Auditors find US wasted millions on Iraqi police training facilities, billions on training!

Report from auditors finds that massive US programme to train Iraqi police was unwanted and led to ‘de-facto waste’.

More than $200m was wasted on a programme to train Iraqi police that the government in Baghdad neither needed or wanted, US auditors have found.

The Police Development Programme, which was to be the single largest programme launched by the US State Department anywhere in the world, was envisioned to be a five-year, multi-billion dollar effort to train local security forces after the US military pulled out last December.

A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, to be released today, found that the US embassy in Baghdad never received a written commitment from Iraq to participate in the programme.

Now, facing what the report called Baghdad’s “disinterest” in the project, the embassy is massively cutting what was planned to be the centrepiece of ongoing US training projects in Iraq.

According to the report, the embassy now plans to turn the $108m Baghdad Police College Annex over to Iraqis by the end of 2012, and will also stop training at a $98m site in the southern city of Basra…

“A major lesson learned from Iraq is that host country buy-in to proposed programmes is essential to the long-term success of relief and reconstruction activities”…auditors wrote in a 41-page summary of their inspection…

In ordinary English – understand we’re talking about a government made up of survivors of Bush’s invasion of Iraq.

The report concluded, “the decision to embark on a major programme absent Iraqi buy-in has been costly” and resulted in “a de-facto waste”…The findings have called into question funding needs at the US embassy in Baghdad, the largest such mission in the world…

In a July 26 letter responding to a draft of the report, Carol Z. Perez, an acting US assistant secretary of state, said that the embassy would be requesting additional funding for the police training programme in 2013…

Moreover, Perez said, the embassy had been assured by Adnan al-Asadi, the Iraqi principal deputy interior minister, that his country is committed to a streamlined version of the training programme.

The auditors, however, said that those assurances fall short of a written commitment. They quoted al-Asadi as telling US inspectors that the police training programme was “useless”.

Bush’s imperial adventure into the Middle East will go down in history as comparable to the political and military disaster that was VietNam. We weren’t wanted. We did nothing useful to improve the lives of ordinary Iraqis.

We convinced the few people who may have been sympathetic to the United States in the Middle East and the rest of the world – that our foreign policy is as backwards as the rules of order governing Congress. And our nation is run by liberals and/or conservatives who have learning nothing from our past – or the failures of every imperial nation that preceded us.

Anyone surprised? Civil partnerships are five times more popular than forecast

The popularity of civil partnerships has far outstripped official expectations, with figures showing five times as many couples have made the commitment than originally forecast. The latest figures, published on Tuesday, show the number of couples entering civil partnerships in Britain rose by 6% last year to 6,795.

More than 100,000 people have now entered a civil partnership in Britain since they first became legal in December 2005…Official estimates were that between 11,000 and 22,000 would make the commitment in the first five years.

The latest figures also confirm that in the first years more men than women formed civil partnerships, but since 2009 the numbers have become more equal. The average age for entering a civil partnership is just over 40 for men and 38 for women…

Andy Wasley, from Stonewall, said: “We’re delighted that civil partnerships have proved to be so popular, both with same-sex couples and in wider society. YouGov polling for Stonewall shows four in five people across Britain support civil partnerships, and seven in 10 support equal marriage. This modest step towards full equality needn’t take much parliamentary time. It’s time for the government to get on with it”…

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 allowed same-sex couples in the UK to register their relationships for the first time. People who enter civil partnerships get a package of rights and responsibilities, including on tax and benefits, and the ability to apply for parental responsibility for their partner’s children and for the full range of financial orders available to married couples on divorce.

A Home Office spokesperson welcomed the figures and said those already in a civil partnership would be able to convert their union into a marriage under proposals already published: “This government believes society is stronger when couples commit to each other, which is why it is so encouraging to see more same-sex couples entering civil partnerships.

If they keep civil partnerships as an alternative to traditional marriage – with the same rights and responsibilities as marriage; but, fewer bureaucratic requirements for dissolution – the Brits will no doubt experience the same dynamic expansion of civil partnership throughout the whole populace of heterosexual couples. That’s what has already happened in France.

The public conversion of a climate-change skeptic

Call me a converted skeptic. Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming. Last year, following an intensive research effort involving a dozen scientists, I concluded that global warming was real and that the prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct. I’m now going a step further: Humans are almost entirely the cause.

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics…In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions…

The careful analysis by our team is laid out in five scientific papers now online at That site also shows our chart of temperature from 1753 to the present, with its clear fingerprint of volcanoes and carbon dioxide, but containing no component that matches solar activity. Four of our papers have undergone extensive scrutiny by the scientific community, and the newest, a paper with the analysis of the human component, is now posted, along with the data and computer programs used. Such transparency is the heart of the scientific method; if you find our conclusions implausible, tell us of any errors of data or analysis.

Science is that narrow realm of knowledge that, in principle, is universally accepted. I embarked on this analysis to answer questions that, to my mind, had not been answered. I hope that the Berkeley Earth analysis will help settle the scientific debate regarding global warming and its human causes. Then comes the difficult part: agreeing across the political and diplomatic spectrum about what can and should be done.

RTFA for greater depth and breadth than this outline of Dr. Muller’s Op-Ed piece in the TIMES. As you’d expect, the climate-change deniers continue their kinship with creationists. They have an ideological position. They ask questions founded on no scientific study hoping someone will offer data and analysis to support their belief.

That turns the scientific method upside-down. The appropriate term for the results of such creepy methodology is “ass-backwards”. Nothing of value to scientific study.

