run out.
‘Then the aircraft went into a steep dive.’
Despite having never flown an aircraft in his life before that moment, the young airman - paid one shilling and sixpence per day extra to fill in as part-time air crew - took charge.
He said: ‘From that moment the only thing going through my mind was survival. Everything happened so quickly, and we had to get the heck out of there.
‘I managed to pull the pilot's body off his seat and get the aircraft under control. But we still had to get home and land the thing.
‘My gunner, Hank, sent a message back to base saying: “We're in dire trouble here, the observer is flying the aircraft.”
‘Lo and behold, when we got back to base there was whole gallery of people, cars, ambulances and fire tenders all lined up waiting for the ultimate - but it didn't happen.
‘I had spent a long time watching pilots, and made a textbook landing. We came down in a shower of dust.
‘Perhaps I was a bit over-confident. The air officer commanding the base apparently said: “If that guy can fly an aircraft without a pilot's course, let's send him on a pilot's course.”’
He was presented with his DFM by George VI.
Mr Blair, who joined the RAF as a boy entrant apprentice aged 16 in 1934, went on to fly Spitfires against the Luftwaffe, and was shot down twice before the war ended.
There are high hopes the new invention – which sounds something like a cross between tear gas and capsicum spray – might replace more toxic weapons worldwide.
However, it may not work on all targets. It is understood men in macho cultures where extreme chilli eating is a rite of passage may have inbuilt resistance. A top-secret British police experiment, in which chilli grenades were used in an attempt to disperse football fans, reportedly backfired when the young men began bragging to each other about whose nose was running the most, before sitting down in the street and demanding beer, pappadams and a selection of chutneys.
The hooligans finally left the scene several hours later. A police report says they made boorish comments, stole a napkin holder and failed to leave a tip.
. . .
Military experts fear the Indian move could spark a nationalistic culinary arms race, with Russian troops flooding enemy trenches with beetroot soup, Chinese soldiers hurling deadly chicken feet and the French flipping crepes over their shoulders to make the path behind them slippery as they perform tactical withdrawals.
Sources deep within Australian Army bunkers report that military scientists in Canberra have been working on our own dinky-di secret weapon: a missile launcher that catapults a barrage of meat pies with sauce. The aim is to disable the enemy with hot gloop.
"Early results indicate that plain meat pies seem to cause the most mess," an army source said. "However, that's proved troublesome for the operators loading the launcher. Haven't really got past that stage. Problem may be that we've been microwaving them. Too soggy, you see. If only the consignment of conventional ovens we bought actually worked."
Insiders say a plan to use dagwood dogs [corn dogs, for US readers] as missiles was scrapped after human rights lawyers advised that this would contravene the Geneva Protocol regarding chemical warfare.
The United States, of course, is expected to resort to shock and awe, bombarding the enemy with its national dish: an enormous sesame seed bun that explodes on impact, scattering pizza, hamburgers, fries, fried chicken, hot dogs, milkshakes and boysenberry ice-cream in all directions.
After several such raids, the hope is that potential terrorists would be too fat to be allowed on passenger planes whether carrying bombs or not, thus guaranteeing the safety of the free world and indoctrinating foreigners in the American, Christian way of life at the same time.
An artist by the name of Jeremy Dean created something called “Back to the Futurama”, a statement to the current American consumer culture, the auto industry and the economic recession. Dean figured that the biggest impressions he could make for his “Back to the Futurama” would be to turn a Hummer H2 into a horse carriage, and that’s exactly what he did.
. . .
Jeremy says that the project was inspired by the Great Depression, at a time when people could no longer afford gas for their vehicles and hitched them to horses, creating “Hoover Carts.”
“I was fascinated by the Hoover Cart story and the image I saw in my mind of the re-imagined vehicle, this ultimate coping mechanism, and it seemed to me then, as it does now, a monument to the absurd, as only something utilitarian done in prolonged crisis can be,” Jeremy says.
His 1,800-pound car made its public debut in Central Park, pulled by two horses named Diesel and Dean.
“One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that ‘violence begets violence.’ I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure - and in some cases I have - that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy.”
The first Victoria Cross to be awarded to a soldier is being auctioned and is expected to fetch £120,000 [about US $180,000].
The medal is being sold with a Russian cannon ball that took off the arm of the recipient, Major John Simpson Knox, during the Battle of Sebastopol in the Crimean war.
