Tuesday, February 28, 2006

My next car

Nissan presents its concept car Pivo at the 76th Geneva International Motor Show in Geneva, Switzerland, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006. The Pivo owes its cartoon-like appearance to a partnership with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami and is named after the ability of the cabin to pivot 360 degrees, putting an end to parallel parking and three-point turns, as the driver can always face the direction of travel.The International Motor show runs from March 2nd until 12th. (Photo by Anja Niedringhaus).

(From Nissan Press Release) Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., today unveiled Pivo, its imaginative electric car concept, in partnership with renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami at the company's Nissan Ginza Gallery in downtown Tokyo.

Pivo, which will be on display at this year's [2005] Tokyo Motor Show, features an innovative cabin that revolves 360 degrees, eliminating the need to reverse. Thanks to its compact body, the car is also exceptionally easy to maneuver.

The three-seater car comes with a number of user-friendly technologies, including Nissan's Around View Monitor which reduces blind spots by displaying the outside surroundings on screens mounted on the inside of the car's A-pillars located on either side of the windshield. A dash-mounted infrared (IR) commander allows the driver to operate the navigation and stereo systems with simple finger movements without letting go of the steering wheel.

Pivo is powered by Nissan's compact, high-performance lithium-ion battery and its unique Super Motor, resulting in zero emissions.

The gallery space for the Pivo event, which was designed by Murakami, features a futuristic vegetable garden installation, as well as large balloons and illustrations of "Pivo-chan," a character he designed based on the concept car's inspiring image.

Réf. http://allhatnocattle.net/2-28-06_coast_guard_ports.htm

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sorry France, Sorry Portugal

Not everything that's good in Asia comes from Europe, you know.

The worst kind of food critics are the Caucasian ones who write reviews about «ethnic» cuisines. Most of the times, their reviews are a pile of clichés, misconceptions and ignorant biases. A few months ago, I read one of those reviews written by some American woman who described the Vietnamese pho as «a kind of beef broth bouillabaise with rice noodles». Bouillabaisse!!!? Bouillabaisse!!??? Did that idiot actually believe that the Vietnamese, who brag incessantly about their 4000 year old civilization, had to wait for the French colonizers' arrival to teach them about pho?

Then there are those European linguists who argue that the Japanese, one of the most polite societies in the whole word, did not know how to say thank you (arigato) until the Portuguese taught them (obrigado). Let's see what someone who actually speaks Japanese has to say about this, shall we? Cue No-Sword's post: «Sorry, Portugal». [http://no-sword.jp/blog/2006/02/sorry-portugal.html]

«Considering a post about arigatou [gozaimasu] came from, I decided to first google to make sure I wasn't duplicating anyone else's work. Unfortunately I didn't get very far into the search results, because most of them were about the folk etymology: that it's from Portuguese obrigado. This is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Arigatou is the Western Japanese way of saying arigataku, the adverbial form (more or less) of arigatai. The basic rule is replacing ku with u, but in this case that produced au, which becomes ou (→ a lengthened o) through the magic of sound change. This also happened to omedetou (← (o)medetai) and ohayou (← (o)hayai). (It is not a coincidence that despite the Tokyo version getting "Standard Japanese" status, the standard politeness terms were imported from the old Imperial capital!)

Another common example of kuu is in tou ni, which coexists with toku ni and means "already" or "long ago". (Both of them come from toshi (疾し), an OJ adjective meaning "vigorous" or "fast" or "early".) You can hear a tou ni at the end of every chorus in KAJI Meiko's song The Flower of Carnage on the Kill Bill soundtrack.

So, given that gozaimasu is a Sino-hoity-toity form of aru, arigatou gozaimasu breaks down to arigataku aru: "to exist arigatai-ly". Arigatai is ari-gatai: to be, to exist (ari) + to be difficult to do (-gatai, probably related to katai, to be (physically) hard).

But using this to mean "I thank you", i.e. "It is difficult/rare for [such kindness as yours] to exist", is a relatively recent development. The form ari + gatai has been around (as arigatashi, of course) since Manyoushuu times, which in Japanese linguistics means "forever". In that poem it just means "unlikely to be". It can also be found sprinkled throughout Heian literature meaning "rare" or "difficult" without any special connection to the idea of gratitude.

The generally accepted theory about the "thank you" usage is that it derives from the Buddhist community, sometime in the middle of the second millennium, and in fact the Lotus Sutra is often mentioned as a source of the phrase itself (specifically, the part in the parable of the burning house where the father says "汝等所可玩好希有難..."). I have no idea whether this is true or not, though. (UPDATE: It probably ain't. See comments.)

Oh, and knowing this makes the doumo seem a lot more sensible. "No matter what, it is difficult for [such kindness] to exist..."»

Now, isn't that a much more exquisite way of expressing gratitude than a simple «Obrigado = Much obliged *with a tip of the hat*»?

Some Guys Have All The Luck

Winter Palace (Hermitage) - St Petersburg

My son - the other one - was participating in a breakdancing battle when he was spotted by a choreographer who was looking for a BBoy to be part of her dancing troup. He's now a member of the troup and they are putting the final touch to a show that will be presented on stage next month, in March.

Last week, as I was talking about preparations for our trip to Vietnam this summer, he casually mentionned: «Oh, when will we be back? Cause I have to go to Colombia in September». Turns out the troup has been invited to perform in Colombia.

Then a few days ago, he said:
- «Something, something, when I get back from Portugal...»
- «What Portugal? I thought you were going to Colombia!?»
- «Oh, didn't I tell you? We're also touring in Portugal»
- «Noooo, you didn't tell meeee! Where else are you supposed to go?»
- «No, that's it.»

And today, during lunch hour, he called me from rehearsal to tell me that there were two Russian programmers who came to watch the show, so there may be a chance that they would also go to St. Petersburg! Saint Friggin' Petersburg!!!!!

Some guys have all the luck
Some guys have all the pain
Some guys get all the breaks
Some guys do nothing but complain.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Dracula Diet - The Sequel

As promised yesterday, here are more details about tiết canh*.

Tiết = blood Canh = soup
Tiết could be blood from ducks, chickens, pigs, even bats. The tiết is mixed with fish sauce, broth, shallots, ginger, pepper, and garnished with peanut, herbs, etc.. then slurped down raw, in a congealed state. I can picture a date at a tiết canh restaurant. The candlelights, the flowers, the violins, the moonlight... You delicately slurp a spoonful of tiết canh, look into your date's eyes and smile, showing bloodied teeth, with a drop of blood slowly dripping from the corner of your mouth... Aaah...Love is in the air.

For a romantic evening at home, here's the recipe for duck tiết canh (in Vietnamese only, sorry).
-Vịt ---- 1 con
-Nước mám --- 1 muỗng cafe
-Nước luộc vịt --- 2 muỗng cafe
-Ðậu phọng (lạc) --- 50g
-Hành ta --- 3 củ
-Rau quế, húng, ngò, gừng, tiêu

Ðong vô chén cơm 1 thià nước mám và 2 thià nước lọc, nghiên đều cho láng kháp chung quanh chén.

- Vặt lông nơi cổ vịt chổ cuống họng, bát chéo cánh cầm hai chân vịt. Cát tiết bỏ vài giọt huyết đầu: hứng vô chén đã có sẵn nước mám hoà với nước. Chỉ lấy tiết hồng đỏ, tiết chảy nhỏ giọt màu nâu là tiết ở tim nên bỏ rạ

Vịt nhúng nước sôi làm sạch lông, lấy bộ lòng xát muốị Tất cả luộc chín để nguội, thái chỉ tròn đều này trên đĩạ

-Gan tái miếng dể riêng

-Hành củ nướng thơm để nguội băm nhỏ, gừng thái chỉ thật nhỏ trộn chung với lòng đã tháị

-Chén tiết đã hãm cho khỏi đông đem ra quậy đều, chế thêm vô 2 muỗng nước lèo đánh nổi bọt rồi đổ vô dĩa lòng, trộn sơ cho thấm với huyết vịt, vài phút sau tiết sẽ đông lạị

Ðậu phọng rang chín, rác lên đãi tiết canh, bày gan lên mặt. Muốn ngon và đẹp bày thêm vài cọng ngò, và ít rau húng .

