Faine Opines

Southeast Asia, liberation technology, drones, and pontification

Month: February 2013

Devouring Dogs: Coldhearted Arguments Against Canine Consumption

This is a dog in Vietnam. No one has eaten him.

This is a dog in Vietnam. No one has eaten him.

As so many Westerners do, I feel distinctly icky about eating dog meat. *

I have long attributed this to my Western ideals, my long-standing personal fondness for dogs, and a keen appreciation for how useful the critters can be as helpmates and companions — but I didn’t have much logical underpinning to that whole “eating dogs is gross” thing.

Just a feeling.

However, living in Asia as I do, I continue to come across the argument — often promulgated by distinctly self-satisfied looking vegans — that eating dogs is just the same as eating chickens, cows or pigs, and that us Westerners are being awfully delicate by getting all bent out of shape over it. Cultural relativism, meet culinary relativism.

This got me thinking: why do most cultures avoid eating dogs? Is there any good reason for this, beyond namby-pamby sentiment and repeated early overexposure to “Benji” movies?

Turns out there’s quite a few reasons.

PROTEIN IS YOUR FRIEND – AND DOGS AREN’T A GOOD SOURCE

Dogs are not a very efficient source of protein.

Can you think of any other terrestrial predator that’s regularly consumed by humans as a staple food? Hard, isn’t it?

There’s a really simple reason for this beyond Yonder Gauzy Western sensibilities, and it’s found in your average middle school science class lecture on trophic levels. 

Here, have a handy illustration.

Energy that originates from the sun is first photosynthesized by plant life, which is then consumed by herbivores and omnivores: when your average carnivore sprints onto the scene to devour that wildebeest or bunny rabbit, he or she is only receiving a fraction of the energy from the sun that the herbivore managed to extract from leafy greens.

The bigger the predator, the worse the energy equation gets — which is why nightmare grizzly bears and sexy surfer devouring Great White sharks have always been, mercifully, relatively rare. *

wolvesfarside

I apologize in advance, Gary Larson.

This simple ecological arithmetic means rearing a facultative carnivore like a dog to primo eating-weight is a less efficient use of energy then, say, turning a cow or a goat out to good pasture for a bit.

All meat is relatively “expensive” to produce as compared to plant food due to this loss of energy, but the meat of carnivores like dogs is even more so. Dogs aren’t obligate carnivores and can survive on plant-based diets (yes, I saw that new study on dogs and carbohydrates, too) but it’s by no means optimal for their health.

There’s also the issue of growth.

Pigs, which are rather flexible omnivores, grow faster then dogs, and on average, get a lot bigger. According to the USDA, pigs are slaughtered at around 240 to 270 pounds, and at about 24 to 26 weeks of age, or about half a year old.

I’m guessing this varies quite a bit, as I’m no pig farmer, but I estimate that the pigs I’ve seen reared for eating here in Asia are around this weight as well (though I’ve been unable to ask them their ages, being pigs).

Let’s compare this with the English Mastiff, one of the weightiest breeds of dog, with a suggested adult weight of 160 pounds in the breed standard for males — although many individuals are larger, some hitting over 200 pounds.

Most mastiff breeders agree that their charges will likely continue growing and adding weight and muscle until around age 3 or 4 (156 to 208 weeks) and that number usually goes up the bigger the adult dog is.

I apologize again, Gary Larson.

If we decided to start eating English Mastiffs instead of pigs, we’d therefore have to wait much, much longer before we could send the animals to slaughter — and likely be forced to spend considerably more money on feeding them to an optimal size. When you compare your average robust and swiftly growing Asian pig with your average small and skinny Asian dog, the equation makes even less sense.

You probably could  selectively breed a dog for eating, but it’s a lot easier (and a lot more popular) to just eat the pigs we already have.

Ancient cultures that did have a dog-eating tradition, such as those that existed among the Aztecs in modern-day Mexico, or in pre-colonial Polynesia, tended to reserve dog meat for royalty and for special occasions, as it was simply more expensive to produce than other common protein sources.