The VC, on the left in the picture, is being sold with three other medals Knox was awarded, the Crimean Medal, next to it, the Légion d’honneur and the Turkish Crimean medal.
. . .
The sale is at Spink next month. Oliver Pepys, a medal specialist at the auctioneers, said: “We have researched the circumstances around the loss of Major Knox’s arm and have discovered a fellow soldier picked up the ball and gave it to him as a memento.”
The EN-V - or Electric Networked-Vehicle - is a new two-seater concept vehicle that offers an autonomous mode which uses GPS and vehicle-to-vehicle communications along with distance-sensors and cameras to duck and weave its way through traffic using the quickest route.
The GM EN-V is an upright two-wheeled electric vehicle that has been developed by General Motors and its Chinese joint venture partner Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
The core idea of the vehicle is personal mobility with a small footprint - both literally and environmentally.
The EN-V is a zero-emissions vehicle (provided it's recharged using 'green' energy), and the city runabout is designed to be plugged in to a regular powerpoint overnight, with a range of only about 40km.
The EN-V also operates like a social networking website, allowing occupants to communicate wirelessly with friends or business associates while on the road.
It's tiny, too. The EN-V is only 1.5-metres (just under 5 feet) long, and weighs just 500kg (about 1,100 pounds) - by comparison the Smart ForTwo ... is 2.7-metres (just under 9 feet) long, and weighs in at 750kg (about 1,650 pounds). If the numbers don't seem to add up, that's because of the EN-V's extra weight, which comes from the bank of lithium-ion batteries that are used to power the twin 3kW (about 4 horsepower) electric motors.
Three models of the EN-V have been produced - the red and racy looking Jiao (pride in English), the grey stealthy looking Miao (magic) and the bright and cheerful blue Xiao (laugh).
. . .
EN-V has been designed to ease the mind's of commuters when it comes to traffic congestion, parking availability, air quality and affordability, and GM says the EN-V is "the vehicle for tomorrow's cities".
The car - if you'd call it that - is based on the platform of the Segway (two-wheeled balance-based personal transporter). Under that funky looking shell hides two wheels, and two occupants can fit side by side in the cabin, which is undeniably futuristic in its design.
GM says the EN-V should shift the way people think about vehicles.
"The EN-V concept represents a major breakthrough in the research that GM has been doing to bring vehicle autonomy to life," says Alan Taub, global vice-president of research and development for GM.
"The building blocks that enable the autonomous capabilities found on the EN-V concept such as lane departure warning, blind zone detection and adaptive cruise control are being used in some GM vehicles on the road today," he says.
Despite launching in Shanghai, the EN-V will not only be for Chinese cities - GM, SAIC and Segway have developed it for mega-cities around the world.
Estimates suggest that 60 per cent of global population will live in cities by 2030. The EN-V could well come in handy, then.
MMMMvelopes are bacon envelopes. No, they're not made of bacon, but they look like a perfectly marbled piece of pork flesh. But that's not the best part! The best part is that when you lick these envelopes to seal your writings inside, the adhesive TASTES LIKE SCRUMTRULESCENT BACON.
Seriously. No more envelopes that taste like finely aged butt cheese. No more tiny sponges dipped in water to avoid the taste of finely aged butt cheese. Lick your envelopes and lick them well, geek friends. Finally, a reason to send snail mail again!
An ''outstanding'' collection of illuminated manuscripts previously owned by kings, bishops and the aristocracy is expected to fetch up to £16 million when it goes under the hammer.
The private collection, which Christie's described as the most valuable of its kind ever to be offered at auction, includes the personal prayerbooks of King Francois I of France and Elizabeth de Bohun, great-grandmother of King Henry V of England.
The Arcana Collection: Exceptional Illuminated Manuscripts And Incunabula, which has a total estimate of between £11 million and £16 million, will go on sale in July.
But the sale is just the first part of the auction and more works which are currently being valued are expected to be offered to bidders over the next 18 months.
The manuscripts are owned by an anonymous American collector, who spent three decades amassing the prized items.
The illuminated manuscripts are handwritten books with illustrations and decorations painted in brilliant colours and gold.
Books Of Hours - prayerbooks intended for private use - were the most popular type of illuminated manuscript and their appearance could be tailored to an individual's taste.