You may ask yourself: why the friggadoo would anyone want to consume raw animal blood? As with any other weird meat dishes (dogs, lizards, rats, etc.), the benefits are real or imagined increases in health, potency, libido, etc. In other words, it can be explained by men's [read: male] insecurity, cruelty and stupidity.

Speaking of which, the UN World Health Organization has recommended that the practice of consuming tiết canh be discontinued in view of the avian flu risks. In 2005, the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Health has banned the sale and consumption of avian tiết canh. Of course, the Vietnamese are known to frequently defy governmental edicts, especially in the countryside, where the real power resides with the local bigwigs and nobody listens to the central government.

* Not to be confused with «huyết», which is cooked blood, served with rice porridge or soup.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Dracula Diet

Feeling weak and a little bit under the weather? Nothing like a good blood soup, known as «tiet canh» in Vietnamese. To put you in the mood, go to loupiote slide show: http://www.flickr.com/photos/loupiote/tags/bloodsoup/show/

Bon appétit! I'll give more details tomorrow.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Did you know?

From the BBC News Magazine: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4566526.stm
You will find more details on their site. Since it is British-centered, I have provided some explanations in parentheses.

1. The UK's first mobile phone call was made 20 years ago this year, when Ernie Wise rang the Vodafone [UK first mobile network] head office, which was then above a curry shop in Newbury.

2. Mohammed is now one of the 20 most popular names for boys born in England and Wales.

3. While it's an offence to drop litter on the pavement, it's not an offence to throw it over someone's garden wall.

4. An average record
shop needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth stocking, according to Wired magazine.

5. Nicole Kidman is scared of butterflies. "I jump out of planes, I could be covered in cockroaches, I do all sorts of things, but I just don't like the feel of butterflies' bodies," she says.

6. WD-40 dissolves cocaine - it has been used by a pub landlord to prevent drug-taking in his pub's toilets.

7. Baboons can tell the difference between English and French. Zoo keepers at Port Lympne wild animal park in Kent are having to learn French to communicate with the baboons which had been transferred from Paris zoo.

8. Devout Orthodox Jews are three times as likely to jaywalk as other people, according to an Israeli survey reported in the New Scientist. The researchers say it's possibly because religious people have less fear of death. [I can confirm this: I used to live in a neighbourhood with a strong Hassidic Jews population and they litterally walked in the middle of the street, or if they're driving, they would just stop their car
in the middle of the street to chat with a friend who was walking in the middle of the street. I thought it was a religious obligation ;-)]

9. The energy used to build an average Victorian terrace house would be enough to send a car round the Earth five times, says English Heritage.

10. Humans can be born suffering from a rare condition known as "sirenomelia" or "mermaid syndrome", in which the legs are fused together to resemble the tail of a fish.

11. One in 10 Europeans is allegedly conceived in an Ikea bed.

12. Until the 1940s rhubarb was considered a vegetable. It became a fruit when US customs officials, baffled by the foreign food, decided it should be classified according to the way it was eaten.

13. Prince Charles broke with an 80-year tradition by giving Camilla Parker Bowles a wedding ring fashioned from Cornish gold, instead of the nugget of Welsh gold that has provided rings for all royal brides and grooms since 1923.

14. It's possible for a human to blow up balloons via the ear. A 55-year-old factory worker from China reportedly discovered 20 years ago that air leaked from his ears, and he can now inflate balloons and blow out candles.

15. Lionesses like their males to be deep brunettes.

16. The London borough of Westminster has an average of 20 pieces of chewing gum for every square metre of pavement.

17. Bosses at Madame Tussauds spent £10,000 separating the models of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston when they separated. It was the first time the museum had two people's waxworks joined together.

18. If all the Smarties eaten in one year were laid end to end it would equal almost 63,380 miles, more than two-and-a-half times around the Earth's equator.

19. The = sign was invented by 16th Century Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde, who was fed up with writing "is equal to" in his equations. He chose the two lines because "noe 2 thynges can be moare equalle".

20. The Queen has never been on a computer, she told Bill Gates as she awarded him an honorary knighthood.

21. One person in four has had their identity stolen or knows someone who has.

22. The length of a man's fingers can reveal how physically aggressive he is, scientists say.

23. In America it's possible to subpoena a dog.

24. The 71m packets of biscuits sold annually by United Biscuits, owner of McVitie's [Irish food brand], generate 127.8 tonnes of crumbs.

25. Nelson probably had a broad Norfolk accent.

26. One in four people does not know 192, the old number for directory inquiries in the UK, has been abolished.

27. Only in France and California are under 18s banned from using sunbeds.

28. The British buy the most compact discs in the world - an average of 3.2 per year, compared to 2.8 in the US and 2.1 in France.

29. When faced with danger, the octopus can wrap six of its legs around its head to disguise itself as a fallen coconut shell and escape by walking backwards on the other two legs, scientists discovered.

30. There are an estimated 1,000 people in the UK in a persistent vegetative state.

31. Train passengers in the UK waited a total of 11.5m minutes in 2004 for delayed services.

32. "Restaurant" is the most mis-spelled word in search engines.

33. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho [Football coach] has only been in an English pub once, to buy his wife cigarettes.

34. The Little Britain wheelchair sketch [?] with Lou and Andy was inspired by Lou Reed and Andy Warhol.

35. The name Lego came from two Danish words "leg godt", meaning "play well". It also means "I put together" in Latin.

36. The average employee spends 14 working days a year on personal e-mails, phone calls and web browsing, outside official breaks, according to employment analysts Captor.

37. Cyclist Lance Armstrong's heart is almost a third larger than the average man's.

38. NASA boss Michael Griffin has seven university degrees: a bachelor's degree, a PhD, and five masters degrees.

39. Australians host barbecues at polling stations on general election days.

40. An average Briton will spend £1,537,380 during his or her lifetime, a survey from insurer Prudential suggests.

41. Tactically, the best Monopoly properties to buy are the orange ones: Vine Street, Marlborough Street and Bow Street.

42. Britain's smallest church, near Malmesbury, Wiltshire, opens just once a year. It measures 4m by 3.6m and has one pew.

43. The spiciness of sauces is measured in Scoville Units.

44. Rubber gloves could save you from lightning.

45. C3PO and R2D2 do not speak to each other off-camera because the actors don't get on.

46. Driving at 159mph - reached by the police driver cleared of speeding - it would take nearly a third of a mile to stop.

47. Liverpool has 42 cranes redeveloping the city centre.

48. A quarter of the world's clematis come from one Guernsey nursery, where production will top 4.5m plants this year alone.

49. Tim Henman [British tennis player] has a tennis court at his new home in Oxfordshire which he has never used.

50. Only 36% of the world's newspapers are tabloid.

51. Parking wardens walk about 15 miles a day.

52. You're 10 times more likely to be bitten by a human than a rat.

53. It takes 75kg of raw materials to make a mobile phone.

54. Deep Throat is reportedly the most profitable film ever. It was made for $25,000 (£13,700) and has grossed more than $600m.

55. Antony Worrall-Thompson [British restaurateur and TV chef] swam the English Channel in his youth.

56. The Pyruvate Scale measures pungency in onions and garlic. It's named after the acid in onions which makes cooks cry when cutting them.

57. The man who was the voice of one of the original Daleks [robots from the Dr Who TV series], Roy Skelton, also did the voices for George and Zippy in Rainbow [UK children's TV programme].

58. The average guest at a Buckingham Palace garden party scoffs 14 cakes, sandwiches, scones and ice-cream, according to royal accounts.

59. Oliver Twist is very popular in China, where its title is translated as Foggy City Orphan.

60. Newborn dolphins and killer whales don't sleep for a month, according to research carried out by University of California.

61. You can bet on your own death.

62. MPs use communal hairbrushes in the washrooms of the Houses of Parliament.

63. It takes less energy to import a tomato from Spain than to grow them in this country because of the artificial heat needed, according to Defra [UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs].

64. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg's home number is listed by directory inquiries.

65. Actor James Doohan, who played Scotty, had a hand in creating the Klingon language that was used in the movies, and which Shakespeare plays were subsequently translated into.

66. The hotter it is, the more difficult it is for aeroplanes to take off. Air passengers in Nevada, where temperatures have reached 120F, have been told they can't fly.