Big. And tasty?

All this means that raising dogs and cats as primary protein sources just doesn’t work that well, which probably explains why essentially no cultures with other options have relied primarily on the flesh of carnivores for survival.

This may explain some of the cultural revulsion towards dog meat consumption that we experience in the West: it’s impractical and unsustainable.

BUT ISN’T DOG MEAT FOOD FOR THE POOR?

As I explained above, in non-survival situations, dog meat has actually always been something of a gourmet specialty, not what one might rustle up for an average Tuesday night supper. That holds true in the 21st century.

When you think about the resources that must be invested to get that delicious, fat dog from a Bangkok street or a South Korean “dog farm” to your plate, it’s a relatively expensive endeavor.

In China, South Korea, and Vietnam (and even in some bits of Switzerland), dog meat remains a special occasion food for most, and is especially popular in the cold months due to its alleged “warming” properties.This definitely doesn’t mean that harried Chinese parents are zapping microwaveable portions of dog meat for dinner: it would just cost too much.

This means that those who are against the eating of dog meat aren’t attempting to deprive China’s poor of their daily supper: they’re actually railing against a practice that largely benefits those who can afford to splurge on a luxury meal.

South Korean dog meat soup.

STARVATION, AND CHOWING ON HOUNDS

It is indisputably true that starving people around the world have eaten dog. But that’s the point: they were starving — which means that essentially everything is potentially on the menu, including one’s own smaller and slower family members. In most cultures, you know things are getting ugly when one must resort to sauteing the family dog.

Starvation might be one reason why South Korea, Vietnam, and China have persisted in their dog-eating habit into the modern era.

These nations experienced numerous heinous starvation events in their history, including in the relatively recent past, perhaps making dog-eating a much more attractive regular proposition. And of course, many people do find it tasty.

How many people actually eat dog in Asia? Numbers are hard to nail down, largely because the dog meat trade is a shady and poorly regulated business.

When it comes to South Korea, I’ve read figures indicating that between 5 to 30 percent of the population have eaten it at least once, while far fewer eat dog on a regular basis. In China, a traditional dog-meat eating festival was banned in Qianxi, after extremely vocal opposition from China itself by animal lovers. As for Vietnam, the illegal trade in dogs from Thailand seems to be expanding, although more and more young Vietnamese, many the owners of pet dogs, are objecting to the practice.

A dog being all useful and whatnot.

THAT DOG DOES HUNT: THE UTILITY OF CANIS LUPUS FAMILIARIS

Dogs have lived in close concert with humans for a remarkably long time, and although no one is entirely clear on the deepest-depths-of-history timeline, it’s likely that Homo Sapiens and Canis Familaris have had a lot of pernicious two-way influence on one another.

All this Kumbuya and togetherness means that dogs are damned good at reading people and figuring out what we want, to an extent you just don’t see in wolves that otherwise possess reasoning skills far superior to those claimed by your average Labrador. Indeed, a lot of new research indicates that when it comes to the tricky art of human interpretation, dogs can even beat out chimpanzees.

Thanks to our mutual ability to understand one another, the domestic dog has served as a life partner and coworker for generations, contributing to the common revulsion reaction when it comes to the notion of eating them.

These dogs are better at using the Moscow subway than I doubt I’d ever be.

Dogs don’t just keep us company, they actively help us hunt, consume, and manage other animals, a unique capability that ancient humans most assuredly had figured out at a rather early date. Aside from their ability to score us some calories, dog have a certain penchant for protecting human households from the depredations of other humans (assuredly among the nastier of mammals), and regularly save and enhance human lives in a downright dizzying number of ways.

All this most assuredly cannot be said of the chicken or the pig, both species that harbor few illusions about doing humanity a good turn every once in the while, perhaps because they are acutely aware that they are delicious. Cattle occupy a somewhat different status due to their use as draft animals in many cultures, which could help to explain the sacred cow of the Hindus.