. . .
Highlights of the collection include:
- A Book Of Hours illuminated for King Francois I of France, expected to realise £300,000 to £500,000.
Francois is described as one of the greatest princely patrons of the Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci spent his final years in the king's service. After his death Francois acquired The Mona Lisa from the artist's estate.
- The Hours and Psalter of Elizabeth de Bohun, Countess of Northampton and great-grandmother of King Henry V of England, are expected to realise £2 million to £3 million.
These were lent by a previous owner, William Waldorf Astor, to the important loan exhibition in New York 1883 which raised funds for a pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.
- A manuscript Bible produced in Italy in the middle of the 13th century.
It appears to have been made for the use of a convent of Dominican friars and carries an estimate of £2.5 million to £3.5 million.
The manuscripts will also go on public exhibition for the first time, between July 3 an 7, alongside Christie's auction of Old Masters and 19th Century Art.
Processing and safely storing waste from the chemical, pharmaceutical and other industries can cost hundreds, even thousands, of dollars per ton—which makes illegal disposal highly profitable. According to the Italian environmental organization Legambiente, some waste shippers that have operational bases in southern Italy have been using the Mediterranean as a dump. While acknowledging that “no wreck has yet been found that contains toxic or radioactive waste,” physicist Massimo Scalia of the University of Rome, La Sapienza, who has chaired two parliamentary commissions on illegal waste disposal, argues that other vidence makes their existence “beyond reasonable doubt.”
Scalia contends that 39 ships were wrecked under questionable circumstances between 1979 and 1995 alone; in every case, he adds, the crew abandoned the ship long before it sank. An average of two ships per year suspiciously disappeared in the Mediterranean during the 1980s and early 1990s, according to Legambiente—and the number has increased to nine wrecks per year since 1995. Paolo Gerbaudo of the Italian daily il Manifesto, who is assisting investigations, has identified 74 suspect wrecks of which he regards 20 as being extremely suspicious. (The record extends until 2001.)A chart of suspicious ship sinkings and disappearances in the Mediterranean Sea
(For a larger view and details of each sinking, click here)
. . .
Significantly, the increase in the frequency of wrecking correlates with the progressive tightening of international dumping regulations. The first suspect sinking, in 1979, occurred the year after the Barcelona Convention, which restricts the disposal of pollutants in the Mediterranean Sea, came into force. Over the following decades other treaties expanded the regulations, culminating in a 1993 amendment to the London Dumping Convention that halted the ocean disposal of all radioactive waste and in a 1995 amendment to the Basel Convention that banned the deposition of the industrial world’s lethal excreta in developing countries. The laws ruined the ambitious plans of one firm, Oceanic Disposal Management, incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, to drop tens of thousands of cubic meters of radioactive waste into the seabed off the African coast. Andreas Bernstorff, who formerly headed a Greenpeace campaign against the trade in toxic waste, reports that the number of schemes to ship such garbage to Africa fell steeply at this time, to at most one attempt per year. The drop coincides with a sudden and ominous rise in the frequency with which ships in the Mediterranean perished.
Despite profound concern in southern Italy, efforts to find the wrecks and identify their cargo have been slow. The endeavor is expensive, Scalia notes, and requires “serious engagement by magistrates and politicians”—which, but for “a few honorable exceptions,” has been lacking. Fear of violence may also have hindered investigation. In 1994 Italian television journalist Ilaria Alpi and cameraman Miran Hrovatin were shot dead near Mogadishu, after they picked up the hazardous waste trail in Somalia, where political upheaval has kept the country from enforcing controls.
That African nation possibly holds clues to the kinds of health hazards Italians might face. “My committee heard from Somalians who said many people in that area had symptoms of poisoning and some died,” Scalia attests, referring to a stretch of highway along which Alpi and Hrovatin may have witnessed the offloading of toxic substances. The tsunami of December 2004 dredged up giant metal containers from the seabed and placed them on Somali beaches—proving that the country’s coastal waters had also received questionable trash. A United Nations report blamed fumes from these unidentified objects for internal hemorrhages and deaths of local people.
In April 2007 Calabrian authorities had temporarily halted fishing in waters off Cetraro (where the Cunski lies, according to a turncoat from the ’Ndrangheta mafia) because of dangerous levels of heavy metals in marine sediment. In the region around Amantea, mortality from cancer between 1992 and 2001 exceeded that in neighboring areas, a study found; just as worrisome, hospitalizations for certain malignancies have risen in recent years.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of this old disease.