67. Giant squids eat each other - especially during sex.

68. The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold one copy every minute since its 1969 publication.

69. First-born children are less creative but more stable, while last-born are more promiscuous, says US research.

70. Reebok, which is being bought by Adidas, traces its history back more than 100 years to Bolton.

71. Jimi Hendrix pretended to be gay to be discharged from the US Army.

72. A towel doesn't legally reserve a sun lounger - and there is nothing in German or Spanish law to stop other holidaymakers removing those left on vacant seats.

73. One in six children think that broccoli is a baby tree.

74. It takes a gallon of oil to make three fake fur coats.

75. Each successive monarch faces in a different direction on British coins.

76. The day when most suicides occurred in the UK between 1993 and 2002 was 1 January, 2000.

77. The only day in that time when no-one killed themselves was 16 March, 2001, the day Comic Relief viewers saw Jack Dee [UK comedian] win Celebrity Big Brother.

78. One in 18 people has a third nipple.

79. The section of coast around Cleethorpes [traditional British seaside resort on the North Lincolnshire coast] has the highest concentration of caravans in Europe.

80. Fifty-seven Bic Biros [ballpoint pens] are sold every second - amounting to 100bn since 1950.

81. George Bernard Shaw named his shed after the UK capital so that when visitors called they could be told he was away in London.

82. Former Labour MP Oona King's aunt is agony aunt Miriam Stoppard [Britain's bestselling pregnancy and childcare author][An agony aunt is an advice columnist at a magazine or newspaper. The image presented was originally of an older woman providing comforting advice and maternal wisdom, hence the name "aunt"].

83. Britain produces 700 regional cheeses, more even than France.

84. The actor who plays Mike Tucker in BBC Radio 4's The Archers [British TV series] is the father of the actor who plays Will Grundy.

85. Japanese knotweed [invasive plant displacing natural flora in Cornwall and other counties of the UK] can grow from a piece of root the size of pea. And it can flourish anew if disturbed after lying dormant for more than 20 years.

86. Hecklers are so-called because of militant textile workers in Dundee.

87. Pulling your foot out of quicksand takes a force equivalent to that needed to lift a medium-sized car.

88. A single "mother" spud from southern Peru gave rise to all the varieties of potato eaten today, scientists have learned.

89. Spanish Flu, the epidemic that killed 50 million people in 1918/9, was known as French Flu in Spain.

90. Ordinary - not avian - flu kills about 12,000 people in the UK every winter.

91. Croydon [borough of London] has more CCTV cameras than New York.

92. You are 176 times more likely to be murdered than to win the National Lottery.

93. Koalas have fingerprints exactly like humans (although obviously smaller).

94. Bill Gates does not have an iPod.

95. The first traffic cones were used in building Preston bypass [Preston is a city and local government district in North West England] in the late 1950s, replacing red lantern paraffin burners.

96. Britons buy about one million pumpkins for Halloween, 99% of which are used for lanterns rather than for eating.

97. The mother of stocky cricketer - and this year's Strictly Come Dancing champion - Darren Gough was a ballet dancer. She helped him with his pivots.

98. Nettles growing on land where bodies are buried will reach a foot higher than those growing elsewhere.

99. The Japanese word "chokuegambo" describes the wish that there were more designer-brand shops on a given street.

100. Musical instrument shops must pay an annual royalty to cover shoppers who perform a recognisable riff before they buy, thereby making a "public performance".


From: http://www.bartcop.com/

Since Cindy Sheehan got arrested for wearing a T-shirt showing the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq, wearing this one will probably get you shot in the face.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Worth It After All

«Blood tests, laboratory experiments with animals and humans, and magnetic-resonance images of working brains reveal that from pregnancy on, female mammals are brighter, bolder and better able to cope with life than their childless counterparts.

These brain improvements are permanent, lasting from the childbearing years into senescence. Nature automatically turbo-charges the brains of mothers. As all kids know, there's a shorthand name for superhuman: mom.

Mothers don't necessarily outshine non-mothers in every possible way, says Craig Kinsley, a professor of neuroscience at Virginia's University of Richmond, and one of Dr. Lambert's senior collaborators. All the same, the behaviours that do improve are so central that they give a new mom an immense advantage over her childless sister. From curiosity to self-confidence to sensory acuteness, the maternal brain shines in a host of ways.

The triggers for maternal brain enhancement involve the same signalling apparatus that governs the whole cascade of life. Puberty, mating, conception, pregnancy and birth are all controlled by chemical messengers called hormones.

Hormones perform a bewildering variety of functions in all mammals, but particularly in females. Estrogens, including a powerful variety called estradiol, are produced in a pregnant woman's ovaries and placenta.

When they travel to the brain, they change it -- a process that until recently was thought to be impossible. Under hormonal direction, brain cells are enlarged in the hypothalamus, a region that strongly affects maternal behaviour.

Hormones increase neuronal branches in a nearby brain area called the hippocampus. The hippocampus isn't directly involved in how mothers behave, but it does play a key role in their general learning and memory. From conception onward, both of these key functions are intensified in moms.

Pregnancy hormones also beef up the brain's amygdala and prefrontal cortices. The amygdala, part of an ancient core brain called the limbic system, regulates intense emotions, including maternal love. The prefrontal areas process sensory input, empathy and conscience.

Asparagus and BBoy, I forgive you your humongous heads at birth and I thank you!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Dinosaur Assh*les

From: http://tinyurl.com/9arju

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer was unapologetic yesterday after making suggestive comments to a young female aide to the governor during a meeting of the state Board of Public Works.

The incident sent some jaws dropping and drew laughter from others in the crowd of more than 100 state officials, lobbyists, journalists and business leaders attending the session.

Responding to Schaefer's request for tea, the woman, an executive assistant in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s front office, set down a thermal mug in front of the comptroller. Schaefer, 84, watched her walk away, then beckoned for her to return. When she obliged, he told her, "Walk again," staring after her as she left a ceremonial conference room at the State House.

Schaefer defended the comment in a profanity-laced rant at reporters after the meeting.

"That's so goddamn dumb, I can't believe it," Schaefer said when asked about the appropriateness of his remark. "She's a pretty little girl."

She "ought to be damn happy that I observed her going out the door," Schaefer said. "The day I don't look at pretty women is the day I die."

And till the day he dies, he just won't get it. The 24 year old «little girl» should be happy to provide eye candy to an 84 year old lecherous toad.

On the other hand, the «little girl» is lucky. She could be married to this younger assh*le:

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Plus ça change...

"Therefore, in the Void, There are No Forms,
No Feelings, Perceptions, Volitions or Consciousness"

"No Eye, Ear, Nose, Tongue, Body or Mind;
No Form, Sound, Smell, Taste, Touch or Mind Object;
No Realm of the Eye,
Until We Come to No realm of Consciousness."

"No ignorance and Also No Ending of Ignorance,
Until We Come to No Old Age and Death and
No Ending of Old Age and Death."

"Also, There is No Truth of Suffering,
Of the Cause of Suffering,
Of the Cessation of Suffering, Nor of the Path."

"There is No Wisdom, and There is No Attainment Whatsoever."

"Because There is Nothing to Be Attained,
The Bodhisattva Relying On Prajna Paramita Has
No Obstruction in His Mind."

"Because There is No Obstruction, He Has no Fear,"

"And He passes Far Beyond Confused Imagination."

"And Reaches Ultimate Nirvana."

"The Buddhas of the Past, Present and Future,
By Relying on Prajna Paramita
Have Attained Supreme Enlightenment."

"Therefore, the Prajna Paramita is the Great Magic Spell,
The Spell of Illumination, the Supreme Spell,
Which Can Truly Protect One From All Suffering Without Fail."

"Therefore He Uttered the Spell of Prajnaparmita,
Saying Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha."

