Sad Legacy

SBS reports that “Nearly 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, its youngest victims are still in their infancy. Across the country, some babies are still being born with defects as a result of their parents’ exposure to dioxin found in in the crop-killing herbicide Agent Orange.” The US military sprayed about 44 million litres, or 12 million gallons of the substance over the country between 1961 and 1971.

The article tells the story of three year old Dang Hong Dan, who was born with a cleft lip and deformities in one hand and foot. Dan’s parents take work where they can get it, but their income is not consistent, and they have trouble caring for their young son.

There are about 1.2 million children in Vietnam who are living with disabilities. Of those, 150,000 are believed to be victims of Agent Orange. What a sad legacy of a sad war – one that should not have involved either the USA or Australia. Chemical warfare has no place in a civilised world.

“Last year,” SBS says, “the US government agreed to assist in clean-up efforts of Agent Orange, after a long period of bilateral discussions with the Vietnamese authorities. Australia is not involved in the clean-up effort, but through AusAID is funding programs to help those affected by the substance as well as other children with disabilities.” Dan’s family is one of those receiving help.

AusAID director Peter Baxter says the decision to provide aid is not related to our involvement in the war, but it is “not only the right thing to do, it’s a smart thing to do to ensure that the human resources that are available in developing countries are actually used to benefit those societies.”

While Australia did not use chemical weapons in Vietnam it is gratifying to see that we are helping in a small way to help the people there cope with the aftermath of the war.

From the tragic to the bizarre

“It could only happen in the United States” is a sentiment that people in other countries often express, usually accompanied with a shaking of the head. Germany too? Surely not! The Germans are way too sensible to do bizarre.

In the last week a severe cold front has caused havoc in Europe, and the death toll is mounting (it’s up to 220 at the time of writing this) as people succumb to the freezing temperatures. The thermometer dropped to minus 38°C in the Czech Republic one night.

The tragedy has been in the news a lot, with each report seeming to bring worse news.

The bizarre popped up a couple of days ago in the midst of all the chaos. The US and Germany are apparently the only two countries in the world that allow sponsorship of weather events. In a publicity stunt intended to show that the Mini Cooper is really cool, BMW in Germany decided to sponsor a cold front… as it happened, the one that’s now been responsible for so many deaths. They named it Cooper. Adding its own touch of the bizarre, The Age reported Mini stunt goes horribly wrong as if the sponsorship was somehow responsible for the severity of the weather. I guess they meant it went horribly wrong for BMW. In a more balanced article (if you’ll excuse their poor-taste pun) they filled in some detail: ‘Cooper’ weather in Europe leaves BMW in the cold.

In identically named articles SBS and The Age detail the tragedy of the extreme weather.

The Boston Globe, in its The Big Picture section, kind of combines the human tragedy and the natural beauty of a winter landscape in Extreme cold weather hits Europe. There are some beautiful scenes of snow and ice, but the human face of the disaster is shown, too, with a series of photos of homeless people coping with the weather.

Japan’s tsunami up close and personal

Yu Muroga was doing his job making deliveries when the 11 March 2011 earthquake hit in Japan. Unaware, like many people in the area, of how far inland the Tsunami would travel, he continued to drive and do his job. The HD camera mounted on his dashboard captured not only the earthquake, but also the moment he and several other drivers were suddenly engulfed in the Tsunami. He escaped from the vehicle seconds before it was crushed by other debris and sunk underwater. His car and the camera have only recently been recovered by the police. The camera was heavily damaged but a video expert was able to retrieve this footage.

Watch the pedestrian and note the car rocking at 0:10.

Source:, Japanese tsunami viewed from a car