Eating a dog,on the other hand, was for much of human history and in most cultures rather more akin to eating your business partner or your colleague: it just felt wrong, somehow. It felt a lot like a betrayal. And perhaps a waste of a good helpmate, as well. Here’s a link to an excellent look at the relationship from a trainer of working Search and Rescue dogs — incidentally, another life-saving task that you rarely see ol’ Spotty the Pig entrusted with.

When running a simple cost-benefit analysis, I then suspect that most cultures in non-starvation situations concluded that a live dog was, on the whole, better then one barbecued and served on a spit with a nice citrus marinade. And thus a taboo was born.

This is your dog on rabies.

EATING DOGS IS A GOOD WAY TO GET RABIES (AND OTHER FUN THINGS)

Considering that the average third-world dog snatched off the street and into the kitchen subsisted largely on trash, meat, and human effluence, you can safely assume that that’s a lot of mystery pathogens that could find their way into a gut very near you if you then turn around and eat him.

Some distinctly unpleasant stuff accumulates in the meat of dogs, such as Trichinella infection, an unpleasant parasitic condition which has been directly linked in China to dog meat consumption. 

Dog meat has been connected to a number of outbreaks of cholera in Vietnam, likely caused by the sale and consumption of infected flesh from dubious and unclean sources.

Perhaps the biggest worry is rabies, which can spread to humans if they handle the meat of an infected dog. (I’m having trouble finding information on whether it’s possible to get rabies from eating the flesh of an infected animal, though I’d suspect that cooking probably kills the rabies virus).

A rabies infection remains tantamount to a death sentence, especially in third world countries, and raising carnivorous animals in close quarters — thereby inducing them to fight and spread the disease to one another – and then eating them is an awfully convenient way to get yourself all frothed up and doomed.

An Indian pariah dog.

Dog meat loving China has the second highest rate of rabies in the world after India, Land of the Feral and Bitey Feral Canine, while Vietnam also suffers from numerous rabies cases. The Philippines, where dog meat eating is illegal but is still widely practiced, saw 208 rabies deaths in 2011 alone, less than the 257 fatalities in 2010.

Rabies presents another strong argument against cultivating scavenger dogs as a cheap source of meat for the poor.

Sure, those semi-feral dogs might provide you with both free trash pickup and a bag lunch, but there’s a pretty good chance they’ll give you and your children a roaring case of rabies as well: infected dogs are the world’s top source of human rabies cases.

If the dogs don’t give you rabies, there’s a good chance these semi-wild and not exactly cherished ferals might decide to take a more direct approach and devour or maul your firstborn — just look at India, where dog attacks from strays are a serious public health problem, especially when it comes to children.

Sure, all mammals can get rabies, including cows, pigs, and goats, but they are considerably less likely to transmit it to humans through their meat or by means of a bite than free-ranging and sharp-toothed dogs are.

Feels good, man.

NOT EATING DOG

All my research indicates that avoiding eating dogs isn’t just some sort of whinging Western emotional judgement: there’s many good economic and public health reasons to shun the practice, as well.

That’s not even getting into the undeniable cruelty of the under-regulated Asian dog meat trade, where animals are kept in poor condition in close quarters during their short lives or stolen from their owners, transported to a slaughterhouse in stinking and crowded trucks, and then beaten to death or even skinned alive upon reaching their point of destination.

Would regulation help solve some of these problems of animal welfare and food safety?

Absolutely, but changing cultural attitudes towards dog meat in most Asian nations indicates that animal lovers probably won’t look too kindly upon any government attempt to legitimize the practice.

This leaves governments in a bit of an ideological pickle, but my gut feeling is that the illegalization of dog meat entirely is a lot more likely than the creation of sanitary and legitimate dog farms.

Dog in a floating village in Cambodia.

Dog in a floating village in Cambodia.

Call it cultural relativism, but East Asia is well aware that most Westerners are deeply grossed out by the consumption of dog meat — and I suspect that on the whole, East Asia is likely more interested in attracting more foreign investment than it is in legitimatizing and regulating the dog meat trade. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in this arena in the next few years.