The Heart Sutra [http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/heartstr.htm]

Update: For those of us who are too young to know and those who are old enough but forgetful, I give you: Operation Phoenix

«In Vietnam in the 1960s, under its hellish, Top Secret Phoenix program, the American CIA and U.S. Army helpers abducted, murdered, and unmercifully tortured tens of thousands of victims. Estimates range between 20,857 and 40,994 Vietnamese men, women and children were killed. Many were thrown into inhuman cages, starved into submission and finally bludgeoned or shot to death. Some were drowned, others thrown out of helicopters. Young women and children were not spared. CIA op Kenneth Osborn said Phoenix became a depersonalized murder program. In Hostages of War, Don Luce examined the perverse Phoenix Program, recounting its massive and unjustifiable use of torture, repression, and assassination. Most victims, he notes, were innocent, brought in only after a neighbor or family enemy falsely reported them to authorities as a potential threat to security. Many were accused of saying something they shouldn't have said, or of "insufficient support" for the political system. Operation Phoenix detainees were tortured with electric shocks applied to their genitals, while women prisoners were typically raped, occasionally with foreign objects. A particularly infamous interrogation technique involved flinging a blindfolded prisoner from a helicopter while threatening to do the same to the remaining passengers. Some had had bamboo splinters shoved under their fingernails. One was deaf from having soapy water poured in his ears, and his ears pounded. The women students had been raped as well as tortured." "I never knew in the course of all those operations any detainee to live through his interrogation," Bart Osborn, a former CIA agent, told Congress in 1971. "They all died. There was never any reasonable establishment of the fact that any one of those individuals was, in fact, cooperating with the VC, but they all died and the majority were either tortured to death“.» - Posted by waldo at http://www.mykeru.com/ (in the comments forum).


New Abu Ghraib pictures [Warning! Graphic]: http://www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=2444

Connect the dots: http://www.amnestyusa.org/stoptorture/renditions/index.html

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Monday, February 13, 2006

Bêtisier de la presse française

Perles pêchées dans les journaux français
[Un gros merci à Rita!]

  • Très gravement brûlée, elle s'est éteinte pendant son transport à l'hôpital. (Dauphiné Actualité)
  • Des trous dans sa culotte laissaient entrevoir une famille pauvre. (Le Parisien)
  • La conférence sur la constipation sera suivie d'un pot amical. (Ouest-France)
  • Il abusait de la puissance de son sexe pour frapper son ex-épouse. (La République du Centre)
  • Ses hémorroïdes l'empêchaient de fermer l'œil. (Charente Libre)
  • Il y aura un appareil de réanimation dernier cri. (Le Courrier picard)
  • En raison de la chaleur, les musiciens ne porteront que la casquette de l'uniforme. (Dernières Nouvelles d ’Alsace)
  • L'individu n'était pas à prendre avec du pain sec. (Nice Matin)
  • M. Jean C. remercie chaleureusement les personnes qui ont pris part au décès de son épouse. (La Voix du Nord)
  • Ses dernières paroles furent un silence farouche. (L’Est Républicain)
  • L'église étant en travaux, ses obsèques ont été célébrées à la salle des fêtes. (Midi Libre)
  • Tous portaient une crêpe à la boutonnière. (La Dépêche du Midi)
  • Comme il s'agissait d'un sourd, la police dut pour l'interroger avoir recours à l'alphabet braille. (Le Parisien)
  • Ayant débuté comme simple fossoyeur, il a, depuis, fait son trou. (Nord Éclair)
  • Détail navrant, cette personne avait déjà été victime l'an dernier d'un accident mortel. (L’Alsace)
  • Quand vous doublez un cycliste, laissez-lui toujours la place de tomber. (Le Républicain Lorrain)
  • Les mosquées sont très nombreuses car les musulmans sont très chrétiens. (Le Dauphiné)
  • Il remue la queue en cadence comme un soldat à la parade. (L’Aisne Nouvelle)
  • Tombola de la Société Bayonnaise des Amis des Oiseaux : le numéro 5963 gagne un fusil de chasse. (Sud Ouest)
  • À aucun moment le Christ n'a baissé les bras. (Le Paroissien de Lamballe)
  • Le syndicat des inséminateurs fait appel à la vigueur de ses membres. (Ouest-France)
  • Les kinés se sont massés contre les grilles de la préfecture. (Presse Océan)
  • Visiblement, la victime a été étranglée à coups de couteau. (Journal du Dimanche)
  • À Montaigu, la fête du 1er mai aura lieu le 1er mai. (Le Rouge Choletais)
  • Journée du sang : s'inscrire à la boucherie. (Var Matin)
  • C'est la foire des veaux et des porcs: venez nombreux! (La Vie Corrézienne)
  • Le rapport de la gendarmerie révèle que Alain P. se serait suicidé lui-même. (Nord Eclair)
  • Quand Honoré Gall s'est-il suicidé? S'est-il donné la mort avant de se jeter à l'eau? (Le Progrès)
  • Un trou de balle a été relevé à la base du dos. (Le Provençal)
  • Horriblement mutilée, la voiture succombe quelques minutes après l’accident. (Paris-Jour)
  • Son cadavre a été ramené sur la plage où il a récupéré rapidement. (Libération)
  • Cette morgue se situera à gauche de l’église, dans l’ancien cimetière, d’où l’on a une vue magnifique de la localité. (Le Républicain Lorrain)
  • La situation ne pouvait plus désormais s’améliorer que dans le sens d’une amélioration. (Ouest-France)
  • D’autres professions bénéficient d’abattements particuliers : les dames qui font des pipes à Saint-Claude ont obtenu 10%. (Le Figaro Magazine)
  • Richard Virenque : J’aime me défoncer sur un vélo. (Télé 7 jours)
  • Un défilé aura lieu le 1er novembre. Rassemblement à 10h45 à l’Hôtel des Postes pour se rendre au cimetière. Le rire sera de rigueur. (Le Progrès)
  • Un type qui tue sa femme n’est pas vraiment un assassin. (Nouvel Observateur)
  • Bref, le Var est redevenu le Var avec son cortège de touristes venus des huit coins de l’hexagone. (Var-Matin)
  • Mise au point (...) aux États-Unis d’une méthode qui permet de déterminer avec 100% d’exactitude le sexe d’un bébé dès le dixième mois de grossesse. (Midi Libre)
  • André Leriche, 51 ans, comparaît pour attentat aux moeurs commis sur la personne de ses deux filles, et pour divers outrages publics à la pudeur. Leriche aurait notamment uriné dans la cheminée, éteignant le feu. (L’Écho Républicain)
  • Deux conducteurs étaient interpellés par les gendarmes en état d'ivresse. (Var Matin)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

How to fold a fitted sheet perfectly

I got this link from Cynical - C Blog [http://www.cynical-c.com/], but midway through Step 2, my eyes started glazing over, so I cannot vouch for the feasability of the project:


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Grapefruits, penises and pigs, oh my!

No 'buoi' please, we're Vietnamese

HANOI (Reuters) - What do a Vietnamese grapefruit seller and a gender activist have in common?

Both have had applications to register Web site addresses rejected by authorities because the names contained words which could lead people to believe they were pornographic sites.

The fruit seller was tripped up by the tonal Vietnamese language, in which 'buoi' can mean either a grapefruit or slang for penis.

State-run Vietnam Television said late on Friday that the gender activist had wanted his Web site to be called sex.com.vn, which the country's Internet domain control body rejected. Pornography is banned in the Communist-ruled country.

Sites containing 'lon', which can mean either 'pigs' or 'vagina' depending on the tone, and 'xxx' are also not allowed, the television said.

I'm posting this text from Reuters as a joke, but any Vietnamese reader would tell you that the situation is not that simple. «'Buoi' can mean either a grapefruit or slang for penis» says Reuters. Well, actually, no. 'Buoi' doesn't mean anything in Vietnamese. A grapefruit is «bưởi» and a penis is ... uh.. look, all you need to know is: it's not spelled «buoi». Same thing with pigs and vaginas: not only are the tones different, the spelling is completely different. The real problem is that the domain registration system is based on the Latin alphabet and therefore cannot accomodate languages like Vietnamese that use a modified romanized system of writing.

But I've got to admit, learning to recognize and reproduce accurately the different tones is not an easy task for people used to non tonal languages. During the Vietnamese/American war in the 60s, the national TV station in Saigon used to broadcast a show hosted by American «advisers» who would laboriously read the daily news in Vietnamese. The show was very successful, if only for its comical value, because once in a while, the poor anchormen would use the wrong tones, with hilarious results, of the pigs = vaginas variety. I remember one of their most frequent mistakes was to pronounce «quân» neutral tone (troops, soldiers, etc.) as «quần» third tone (pants), so they would announce that the pants did this, the pants did that, we're expecting more pants next month, etc. And hilarity would ensue in Vietnamese households.

Saturday Poll

What would you rather see me post here: random nice images (Illuminated Angkor Watt), cute animal pictures (Baby penguins) or political humor (Quadruple denials)?

