Vietnamese swimmers ferry passengers across flooded rivers in plastic bags

When remote areas of Vietnam are flooded out, entrepreneurial swimmers set up informal ferries in which passengers climb into sturdy plastic bags and are then swum across the river against the current. The Vietnamese explanation accompanying the video is beyond Google Translate, but I'd love it if anyone out there could help flesh this out, because it's pretty amazing. (via Kottke)

Obituary for a French superspy

The Telegraph's obit for Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld recounts the florid and exciting life of the aristocrat turned French resistance fighter turned UK special forces killer turned escape artist turned colonial enforcer in Indochina. In particular, La Rochefoucauld was a skilled escapologist, and ballsy as all hell about it:

Dropped into the Morvan with two British agents, including one radio operator, La Rochefoucauld teamed up with a Maquis group near Avallon led by a man who called himself The Pope. After destroying the electrical substation at Avallon, and blowing up railway tracks, La Rochefoucauld was awaiting exfiltration by the RAF when he was denounced and arrested. After a series of interrogations, he was condemned to death.

En route to his execution in Auxerre, La Rochefoucauld made a break, leaping from the back of the truck carrying him to his doom, and dodging the bullets fired by his two guards. Sprinting through the empty streets, he found himself in front of the Gestapo’s headquarters, where a chauffeur was pacing near a limousine bearing the swastika flag. Spotting the key in the ignition, La Rochefoucauld jumped in and roared off, following the Route Nationale past the prison he had left an hour earlier.

Count Robert de La Rochefoucauld (via Kottke)

(Image: downsized, cropped thumbnail of a larger image on The Telegraph)

Napalm girl's life and times

An anonymous AP story tells the life story of Kim Phuc, the "napalm girl" seen running naked down a village road in Nick Ut's 40-year-old Pulitzer-winning photo. Phuc went on to medical school, but her education was interrupted when the Vietnamese politburo demanded that she return home to serve as a propaganda mouthpiece, trapped in a grueling round of closely supervised interviews with western journalists. Later, Phuc went to Cuba, and from there made her way to Canada, where she lives today:

The media eventually found Phuc living near Toronto, and she decided she needed to take control of her story. A book was written in 1999 and a documentary came out, at last the way she wanted it told. She was asked to become a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador to help victims of war. She and Ut have since reunited many times to tell their story, even traveling to London to meet the Queen.

"Today, I'm so happy I helped Kim," said Ut, who still works for AP and recently returned to Trang Bang village. "I call her my daughter."

After four decades, Phuc, now a mother of two sons, can finally look at the picture of herself running naked and understand why it remains so powerful. It had saved her, tested her and ultimately freed her.

"Most of the people, they know my picture but there's very few that know about my life," she said. "I'm so thankful that ... I can accept the picture as a powerful gift. Then it is my choice. Then I can work with it for peace."

Girl from AP's Vietnam napalm photo finds peace with her role in history (via Kottke)

Hong Kong Airlines accused of profiting from "flying Taiji dolphin coffins"

A recent article in China Daily pointed to charges that Hong Kong Airlines "has been accused of profiting from animal cruelty by striking a HK$850,000 deal to fly live dolphins from Japan to Vietnam."

Why were they headed to Vietnam? Because, Dolphin: it's what's for dinner.

The dolphins in question are captured at Taiji, a dolphin-hunt site in Japan made famous by Sea Shepherd's actions, and the film The Cove.

Sandy McElhaney at Examiner.com (an open publishing platform, not a newspaper as the name may suggest) wrote this interesting post about the China Daily article, and a Change.org petition followed. There are a few scattered press reports, but they don't include much direct sourcing beyond the China Daily piece so far. Hong Kong airlines has issued a weak statement that denies responsibility for any wrongdoing, profiteering or animal abuse.

For what it's worth, China Daily is not exactly a free and independent press outlet, but known for more Western-style journalism than other state-owned papers in China.

(image via Hong Kong Airlines.)