As it stands, Western tourists in Asia eager to prove how “authentic” they are by chowing down on some dog may want to think again. Dog meat isn’t just cruel, expensive, and not-even-that-tasty: it might get you very, very sick.

* I’ve eaten dog meat before, and ironically enough, at a North Korean restaurant. Someone else ordered it and I didn’t want it to go to waste. It tasted like somewhat elderly mutton to me. Not something I’d seek out for culinary fireworks.

* This doesn’t quite hold true in the sea, although the population collapse of tuna, a predatory species, indicates that eating them at the rate we do is a less-than-great idea, as well.

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Dead Soldiers Of World War II at Taukkyan Cemetary, Yangon

yangonworldwarIIcemetary

There is a small panoply of Places You Never Knew Existed at most major tourist destinations. They may garner a small cameo in the Lonely Planet or on Wikitravel, but they are un-visited for a reason: far away, of limited interest to the non-profoundly nerdy, of a nature somewhat unappealing to a person mostly interested in a pleasant escape from the norm.

Currently, Rangoon’s remarkable Taukkyan War Cemetery is such a place. If you make the trek out here by taxi from downtown Rangoon, you will have it to yourself. And it is terribly, terribly sad.

Maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, it is beautifully maintained — by far the finest landscaping I saw anywhere in Rangoon, and completely empty to boot. Burmese life in its dilapidated color swirls on around outside, but in here, it is entirely feasible that one might be walking around an English cemetery on a particularly balmy day. Here is a place perfectly set up for deep contemplation the wretched cost of war.

6,374 men lie here in the green grass of Taukkyan, and it is the largest of Burma’s three WWII-era war cemeteries.

taukkyanround

First begun in 1951, Taukkyan contains bodies and ashes from the Akyab, Mandalay, Meiktila and Sahmaw cemetaries, the last of which houses the remains of some of the famous Chindits who died in the battle for Myitkyina— or so writes the British War Graves Commission on their very useful website.

A good 867 of the interred dead have not been identified, and it may be a small marvel that this number is not higher.

The World War II Burma campaign was a horrible and bloody business, infamous for the topical horrors the soldiers experienced as they battled against the Japanese.

My friend Terry wanted to go because she had heard about it from our guidebook and because she likes cemeteries.

taukkyanwreaths

“I like them too,” I said when she proposed we go out there, which was good: it is often that you find yourself traveling with someone who does not quite understand either the taxi expense or the natural motivation for hauling yourself out to view a somewhat remote cemetery as an afternoon’s diversion.

I do not call it a ghoulish impulse — well, not exactly. An interest in the mechanisms of history? Paying respect to people we had never and now could never know? Simple, abject curiosity? Maybe it’s all of these.There were red poppies all over the place. We could not figure this out for a bit, until we made our way to the central monument, a long Grecian corridor that has a circular sort of altar at the center.

There we saw white wreaths with black ribbons, sent by all the countries that had embassies in Burma. Of course: Remembrance Day had just passed, commonly celebrated in England to remember the signing of the 1918 Armistice.

We were soon able to figure out that a delegation of the surviving family members of those buried here had come out to the Taukkyan War Cemetery on Remembrance Day had laid the red poppies, and the little notes.

I occupied myself for a good hour and a half walking down the rows of graves and reading the little inscriptions, which are brief and full of the wrenching sentiment of the war-bereaved. The inscriptions come from fathers and mothers, from wives and children. They proclaim they will always remember. I am sure they kept up their end of the bargain.

assamregiment

British men are buried here, and Indians, and British-Indians as well. Even a few Assamese soldiers are scattered among the dead, whose headstones are decorated with a picture of their national animal, the Indian rhinoceros.

Here’s a few examples….

P.E.VrichardssuffolkregimentMajor P.E.V Richards (Patrick Ernest Victor Richards)
The Suffolk Regiment
25th January 1944 Age 24
“He shall not grow old as we that are left grow old—we will remember him.”

privatelugg245500550 Private
(Frank Henry George) F.H.G. Lugg
The Queen’s Own
Royal West Kent Regiment
28th January 1944 Age 24
Greater Love Hath No Man Than This, That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends

A.E.Halljoan

828502 L. Cpl (Lance Corporal)

A.E. Hall

Corps of Military Police

14th April 1943

Age 27 In Loving Memory of Arthur, Beloved Husband of Joan and Daddy of Diana

I was able to dig up some background information on the fate of the obviously much-loved Mr Hall.