Wait, there's no way for you to vote, so never mind. It was just an excuse for me to post some of my favourite pics. Teeheeheee!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ceux qui ne comprennent ni l'islam ni la liberté

Article de Soheib Bencheikh, publié dans le Monde de ce matin [http://tinyurl.com/buvgf]
Théologien, Soheib Bencheikh, ancien mufti de Marseille, est directeur de l'Institut supérieur des sciences islamiques (ISSI).

uite à la publication des caricatures touchant à la personne du Prophète, pour des raisons probablement malintentionnées, la réaction de certains musulmans se situe au-delà du surréalisme.

Des régimes "musulmans" et certaines organisations "islamiques", comme l'UOIF en France par exemple, vont jusqu'à l'exigence pathétique d'excuses solennelles des chefs de gouvernement des pays où les caricatures ont été publiées. En France, l'événement a pris des proportions "élyséiesques".

Cette revendication, insolite de mémoire d'Arabe, suscite bien des interrogations. Ces musulmans ignorent-ils l'enseignement coranique, qui nous incite à transcender les polémiques ? N'ont-ils pas dans le coeur le verset "et lorsqu'ils (les croyants) sont apostrophés par les ignorants, ils disent : Paix" ? Ne savent-ils pas que le Prophète lui-même a subi les affres et les injures les plus humiliantes ? Lorsque les polythéistes de son époque le qualifiaient de fabulateur et d'imposteur, il ne leur a pas tordu le cou mais leur a répondu : "Dieu sera juge entre nous le jour de la rétribution."

Ces musulmans ignorent-ils que l'islam, qui a traduit et étudié les philosophies les plus athéistes et argumenté face aux idéologies les plus redoutables, destructrices et semeuses de doutes, ne saurait trembler aujourd'hui devant un dessin caricatural et de mauvais goût ?

Pourtant, une religion sûre d'elle-même, convaincue de sa solidité, ne peut fuir les critiques et les mises en cause. Alors, comment veulent-ils que les bases de l'islam vacillent aujourd'hui devant une futile provocation ?

Quant à l'autre ignorance, elle est plus grave encore. Ces musulmans ignorent-ils que la liberté d'expression la plus totale est un édifice commun à toutes les pensées, construit pour toutes les convictions, même les plus contradictoires et inassimilables ? Tout un chacun a droit de cité, qu'il soit beau ou laid, fou ou sage, provocant ou responsable. Faut-il rappeler que c'est grâce à cette même liberté d'expression que l'islam lui-même peut élever la voix à tout moment dans les pays démocratiques ? Qui empêche un musulman, en France ou ailleurs en Europe, de proposer ses valeurs ? Qui entrave un croyant qui veut publier ses convictions ? N'est-il pas permis à tous les citoyens, y compris les musulmans, de critiquer tout projet ou de promouvoir toute action ? Au moment où l'islam n'a pas bonne presse en Occident, c'est grâce à cette même liberté d'expression que nous, musulmans, pouvons nous défendre pleinement.

Mon étonnement est grand lorsque je vois que toute une mobilisation diplomatique, inédite dans l'histoire des pays musulmans, se met en marche pour faire pression sur des chefs d'Etat et de gouvernement afin d'obtenir leurs excuses et leur mea culpa. Pourtant, ces mêmes gouvernants et ces mêmes chefs d'Etat n'ont jamais été un jour à l'abri de la satire la plus blessante et de la caricature la plus caustique.

Lorsque certains Etats arabes boycottent par des mesures diplomatiques et économiques le Danemark, pays paisible et pacifique, que penser de leur docilité envers les Etats-Unis à qui ils sont malheureusement livrés, poings liés ?

Quant au soutien du rabbinat et de l'Eglise en France, il ne peut que susciter les remerciements vifs et sincères des musulmans pour cette solidarité affichée. Mais on aimerait l'avoir aussi pour les hommes et les femmes, musulmans de Palestine, d'Irak, de Tchétchénie et d'ailleurs, privés de leurs droits fondamentaux et victimes d'atteinte à leur dignité.

Le vrai débat est ailleurs. Il s'agit, en réalité, de la juxtaposition de deux droits absolus : le droit d'avoir des convictions religieuses qui soient complètement respectées et ne soient ni fustigées ni stigmatisées, et le droit de s'exprimer à tout moment, notamment pour commenter ou critiquer des projets sociaux concrets et des actions politiques palpables.

Quant à la conviction intime ou métaphysique des gens, je ne sais pas si elle est du ressort de la liberté d'expression. Réfléchissons !

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lesson From Vietnam

A University of Minnesota medical student goes to Vietnam to discover his heritage and learn about caring for the poor.

By Gail Rosenblum

HANOI, Vietnam —It’s 8 a.m. at the National Institute of Pediatrics in Hanoi. The finest children’s hospital in Vietnam, it has no elevator and all of the medical manuals are photocopied.

Sixteen men in white coats sit in castoff mustard-yellow chairs and discuss the morning’s cases. A nurse brings tea in a cheerful flowered carafe, pours it into 10 stained glasses, and sets the carafe next to an ashtray stuffed with cigarette butts.

The doctors have been joined this morning by two American visitors.

Phuong Nguyen, a 24-year-old medical student from the University of Minnesota class of 2004, has been at the hospital for two weeks, observing and assisting in surgery. For two weeks prior, he lived in a small province to the north, joining a group of volunteer physicians fixing cleft lips and palates. Born in a refugee camp in Indonesia in 1979 as his educated, middle-class parents fled the communist takeover of Vietnam, and raised across the world in Maplewood, Minnesota, Phuong had never seen his parents’ home country. His desire to do so was keen.

In his third year of medical school in 2003, he learned about a humanitarian medical program sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics called Project Vietnam. For the young man raised in privilege, this was the perfect avenue for return. “To have come back solely as a tourist would have felt empty,” he says.

But Phuong’s 57-year-old mother, Mai, who stands at his side, cherished the opportunity to return as a tourist—to visit distant cousins, shop, and sun on the beaches—after her harrowing escape 25 years ago. Still, she smiles as she confesses to another agenda. “I come to make sure he doesn’t get married off,” she says with a laugh. Out of earshot, her voice turns serious. “He’s a young man who is living in America, raised in America. He’s very honest, not knowing any tricks behind the scenes. Here, people will try to take advantage. He says, ‘Don’t worry, Mom.’ But, as a mom, I still worry.”

Phuong introduces Mai to the group and takes his place in a seat across the room. There will be 11 surgeries today, including one on a 2-month-old boy with a brain hemorrhage and another on a 14-year-old girl with a cerebral tumor. Most of the children’s parents are shopkeepers and farmers. Nearly all are destitute. No one has medical insurance, so they must pay out of pocket. Many have had to carry their children on buses or strap them onto bicycles. Some travel as far as 100 miles to get to the tertiary-care hospital; others come from nearby villages approximately 20 miles away.

Lessons Not Taught in Class

To get the most out of their limited resources, the surgeons have learned tricks they would never find in a medical manual, photocopied or otherwise. A single suture costs 40,000 dong, or $2.80 in U.S. dollars, seemingly a pittance. But the annual income of a Vietnamese family averages $270. To compensate, these doctors are among the most skilled in the world at closing a wound in two or three tidy stitches instead of eight or 10.

If a family arrives in clean clothes, signaling relative affluence, the doctors hike the price of care from perhaps $30 to $300. They then save the extra money and use it to cover expenses for the next family, who will undoubtedly arrive with no way to pay.

Phuong suggests that his mother wait for him outside the operating room. She wants to stay. OK, he agrees, telling her not to touch anything because all the equipment has been sterilized.

“I know that,” she says, rolling her eyes and flipping her hand in the direction of her son. Mai, who earned a biochemistry degree in 1972 in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City, 700 miles south of Hanoi), scrubs and stands near the wall. She, too, wanted to be a doctor, but the rigors of study intimidated her. When Phuong was 2, she bought him a toy medical kit. When her son struggled with biology in high school, she taught him tricks for memorizing Latin words until he was “the top of his class.”

Phuong graduated from the University of Minnesota in two years with a degree in neuroscience, spent one year doing research at Harvard University, and began medical school in 2000.

For Phuong the main attraction of coming to Vietnam was the promise by doctors who had participated in Project Vietnam that he would see things here that he wouldn’t see during an entire two-year fellowship in the United States. He hasn’t been disappointed. In one afternoon, for example, he saw a choledochal cyst, imperforate anus, two cases of patent ductus arteriosis, two children with ventricular septal defect, one child with syndactyly, an anovaginal fistula, two teratomas, and much more. Some of those conditions would never be seen in the United States.

