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GIVE ME AN ASSIGNMENT: Danna Harman's story on Iraq's police getting back to work (page 1) took her to Baghdad's police college as well as to the traffic police's headquarters. In both places, Danna came away with an impression not only of confusion, but some humiliation.

"I felt sort of sorry for them. At the office of the chief of traffic police, men were sitting around in starched uniforms and well-polished shoes - but they had this confused look on their faces."

No one is entirely clear as to how to proceed, Danna says. And small adjustments are causing some angst. The officers, for example, are banned from wearing insignia from the old regime that indicated their rank.

The men Danna met were complying - sort of. "It turned out that they had their insignia in their pockets, and took them out to show me. They didn't understand why they couldn't wear their ranks. They say there are no images of Saddam on them, that they had nothing to do with old regime. What they did represent to the men was years of hard work."

Still, the officers were expectant on their first day back at work - despite the fact that their offices have been looted, and all their belongings lost.

PUT IN A GOOD WORD FOR ME: In reporting Monday's story on a course given during the Taliban regime to train terrorists (this page), the Monitor's Scott Baldauf met the deputy intelligence chief of Khost, Afghanistan, who was still hard of hearing after the remote-control bomb blast that destroyed his car but left him otherwise unharmed. "I asked him how he managed to survive the blast of an antitank mine that was only three feet away. He told me, 'I honestly don't know. I just know how to pray, and maybe this was the goodness of God that saved me.' "

The official, it turns out, was willing to share his wisdom. "If you also want this prayer for your own safety, I will do it," he told Scott with a smile.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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