Arthur Earnest Hall was born and raised in Abertillery, Monmouthshire, they say, and had at one point served in the Royal Artillery. His parents were named Fred and Maud Hall, and his wife’s full name was Joan Verona Hall.

He died as a prisoner of war of the Japanese, who famously used their captives to construct the infamous Burma Railway, which ran from Yangon to Bangkok — though we haven’t any idea if Hall suffered this fate.

Hall was one of the lucky ones: his body was retrieved and was able to be identified, unlike most of the men who served in Burma.

Often referred to as the “death” railway due to the slave labor used to construct it, it’s estimated that over 94,000 died while working on this monumental project, carried out in notoriously disease-ridden jungles.

Diana had recently come all the way to Burma to see her Daddy on Remembrance Day, as I discovered when I turned over the little note-card left with the poppies, thoughtfully sealed up in plastic.

Here’s what the back says. It’s a happy ending. Arthur would, I think, be content.

“With much love and remembrance with your (?) Joan, daughter Diana, son in law Bryan, grandchildren David, Jonathan and Sarah, and great grandchildren Becca, Jennifer, Rachel, Mathew, (?), Emily, Abi, and (?).

Time is but a candle and one day we will meet again.

With much love to Daddy from Diana.”

The Indian soldiers, who were properly cremated, are recognized on a large marble monument at the very back of the cemetery.

As we prepared to leave, an elderly Burmese man sat beneath one of the cupolas near the entry way — burning with heat in the afternoon sun — and sold lovely little watercolors of the cemetery and various Rangoon landmarks, as well as bottled water and 2012 and 2013 calendars. There were also plastic-wrapped pages with old Burmese currency on them, which I did not buy and am currently regretting.

Sadness and tourism do not always mix.

Sometimes they do: I am reminded of the enduring popularity of Tuol Sleng in Phnom Penh, or the Killing Fields (Which I still have not visited — my rationale somewhere in between discomfort with the concept itself, and discomfort with the notion of gap-year kids in Angkor Beer tank-tops padding meditatively around the grounds).

However, the Taukkyan War Cemetery is somewhat singular for its lack of crassness, the quiet, calm ambiance of the place. It’s made for quiet contemplation on cool green grass, and reading sad stories under the burning heat of a Rangoon day. This is all it was made for.

Getting to the Taukkyan War Cemetery: You are advised to take a taxi, one of those white jobs that patrols Yangon incessantly. We paid about $11 one way, which was about as well as we could manage after negotiating with 6 different cabs on a hot sidewalk and then finally giving up.

The drive takes about 20 minutes through some interesting bits of the Yangon suburbs. You will be surprised at how much pastoral greenery still exists not far from the city. How long this will last is doubtful, so do go see it now.

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Hazara’s protest in Pakistan — and more people should care.

stoptargetkilling

The Hazara, a Shiite minority group found in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, are being slaughtered with impunity in the Pakistani city of Quetta.

These historically discriminated against people are blown apart with bombs at pool halls and at produce stands in the most cold blooded and cowardly fashion imaginable:  210 have been killed since 2013 began, in less than two months. 

Hazaras are targeted by terrorist group Lashkar-e Jhangvi, which some say gains support from the Pakistani government itself, but they are not the only radical group out for their blood.

Hazara.net reads like a long litany of abuses against these people: the Hazaras I’ve spoken to often quite plainly refer to the killing as a “genocide.”

I don’t know why the international media isn’t paying as much attention as it could be to the atrocities the Hazara continue to suffer. When they die in very large numbers, they are accorded blurbs on CNN and brief stories in the news, but then they fade into the background again

Anyway, here’s something brief I did for GlobalPost, largely thanks to my Hazara friend Ahmad Shuja, who is entirely dedicated to getting the story out about the suffering his people are undergoing.