Through the Eyes of an American

The operating room is a study in contrasts. The overhead light and LCD monitors are state of the art, but the scissors are dull and missing tips. The sheets on which children lay, the plastic gloves, and all of the instruments will be washed and reused. Surgeons use sutures made of cotton as opposed to silk, nylon, or absorbent materials.

These little things weigh heavily on Phuong’s conscience. Until coming here, he never considered the “enormous waste” of materials used in surgery. “We use dozens of sutures, throw away towels, so many things,” he says.

Suddenly, surgery stops. The power has gone out. “Merde!” the lead surgeon curses in French. Seconds later, the power returns. The team continues. Power will go out another six times before the surgery is completed. Blackouts are common in Vietnamese hospitals, where back-up generators are at least 20 years old and often unreliable.

Pediatric surgeon Nguyen Thanh Cong, M.D., who trained in Japan, was performing heart surgery on an infant in the room next to Phuong’s when the power went out. Asked later about this particularly troublesome challenge, he answered simply: “Vietnam is a poor country.”

And, with that, the conversation ended.

Outside surgery, the narrow hallways are lined with anxious parents dressed in blue and brown striped hospital pajamas that resemble jail uniforms. Some sleep on the floor, others pull from bags miniature bananas and baguettes —the latter a reminder of decades of French colonial rule. One sallow-cheeked father sits on a flattened cookie box. A woman screams at a man as both push frail children down the hall. She thinks he has stolen her baby’s blanket. Her howls fill the hallway until another man steps in and demands that she stop.

When their children get through postop, parents maneuver them on rolling metal stretchers lined with straw mats to recovery rooms with eight or 10 beds. Sometimes two children share a bed.

Phuong, in his white coat, and Mai, clutching her purse, step into a recovery room where a mother nurses her 2-year-old son, who is dressed in Harry Potter pajamas.

Phuong and Mai have vaulted to near celebrity status as they walk from recovery room to room. Parents look up in hope of having a conversation with the unusual Vietnamese speakers with their lighter skin and rosy cheeks. (Visitors such as these two are known as “Viet Kieu,” an uncomplimentary term for the ones who left.)

Phuong delights his mother as he passes out toys and bite-size chocolates to the children. “This morning I tell Phuong to bring candy,” Mai says. “He say, ‘Mom, you are goofy.’ But look at this! Now they are happy.”

Amid the poverty, mother and son are moved by the effortless nurturing they see everywhere they look. Parents never leave their children’s sides, lying with them, stroking their hair and skin, cooing to them. Before coming here, Phuong spent two weeks in Hoa Binh, a province in northern Vietnam, with Project Vietnam. There, the group of surgeons Phuong worked with performed 18 cleft lip and palate surgeries but had to turn down dozens more patients when resources ran out. That still haunts the handsome young medical student, as many of the patients were teenagers only a few years younger than he with holes in their upper lips that caused food to ooze out. “Please fix this,” their parents begged. “Otherwise, our child has no chance to marry.”

During his time in Hoa Binh, Phuong translated for one American doctor and served as a scrub nurse for others. Team members brought their own anesthesia medications, ambu bags, and surgical instruments. Because of the hospital’s antiquated power supply, there often was insufficient light to do the surgeries, so Phuong would wear a Halogen headlamp he purchased at REI on his forehead. One doctor, absent a ventilator, squeezed a hand-held balloon for 10 straight hours during surgery. After surgery, Phuong carried the children up a flight of stairs to recovery.

Not surprisingly, Phuong feels a universe away from his $80,000 U.S. medical school education. “My hands aren’t exactly calloused from manual labor,” he says, humbled by having grown up in such affluence and seeing how different his life would have been had his family decided to stay in Vietnam.

Phuong’s plans after graduation were to begin a five-year residency in general surgery at New York University Medical Center. But his Vietnam experience has already had a lasting impact. “I’d really like to come back and contribute something,” he says. “I feel a responsibility to make good.”

Mai is deeply proud of her son—and of his desire to one day return to his home country and make a difference. “As I’m watching him, I’m thinking about a little kid running around on an [Indonesian] island, and he grew up and he’s a doctor… And he’s right. He needs to contribute to Vietnam. It’s his country.” MM

Gail Rosenblum is a Minneapolis writer. She and photographer Judy Griesedieck traveled to Vietnam in April as part of a four-year project on the University of Minnesota Medical School class of 2004. Other stories about the class of 2004 have been published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Giving Kids a Chance

Project Vietnam, the international health program of the American Academy of Pediatrics, was founded in 1996 by California pediatrician Quynh Kieu, M.D., and her husband, anesthesiologist Chan Kieu. When the United States resumed diplomatic relations with Vietnam that year, the Kieus returned to their home country in the hope of improving the dismal state of health many Vietnamese children suffered.

By 1998, they were making regular trips to Vietnam with fellow volunteers to perform surgeries on children with cleft lips, cleft palates, and strabismus. In 2000, they added cataract surgeries and ear exams to Project Vietnam’s offerings.

Among the biggest threats to children in Vietnam’s provinces, as well as in larger cities including Hanoi, is brain hemorrhage caused by a lack of Vitamin K. A study of Vietnamese children by the National Institute of Pediatrics in 2000 found that they had a deficiency rate that was 20 times higher than the rate in developed countries. They also had the highest deficiency rate in Asia. Of 1,325 infants hospitalized in Hanoi between 1991 and 1998, more than 17 percent died and 40 percent showed long-term damage from lack of Vitamin K.

With Project Vietnam’s support, the institute launched demonstration projects in two districts with the highest incidence of Vitamin K deficiency hemorrhage, Ha Tay and Hanoi. With the support of AmeriCares, VNHELP, the Vietnamese Pharmacists Association, International Children Assistance Network, and Lua Viet, some 120,000 doses of Vitamin K have been donated to the program, and about 25,000 babies in the two districts have received injections. Last year, the Ministry of Health adopted administration of Vitamin K for newborns as a national policy. The vitamin is currently being given to newborns in some communal health centers.

In addition, Project Vietnam leads programs to carry out nutrition assessments of children at elementary schools. Volunteers tell wrenching stories of children complaining of stomachaches when, in reality, they were simply hungry. More than 90 percent of the children studied did not get milk and were, not surprisingly, at the low end for growth. In addition, some children ate just once a day. To this end, Project Vietnam has begun a school-based project to provide nutrition support to poor families. —G.R.

For more information on Project Vietnam go to www.projectvietnam.net or write Project Vietnam, 12377 Lewis Street, Suite 103,Garden Grove, CA 92840; phone 714/641-0850.

Facts on Health Care in Vietnam

The health care system in Vietnam is a four-tier system, with 826 state-owned hospitals (central, provincial, and district), including 29 central facilities such as the National Institute of Pediatrics in Hanoi. The fourth tier is made up of five private hospitals and two foreign-owned hospitals. The country also has 19,500 private clinics and medical centers, and 10,165 communal health centers that serve collective communities of up to 10,000 people. National preventive programs such as immunization, maternal and child care, safe water, maleria prevention, family planning, and HIV prevention are managed at the central level.

Since reforms began in 1987, Vietnam has successfully achieved steady economic growth, resulting in a rapid reduction in poverty. The most recent figures on living standards show that the ratio of absolute poor has dropped from 51 percent of the population to around 35 percent in 1998. Despite strides in economic progress, the rural health sector has remained stagnant. Under the old central-planning system, social services were free, and the state was the sole provider and funder of care. Under the new system, user fees were introduced and private providers allowed to operate. People living in urban areas rely on social insurance and social welfare, while the rural social protection system depends largely on family support and informal mechanisms combined with public poverty alleviation programs. Increasingly, people living in rural areas have to shoulder a large portion of the costs of health services as user fees have increased steadily. Vietnam still feels uneasy about private sector involvement in the delivery of health services.

According to the latest health care statistics released by the Ministry of Health in 2003, each person in Vietnam spends an average of 217,300 dong annually ($14) on check-ups and treatment. Each person falls ill 1.5 times a year, and people of working age take an average of 5.8 days of leave every year for health reasons.