I watched Dr. Muller on TV last night. He has two proposals. The first makes sense to everyone but hacks completely owned by the fossil fuel industry: work to upgrade efficiencies and environmental friendliness of all combustion-based energy sources – transport, electricity generation, all of it. The second is join the industrialized nations with developing countries to replace every occurrence of coal-based electricity generation with natural gas as the power source. That removes two-thirds of the carbon-dioxide production from the equation.

It always feels nice to see science trump ideology.

Camels at sunrise

Click on photo to enlarge – and see that you’re looking at shadows

Halfway through college, George Steinmetz bought a camera and took off on a “big wander.” Hitchhiking from London to Zaire, he was captivated by the remote regions he passed through. He vowed to go back, to capture these strange, barren landscapes in a way that had never been done before. “It became my long-term dream—to find a way to photograph deserted places from above.”

Years later, the motorized paraglider became Steinmetz’s solution. The Sahara, Antarctica, and South America’s Altiplano are among the places he has since documented. “You see unique things from the air,” he says. “Paintings, camel trails, ceremonial locations, little patterns in the early-morning shadows…

Incredible. A classic.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Taiwanese vegetable vendor given Asia’s Magsaysay Award

A Taiwanese vegetable vendor, who has personally given away over 7 million Taiwanese dollars to several charities for children, was among six winners of Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel prize this year…

The Manila-based Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation named Chen Shu-chu as one of six winners, citing her for “personal giving, which reflects a deep, consistent, quiet compassion, and has transformed the lives of the numerous Taiwanese she has helped”.

From her daily earnings as a vegetable vendor, Chen, who reached only the sixth grade and sleeps on the floor, was able to help build a library and feed and shelter children-at-risk as well as families displaced by disasters.

Money serves its purpose only when it is used for those who need it,” she said. “I feel happy whenever I could help other people…”

The awards, named for a popular president of the Philippines who was killed in a plane crash, were set up in 1957 by the trustees of the New York-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Nearly 300 people and groups, including the U.S. Peace Corps and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, have been recognized since 1958.


Scalia admits to Constitutional limitations of the right to bear arms

“Should we bring back beheading?
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Sunday the Constitution allows for limitations to a person’s right to bear arms.

In an interview…Scalia said future cases will have to determine whether the Constitution permits citizens to “keep and bear” semiautomatic weapons or magazines carrying 100 rounds, like those used in the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, last week.

“Some [limits] undoubtedly are [permissible], because there were some that were acknowledged at the time” the Constitution was written, he said.

He pointed to a law at the time against what was called afrighting, “which, if you carried around a really horrible weapon just to scare people, like a head ax or something, that was, I believe, a misdemeanor,” Scalia said.

“So yes, there are some limitations that can be imposed. What they are will depend on what the society understood was reasonable limitation,” he added.

Kool Aid Party types are already blowing a gasket. They don’t even comprehend that the law which Bush let expire – with the aid of the usual useless crop of Congressional do-nothings – went through all possible Constitutional challenges from gun nuts when it was passed a couple decades ago.

They do not understand that common law, history and legal precedent affect the Constitution as well as vice versa.

Locks changed — after coppers lose the keys to Wembley Stadium

The locks at London’s Olympic football final venue Wembley Stadium have had to be changed, after police responsible for security at the world-famous sports arena lost their keys…

Scotland Yard sent a team of detectives to the site to search for the missing set, but despite determining that they had not been stolen, officers were unable to find them.

As a result, Olympic Games organizers and embarrassed police chiefs decided that all internal locks inside the 90,000-seat stadium would have to be replaced…

Police insist – “There is absolutely no security concern in relation to the stadium, as measures were taken immediately to secure all key areas of the venue,” the Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The cost of replacing all the high-tech laser keys used at Wembley is expected to run into tens of thousands of dollars.


They sent out the higher-paid version of the lads who lost the keys — to find the keys, eh?

Vulnerable to IED’s but impervious to Pentagon budget monkeys

Introducing the editorial cartoonist for the Center for Public Integrity, Rob Tornoe

The M1 Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, two conflicts in Iraq and a decade of war in Afghanistan. No wonder — it weighs as much as nine elephants and is fitted with a cannon capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away.

But now the machine finds itself a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large donations by its manufacturer.

The Pentagon, facing smaller budgets and looking towards a new global strategy, has decided it wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishment of the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the hulking, clanking vehicle from top to bottom…

Opposing the Pentagon’s plans is Abrams manufacturer General Dynamics, a nationwide employer that has pumped millions of dollars into congressional elections over the last decade. The tank’s supporters on Capitol Hill say they are desperate to save jobs in their districts and concerned about undermining America’s military capabilities.

So far, the contractor is winning the battle, after a well-organized campaign of lobbying and political donations involving the lawmakers who sit on four key committees that will decide the tank’s fate, according to an analysis of spending and lobbying records by the Center for Public Integrity…

Sharp spikes in the company’s donations — including a two-week period in 2011 when its employees and political action committee sent the lawmakers checks for their campaigns totaling nearly $50,000 — roughly coincided with five legislative milestones for the Abrams, including committee hearings and votes and the defense bill’s final passage last year.

After putting the tank money back in the budget then, both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have authorized it again this year, allotting $181 million in the House and $91 million in the Senate. If the company and its supporters prevail, the Army will refurbish what Army chief of staff Ray Odierno described in a February hearing as “280 tanks that we simply do not need.”

Nothing but silence from congressional deficit hawks. Liars and hypocrites every one.

If you feel like nudging our president in the immediate future, I’d like to suggest you tell him to veto any bill containing this craptastic waste of taxpayer dollars. It ain’t as bad as paying Congress for what they don’t accomplish; but, it surely is a close second.