It also includes a brief account of the blast by Zainab Yaqubi, a Hazara high-schooler who wrote her own piece on Fox entitled “Education, resolve greatest weapons in fight against terrorists.” 

The Hazara agreed to end the protest and bury their dead on Tuesday, after the Pakistani government – which has traditionally dragged its feet when it comes to protecting the Hazara — arrested about 170 believed to be involved in the killings, and a “target operation” is ongoing. It remains to be seen how effective all of this will actually be.

Pakistan’s Shiites refuse to bury dead to protest deadly Quetta bombings

Pakistani Shiites are protesting a continued lack of security and government protection after bomb blasts ripped through a Quetta produce market over the weekend, leaving 84 dead and more than 169 wounded. Shiite leaders blame the Sunni militant group Laskhar-e-Jhangvi for the bombings.

The bereaved Shiite community, made up of mostly ethnic Hazaras, is for the second time in five weeks making a radical statement to the Pakistani government: They are refusing to bury their dead.

“The protests of the Hazara-Shia community have gone unnoticed for so long — about a decade now — that refusing to bury the dead is a desperate last-resort act to get attention to their plight,” Hazara political commentator Ahmad Shuja told GlobalPost.

“In Islam, the dead should be buried as soon as possible, but by refusing to bury them, the community is making a strong religious-cultural statement.”

Shiite women began the shocking demonstration in Quetta on Feb. 17, according to the BBC, calling on the government to investigate the perpetrators of the bombings.

Shuja said that the protesters are thus “throwing the ball into the government’s court, by making burial contingent on a decisive crackdown on terrorists who killed so many innocent civilians.”

Read more from GlobalPost…

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War correspondents of legend and song unveil memorial in Phnom Penh, Cambodia – GlobalPost

 

oldhats

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Many of the most prominent surviving correspondents who covered Cambodia’s civil war gathered in Phnom Penh on Wednesday for the unveiling of a memorial to the “at least” 37 journalists who perished on Cambodian soil between 1970 and 1975.

Buddhist monks performed religious rites and Cambodian information minister Khieu Kanharith arrived to help inaugurate the black stone memorial, which bore the names of correspondents killed in the field.

Read more from GlobalPost: Record number of journalists killed worldwide in 2012

Chhang Song, a former information minister under the deposed 1970s Cambodian leader Lon Nol, was also on hand to speak at the ceremony, as the “old hacks,” as some of them called each other, gathered to remember their fallen.

“Thirty-seven have died, but they have not died in my heart,” Song, who is now wheelchair-bound, said of the deceased correspondents.

“I have carried the names, the faces, the words of these people who died for their profession.”

Read more from GlobalPost….

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War Correspondents at Meta House

I went to the “old hacks” panel at Meta House last night. Allow me to crib from the Meta House schedule regarding who was there:

James Gerrand / filmmaker (The Prince and The Prophecy)
* Roland Neveu / photographer, who covered the fall of Phnom Penh
* James Pringle / AP correspondent, who covered the Cambodian civil war
* Tim Page / legendary photo journalist, author and publisher

A 1979 Frontline documentary about legendary combat cameraman Neil Davis came first. Davis was one of the few Vietnam war-era journalists who went with the South Vietnamese soldiers.

Mostly I remember the bit with the footage omitted: a Vietnamese neutral was attempting to cross to the American side of the conflict, waving a piece of some kind of white fabric.

A US sergeant shouted “Bullshit! Cut him down!” And the soldiers did.

The footage, according to the Canadian Journal of Communications, somehow vanished: the audio tape nearly got the Australian expelled from South Vietnam.

Davis was hit with shrapnel and killed in the 1985 Bangkok coup. But he is remembered.

A huge pack of journalists and looker-ons filled up the Meta House conference space for the panel discussion that followed the film. I was both jet-lagged and had forgotten to eat for more days then is advisable, so I’ll admit now this probably isn’t the most accurate account. But certainly a lot of what was said stuck with me.