Among children under age 5, 30 percent suffer from malnutrition and 1.3 percent from obesity. Nearly 80 percent of the obese children live in urban areas. Monthly per capita income of Vietnamese people was 357,000 dong ($23) in 2001-2002.

Health care training is carried out in eight medical and pharmaceutical schools and 25 secondary schools and produces approximately 2,000 graduates annually. Training and management concepts are outdated, and there are few in-service training sessions. A physician earns about $35 a month; a nurse, $32, in urban areas.

This year, the government started an initiative to implement national health insurance. However, the system differs from province to province. Ha Nam province, for example, chose to provide matching funds to purchase coverage for more than 90,000 indigent residents, giving them access to health care facilities of their choice, while Lang Son set aside government funding to reimburse for health services as incurred. Nonetheless, this is a crucial step to shore up the safety net and reverse disturbing trends evident in the country’s health sector.

Reprinted from an article published by the Minnesota Medical Association:
[Thank you, Fongue!]

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bonjour Vietnam

Pham Quynh Anh est une jeune chanteuse vietnamienne (19 ans et bourrée de talent), née à Liège en Belgique, dont la chanson Bonjour Vietnam (de Marc Lavoine) est en train de connaître un succès fulgurant auprès de la diaspora vietnamienne.

Plusieurs sites web et blogues ont affiché des articles sur Quynh Anh, et nombreux sont les Vietnamiens expatriés qui se reconnaissent dans les paroles tendres et subtiles de sa chanson.

Le site Tuoi Tre Online http://tinyurl.com/99wc9 a consacré des pages entières à la jeune chanteuse (en vietnamien, sorry!) et il suffit de lire les commentaires des lecteurs pour se rendre compte de l'engouement du public.

Visual Guy a créé un «diaporama» musical avec la douce voix de Quynh Anh et des photos superbes du Vietnam: http://www.visualgui.com/motion/BonjourVietnam.html.
J'invite tous mes lecteurs, vietnamiens ou non, à cliquer sur le lien et à aller se noyer dans la splendeur des images et de la musique.

Funny messages from your computer

I'm only posting the funnies I understand...[Go ahead, say it!]. You can find the rest here: http://thedailywtf.com/

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sunday Musing

Super Bowl
I'm so ignorant of and indifferent to this quintessential American ritual that I don't even know when it takes place. Having been bombarded all week with incessant announcements and commercials about it, I thought it was due yesterday and was surprised not to find the results in the Sunday issue of the New York Times. It's a bit like reading about the Hadj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia or the Pamplona Bull Running in Spain: exotic and interesting for about 2 seconds.

Mule Dogs
Most people were incensed to learn that drug dealers are using puppies to transport drugs accross the borders. Then they felt ashamed that they were more upset at the idea of canine mules than human mules. One does get used to human misery by reading or watching the news about it every day.

Blasphemous cartoons
What he says.

«The case for mocking religion
By Christopher Hitchens [http://www.slate.com/id/2135499/]

As well as being a small masterpiece of inarticulacy and self-abnegation, the statement from the State Department about this week's international Muslim pogrom against the free press was also accidentally accurate.
"Anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief."
Thus the hapless Sean McCormack, reading painfully slowly from what was reported as a prepared government statement. How appalling for the country of the First Amendment to be represented by such an administration. What does he mean "unacceptable?" That it should be forbidden? And how abysmal that a "spokesman" cannot distinguish between criticism of a belief system and slander against a people. However, the illiterate McCormack is right in unintentionally comparing racist libels to religious faith. Many people have pointed out that the Arab and Muslim press is replete with anti-Jewish caricature, often of the most lurid and hateful kind. In one way the comparison is hopelessly inexact. These foul items mostly appear in countries where the state decides what is published or broadcast. However, when Muslims republish the Protocols of the Elders of Zion or perpetuate the story of Jewish blood-sacrifice at Passover, they are recycling the fantasies of the Russian Orthodox Christian secret police (in the first instance) and of centuries of Roman Catholic and Lutheran propaganda (in the second). And, when an Israeli politician refers to Palestinians as snakes or pigs or monkeys, it is near to a certainty that he will be a rabbi (most usually Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of the disgraceful Shas party), and will cite Talmudic authority for his racism. For most of human history, religion and bigotry have been two sides of the same coin, and it still shows.

Therefore there is a strong case for saying that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and those who have reprinted its efforts out of solidarity, are affirming the right to criticize not merely Islam but religion in general. And the Bush administration has no business at all expressing an opinion on that. If it is to say anything, it is constitutionally obliged to uphold the right and no more. You can be sure that the relevant European newspapers have also printed their share of cartoons making fun of nuns and popes and messianic Israeli settlers, and taunting child-raping priests. There was a time when this would not have been possible. But those taboos have been broken.

Which is what taboos are for. Islam makes very large claims for itself. In its art, there is a prejudice against representing the human form at all. The prohibition on picturing the prophet—who was only another male mammal—is apparently absolute. So is the prohibition on pork or alcohol or, in some Muslim societies, music or dancing. Very well then, let a good Muslim abstain rigorously from all these. But if he claims the right to make me abstain as well, he offers the clearest possible warning and proof of an aggressive intent. This current uneasy coexistence is only an interlude, he seems to say. For the moment, all I can do is claim to possess absolute truth and demand absolute immunity from criticism. But in the future, you will do what I say and you will do it on pain of death.

[snip] I am not asking for the right to slaughter a pig in a synagogue or mosque or to relieve myself on a "holy" book. But I will not be told I can't eat pork, and I will not respect those who burn books on a regular basis. I, too, have strong convictions and beliefs, and value the Enlightenment above any priesthood or any sacred fetish-object. It is revolting to me to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger. But these same principles of mine also prevent me from wreaking random violence on the nearest church, or kidnapping a Muslim at random and holding him hostage, or violating diplomatic immunity by attacking the embassy or the envoys of even the most despotic Islamic state, or making a moronic spectacle of myself threatening blood and fire to faraway individuals who may have hurt my feelings. The babyish rumor-fueled tantrums that erupt all the time, especially in the Islamic world, show yet again that faith belongs to the spoiled and selfish childhood of our species.

As it happens, the cartoons themselves are not very brilliant, or very mordant, either. But if Muslims do not want their alleged prophet identified with barbaric acts or adolescent fantasies, they should say publicly that random murder for virgins is not in their religion. And here one runs up against a curious reluctance. … In fact, Sunni Muslim leaders can't even seem to condemn the blowing-up of Shiite mosques and funeral processions, which even I would describe as sacrilege. Of course there are many millions of Muslims who do worry about this, and another reason for condemning the idiots at Foggy Bottom is their assumption, dangerous in many ways, that the first lynch mob on the scene is actually the genuine voice of the people. There's an insult to Islam, if you like.

The question of "offensiveness" is easy to decide. First: Suppose that we all agreed to comport ourselves in order to avoid offending the believers? How could we ever be sure that we had taken enough precautions? On Saturday, I appeared on CNN, which was so terrified of reprisal that it "pixilated" the very cartoons that its viewers needed to see. And this ignoble fear in Atlanta, Ga., arose because of an illustration in a small Scandinavian newspaper of which nobody had ever heard before! Is it not clear, then, that those who are determined to be "offended" will discover a provocation somewhere? We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.

Second (and important enough to be insisted upon): Can the discussion be carried on without the threat of violence, or the automatic resort to it? When Salman Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988, he did so in the hope of forwarding a discussion that was already opening in the Muslim world, between extreme Quranic literalists and those who hoped that the text could be interpreted. We know what his own reward was, and we sometimes forget that the fatwa was directed not just against him but against "all those involved in its publication," which led to the murder of the book's Japanese translator and the near-deaths of another translator and one publisher.

[snip] There can be no negotiation under duress or under the threat of blackmail and assassination. And civil society means that free expression trumps the emotions of anyone to whom free expression might be inconvenient. It is depressing to have to restate these obvious precepts, and it is positively outrageous that the [U.S.] administration should have discarded them at the very first sign of a fight.»

For another point of view: http://stevegilliard.blogspot.com/
Nordic uproar at Syrian protests
By Steve Gilliard

«I have been amazed at the way people, first, refuse to understand that depicting Muhammad in any form is a grave insult, second, this was done by a right wing newspaper to piss people off, and third, how shocked Europeans are at the way Muslims feel about a grave insult to their religion.