The disease is called Gonorrhea Lectim. It's pronounced (NOT) "Gonna Re-elect 'im."
The disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior involving putting your cranium up your rectum.
Many victims contracted it in 2008 . . . but now most people after having been infected for the past 1-2 years are starting to realize how destructive this sickness is. It's sad, because it is easily cured with a new procedure just coming on the market called Vo-tem-out!
You take the first dose/step in 2010 and the second dosage in 2012 and simply don't engage in such behavior again, otherwise it could become permanent and eventually wipe out all life as we know it.
Several states are already on top of this like Virginia and New Jersey, and apparently now Massachusetts, with many more seeing the writing on the wall.
The India-Pakistan border-crossing ceremony is "more like a cricket match than a ceremony" -- a kind of elaborate transborder military display complete with impressive hats and other regalia. Igpajo sez, "This ceremony looks like the bastard love child of a certain Monty Python skit and a Maori War Dance! Gotta love the little handshake at the end after all the posturing and stomping."
Think You'll Get Revenge in November? Think Again.
Think again. I think we're watching "Checkmate" in action. Why? Word is that Immigration "Reform" is the Obama Administration's next goal,and that they intend on granting Amnesty to the illegals living here now. Estimates put that number at about 15-30 million people. Assuming 90% of them would instantly become life-long loyal Democrat voters (And why wouldn't they? They've just been given US citizenship and US Health Care by a Democrat), any massive "backlash" against the Democrats that appears to be developing right now will really only end up likely being more than countered by the massive increase in the total number of loyal Democrat voters that Amnesty will provide.
I hope I'm wrong. Of course, I do not know if Amnesty would mean they could instantly register to vote for the November 2010 elections (2012 almost certainly), or if some other steps would be required by the legislation. But to me, it looks like this is the reason that the Democrats feel absolutely no need to listen to the wishes of the majority of the electorate right now. Simply put; they are not legislating for this current electorate. They are legislating for the electorate-to-come, the one that will exist after Amnesty is granted to 15-30 million new Democrat voters. It's a trump card. Essentially, this means that 2008 could end up being the last major election that our current electorate (as demographically constituted today) will ever have participated in. Thus, they know that they might never have to answer to this current electorate again. Keep in mind that Obama's victory over McCain was a clear and decisive one. He won 52% to 46%. But the margin was still less than 10 million total votes (69.5 to 59.9 million). With 15-30 million new loyal Democrat voters, it's quite possible that we won't see a GOP majority or President for a very long time, despite the current, wide-spread, and growing surge/anger against the Democrats.
This is very deliberate. And the sequence of Obama's major Agenda items was designed to bring this mega-majority about. The Stimulus bill had to be first, because it feathers the financial bed for Democrats' re-election campaigns. Then Health Care had to be next, because if they granted Amnesty first, then the Health Care proposal would appear much more expensive than the bill makes it appear right now (without the 15-30 million new citizens). By the way, (Union) Card-Check, and Cap and Trade are the other 2 pillars of their plan for cementing lasting Democrat Party majorities and dominance.
America has spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits — but the program has been a disaster. More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the State Department's top representative in the region, has publicly called the Afghan police "an inadequate organization, riddled with corruption." During the Obama administration's review of Afghanistan policy last year, "this issue received more attention than any other except for the question of U.S. troop levels," Holbrooke later told NEWSWEEK. "We drilled down deep into this."
The worst of it is that the police are central to Washington's plans for getting out of Afghanistan. The U.S.-backed government in Kabul will never have popular support if it can't keep people safe in their own homes and streets. Yet in a United Nations poll last fall, more than half the Afghan respondents said the police are corrupt. Police commanders have been implicated in drug trafficking, and when U.S. Marines moved into the town of Aynak last summer, villagers accused the local police force of extortion, assault, and rape.