“Does anybody remember pictures from Kosovo? Does anybody remember Iraq?” asked legendary war photographer Tim Page. “Everyone remembers the Pulitzers from Vietnam.”

“You’d have to get your head examined if you wanted to enter this industry now,” he added, but then went on.

“You have to get that picture because it makes you proud, not some editor.”

They talked about why anyone would do what they do. Maybe it was the urge to be a hero. To escape the quiet confines of the suburbs to see what life is really like, out there on the edge.

Not just men, nowadays, but women too. A weird impulse, but also one that is well-nigh impossible to deny if you’ve been infected. The urge to get closer to the proverbial bang-bang, even when it means seeing your friends die.

It’s the acknowledgement of the semi-holy power of a really great picture. Social change has been wrought on the back of powerful photographs. They are taught in schools, burned into the minds of children. This is a good reason to do what they do.

A Cambodian woman asked why the Vietnamese waited until 1979 to invade Cambodia. An anti-war activist spoke up, too — reminding me that I’d never really contemplate the perhaps interesting relationship between anti-war types and war photographers themselves. Without war, there is no war photography, after all — but when exactly will there be no war?

sihanoukpins

As the journalists spoke, gunfire from the Riverside, commemorating Sihanouk, blasted far off in the distance.

Don North, a Vietnam journalist, spoke fondly of Sihanouk. He’d followed him around for a month in 1964, working on a documentary. “He was one of the best interviews ever,” he said sadly. He’d been standing very near the coffin as it burned on Monday.

Here’s an excellent multimedia presentation on the war correspondents who covered the fighting between 1970 and 1975, via the Phnom Penh Post:

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Cremation of Sihanouk: GlobalPost

Cambodia Sends Off King Sihanouk in Fiery Ceremony – GlobalPost 

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — One hundred one guns flashed against a quiet summer sky, then the sound of conch shells pierced the air. Norodom Sihanouk — Cambodia’s two-time king and former prime minister — had been placed onto his final funeral pyre.

Sihanouk’s son, King Noradom Sihamoni, and his widow, Queen Norodom Monineath, set alight the ornate pyre. The bright display pumped white smoke into the air over the country’s capital just after the sun had slipped below an unusually pink February sky.

Cambodians have been mourning their beloved, mercurial King-Father for months now.

Read more from GlobalPost:

Here’s some photos that didn’t make it into the GP gallery. stupa2 palacemetaldectectors manrunningtofireworks sihanoukguns royalbarge

 

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It’s time to play NGO WORKER BINGO!

ngowankerbingoimprovedHave some fun with that souless jargon that sucks the life out of your days! Justify your continued employ in the service of, uh, the underserved!

Play a game of NGO WANKER BINGO!

Picture 80

Picture 79

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US activist Nguyen Quoc Quan released after 9 months of detention in Vietnam – GlobalPost

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SACRAMENTOAmerican activist Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan has been released after 9 months of detention in Ho Chi Minh City by the Vietnamese government.

Vietnamese authorities claimed the California software engineer and former teacher was engaged in terrorist activities due to his association with Viet Tan, a pro-democracy group that works “inside Vietnam and among the diaspora … to mobilize the power of the people.”

The Vietnamese government has for years had a contentious relationship with Viet Tan, of which Quan is a long-standing member.

The 58-year-old activist arrived in his home state of California on Wednesday evening to an exuberant crowd of family and friends, soon after his wife received the surprising news that the Vietnamese government would allow him to walk free.

“I received a phone call from the consulate, and [the staffer] told me ‘You better sit down,”’ Quan’s wife, Mai Huong Ngo, told GlobalPost.

Ngo dutifully sat down, but became worried: Was her husband sick, she wondered?

He wasn’t. Instead, the consular staffer told Ngo that her husband was returning to the home they shared in the Northern California city of Elk Grove.

“I kept crying, I cannot speak, I keep crying … and [the staffer] asked me, ‘You are happy, right?”’ said Ngo.

Read more over at GlobalPost…..

 

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