Now, the Europeans play the innocent party, and people suggest that Muslims should leave if they don't like being insulted in the West

American missionaries routinely go to China and deliver bibles, even though the government prohibits it, Yet, if the Chinese should jail one, all hell would break loose. Why doesn't the West respect Chinese customs?

But the fact that Muslims are in Europe is simple: they were invited. Scut work was too much for Europeans after the war, so they invited in Muslims to clean their streets, build their cars and do the other things Europeans didn't want to do.

Six countries in Europe had colonies with large Muslim populations: France, the UK, Holland, Germany, Italy and Spain.

They exploited their lands, murdered their people, and ruled them with an iron fist. French muslims died to liberate France from the Nazis, Indian and Pakistani muslims sent the Japanese packing from Burma. Libyan Muslims fought side by side with Mussolini's Army. Muslims helped fight the British in Tananyika for the Germans. Muslims in Indonesia made Holland one of the richest countries on earth.

But it's easy to forget this. It's all "those ungrateful Muslims". But they were heroes when they were stopping bullets in the Arakan and the hills of Italy.They died side by side with French paras in Dien Bien Phu and throughout the Algerian Revolution.

So let's stop pretending that this is a one-sided exchange. Massive immigration to Europe could hardly make up for the collective criminality the West has visited upon the Muslim world.

I mean, the CIA helped Suharto kill 1,000,000 Indonesians and waged war against him in Ambon. Forgottten history in the US, not Indonesia.

Europeans wanted the benefits of Muslim land and later labor, but thought they would morph into little brown Europeans. Despite being excluded from the benefits of the wider society, and often facing bitter discrimination. And now that they want to keep some of their identity, they're no longer wanted.

The fact is that Europeans needed them and they created multicultural societies in fact, something many are now uncomfortable with. They forget how their companies recruited these people to work for them, but didn't make room for them in their societies.

The cartoons were odious, and the way it was used to stir people up is scaring the shit out of Muslim governments.

Yes, free speech is important, but there is no free speech in Syria. All they see is the grave offense. Blastphemy is a death penalty offense in much of the Arab world and free speech is unknown in most countries.

People also need to consider that Islam is the vehicle for political discontent, which is why people are getting scared. Hamas didn't win because people wanted to live in theocracy, but because it was the only way to protest the corrupt Fatah government.

People are arguing that this is just an attempt to have Muslims bully the west. Ironic coming from places with state sponsored religion. Did Muslims riot when the headscarf ban was placed in France? Of course not.

People can continue to play stupid, and watch people die, or they might consider that we live in an interconnected world and what we do in the US or Europe will be seen around the world.

Europeans are in no position to give Muslims lectures on proper decorum. They left way too many bodies behind in Muslim countries for that to be taken seriously.

And while the Danes are justifibly proud of their tolerance and record on human rights, do they think vuglarly attacking another religion lives up to that tradition? Yes, there is free speech, but also human decency. Not one Danish cartoonist is running for his life in the middle east today. But decent people, doing NGO work, are.

They had every right to do what they wanted. It's a guaranteed right. But the reason you can't yell fire in a crowded theater is because people could die. The same applies here. If you mock or degrade Muhammad, Muslims will feel highly offended. Is it right to riot? Of course not, but when you hand a tool to Islamic radicals, they will, of course, use it.

The fact is that Europeans now live in multicultural societies and they better consider that. They chose to invite Muslims to live in their countries and now they need to respect their traditions like every other religion.»

The rebuttal: id.
By Jen

Colonialism is an issue here? Oh, yeah, right, I forgot about that time when Norway invaded Syria. Oh, wait, they didn't. But doesn't anyone remember the group of Tibetians that burned down the Chinese consulate in DC, sacked their stores, and threatened to kidnap takout delivery guys, in retaliation for treatment of Tibetians in Tibet by China? Oh, yeah, I forgot, that didn't happen either. This isn't about the Crusades or anything like that.

Muslims are living in Europe now, so EUROPE has to respect THEIR religion? Erm, quite the other way around, methinks. The laws of the home country apply to all, regardless of religion, at least in anyplace I'd want to live (unlike most of the countries where these folks are fleeing from). As one poster sagely pointed out, answer these questions in a yes or no fashion, and make your conclusions accordingly: Can you open a mosque in Copenhagen? Can you open a Pentecostal church in Mecca? And let me add: What would the results be?

Should Europeans have to "respect" self-censorship, along with honor killings, burquas, beheadings for herasey, slavery and conquest of nonbelievers, and bans on pork products, lest they give offense? And, frankly, I (and I'm sure most Europeans) don't give a shit if these are part of "real pure Islam" (which please remind me, has the global headcount equivalent of Catholic Italy or Protestant Scandinavia in what part of the world?) or "local tribal cultures"--they seem to pop up as part of the mainstream, not isolated fringe incidents. When you have national laws preventing women from driving, leaving the country without a male relative, etc. it's gone a bit beyond "local practice" and becomes "standard policy".

Ditto for the countless offensive anti-Semitic cartoons that are published in government-sponsored newspapers throughout the Middle East. You can't claim something is "fringe behavior" when it's also "national policy."

Then there's the Disney Response, the "its an interconnected world, we all need each other, get used to it." Erm, I don't have to "get used" to the problem of homelessness in New York by letting a junkie sleep in my living room. Europe does not "owe" any group visas or jobs or walking on eggshells.

Europe spent centuries getting the balance between state and religion right (ie largely eliminating it from daily life), which is the exact opposite of the station that Islam occupies in the Middle East today. There seems to be a base incompatibility here. Why should Europe dismantle itself in order to accomodate those who would gladly send it back to the Dark Ages?

As I have said earlier, watch for a gradual choking-off of visas given to residents of nations that have participated in violent anti-Danish and anti-European riots, as well as nations that harbor fundamentalist mullahs at high levels as well. I would include Palestine--whose current government seems to be taking a stand of "please don't cut us off financially OR WE'LL KILL YOU"--in this group. The last time I checked, there were plenty of non-rioting, non-burqua insisting, non-honor-killing folks in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union (two huge labor pools that were only not acessible in the past due to the Iron Curtain), India, China, the Phillipines, etc. who are standing ready to fill any labor "need" in Western Europe.

I think a lot of liberals here--who would be singing a very different tune had the furor been over an anti-Christian cartoon (South Park, any episode, almost, anyone?)--are being "colorblinded" by this case. They see what they perceive as "oppressed" people (by their own governments, folks...) "rising up" against nasty imperialist whities (hey, anyone remember when Denmark invaded Iran? Oh, yeah, they didn't) who insult their core values (by giving them jobs, housing and welfare?). Don't fall into the trap. It is not "anti-Islam" to refuse to bend to the most extreme of its practitioners, nor is it an insult to point out its worst practices.

I hope that the Scandinavian Nations and the rest of the EU stands firm in this and doesn't let themselves get bullied by extremists anywhere. It's not anti-Muslim or anti-Islam to point out the facts in this case, ie global rioting and denouncements (including such gems as local protesters in the UK threatening "another 7/7" over this--nice!) over a CARTOON that is NOT considered a crime where it was published.

My point of view:

People seem to think that the Muslim populations in these countries, having somehow seen blasphemous cartoons printed in an obscure European newspaper, spontaneously rose up in outrage to riot, burn down embassies and other buildings, and threaten various foreigners with beatings and death. But these riots, like the ones in China a while ago against Japan, are all organized by governmental and para-governmental groups for their own purposes. The majority of the people in the third world countries are illiterate and lack the knowledge to know (or to care about) what's happening in other countries (even in some parts of a developped country like the United States, such ignorance is rampant). The only sources of information are the state-controlled media and/or the churches/synagogues/mosques. When the local mullah tells you that some foreigners have committed blasphemy against the Prophet or when the local commissar tells you that the Japanese have just published some history books that forgot to mention the atrocities they committed during the Second World War, you might shrug and go on with your life. But then the neighbour tells you that his brother in law's nephew's office colleague heard on the radio that this insult cannot be tolerated and there's a demonstration planned for tomorrow and that night the communal TV shows Dear Leader expressing his outrage and the next day, the local priest tells the congregation how God will punish those who stand by and let his name be defiled, etc... It is very easy to whip ignorant masses into a frothing rage and let nature take its course while carefully pointing to the designated targets of their rage. It's an old trick, used often in the past and still useful to this day. All you have to remember is that mobs are by definition stupid: rioters need to be told what to riot against.