The public's distrust of the cops is palpable in the former insurgent stronghold of Marja. Village elders welcomed the U.S. Marines who recently drove out the Taliban, but told the Americans flatly they don't want the ANP to return. "The people of Marja will tell you that one of their greatest fears was the police coming back," says Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who took over in November as chief of the U.S. program to expand and improve Afghanistan's security forces. "You constantly hear these stories about who was worse: the Afghan police that were there or the Taliban." The success of America's counterinsurgency strategy depends on the cops, who have greater contact with local communities than the Army does. "This is not about seizing land or holding terrain; it's about the people," says Caldwell. "You have to have a police force that the people accept, believe in, and trust."
More than a year after Barack Obama took office, the president is still discovering how bad things are. At a March 12 briefing on Afghanistan with his senior advisers, he asked whether the police will be ready when America's scheduled drawdown begins in July 2011, according to a senior official who was in the room. "It's inconceivable, but in fact for eight years we weren't training the police," replied Caldwell, taking part in the meeting via video link from Afghanistan. "We just never trained them before. All we did was give them a uniform." The president looked stunned. "Eight years," he said. "And we didn't train police? It's mind-boggling." The room was silent.
Efforts to build a post-Taliban police force have been plagued from the start by unrealistic goals, poor oversight, and slapdash hiring. Patrolmen were recruited locally, issued weapons, and placed on the beat with little or no formal training. Most of their techniques have been picked up on the job—including plenty of ugly habits. Even now, Caldwell says, barely a quarter of the 98,000-member force has received any formal instruction. The people who oversaw much of the training that did take place were contractors—many of them former American cops or sheriffs. They themselves had little proper direction, and the government officials overseeing their activities did not bother to examine most expenses under $3,000, leaving room for abuse. Amazingly, no single agency or individual ever had control of the training program for long, so lines of accountability were blurred.
Coalition efforts to build an Afghan police force were painfully slow at first. By 2003 the U.S. State Department decided to speed things up by deploying the Virginia-based defense contractor DynCorp International, which had held previous contracts to train police officers in Kosovo and Haiti. The company began setting up a string of training centers across the country. After the Defense Department took a role in overseeing that work in 2005, it squabbled constantly with State over whether the training should emphasize police work or counterinsurgency.
Neither the State Department nor DynCorp was prepared for the job they faced. Most of the recruits are rural villagers who have never been inside a classroom. Roughly 15 percent test positive for drugs, primarily hashish. Few know how to use a toothbrush or drive, and nearly 90 percent are illiterate. In 2005 DynCorp opened a new police academy on the outskirts of Jalalabad, and within a few months the academy's drains backed up. Maintenance workers discovered that the septic tanks were full of smooth stones—a toilet-paper substitute used by many rural Afghans. DynCorp had to bring in backhoes to repair the problem, and the company had to add two days of classes in basic hygiene.
The ANP still takes just about anyone who applies. "Our recruits are unemployed youth with no education and no prospects," says Police Col. Mohammad Hashim Babakarkhil, deputy commander of Kabul's central police-training center. Since January 2007, upwards of 2,000 police have been killed in action—more than twice the figure for Afghan Army soldiers. U.S. officers say as many as half the police casualties were a result of firearms accidents and traffic collisions.
It's practically impossible to produce competent police officers in a program of only eight weeks, says a former senior DynCorp executive, requesting anonymity because he continues to work in the industry. But that was the time frame State and Defense set for the course. "They were not going to be trained police officers. We knew that. They knew that," the former executive says. "It was a numbers game." In fact, the course has now been cut from eight weeks to six in order to squeeze in more trainees. ("We believe the training is appropriate under the circumstances," says Assistant Secretary of State David Johnson. DynCorp spokesman Douglas Ebner says the basic-training course is part of a more extensive 40-week program, and is supported by further "field monitoring, mentoring, and advising." Training hours have been extended to make up for the lost weeks, he says. DynCorp does "not make the policies, recruit the police candidates, or design the program," he adds, saying the company has "fully met" its objective of providing highly qualified police trainers.)
Whether or not recruits have mastered their subjects, almost everyone graduates. Even if they fail the firearms test, they're issued a weapon and put on the street. Only the Interior Ministry can flunk a candidate, and that rarely happens. "There were a lot of Afghans who seemed to have some patriotism and wanted to make their country better," recalls Tracy Jeansonne, a former deputy sheriff from Louisiana who worked for DynCorp from May 2006 to June 2008. "But a lot of the police officers wanted to be able to extort money from locals. If we caught them, we'd suggest they be removed. But we couldn't fire anybody. We could only make suggestions."