Teaching Kids In Vietnam To Avoid A Deadly, Everyday Legacy Of War

Nguyen Thanh Phu delivers a presentation to children on the dangers of active land mines and bombs in Dong Ha, Vietnam.

Nguyen Thanh Phu delivers a presentation to children on the dangers of active land mines and bombs in Dong Ha, Vietnam. Michael Sullivan for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Michael Sullivan for NPR

It’s 9 a.m. in central Vietnam’s Quang Tri province, and several dozen grade- schoolers sit cross-legged on the floor as their teacher holds up pictures, asking the kids to identify them.

“Bombi!” several shout in unison, when shown a small cluster munition used by the U.S. during the Vietnam War, more than 40 years before any of these kids were born. “M79!” they blurt as he flashes another, a picture of a rocket-propelled grenade.

Their teacher is Nguyen Thanh Phu, the manager at the Mine Action Visitor Center in Quang Tri’s provincial capital, Dong Ha. He’s good with the kids — making a game of the presentation to keep them interested. And keeping them interested is serious business.

“It’s a life skill,” he says. Children have to be aware of how to identify and avoid unexploded ordnance — like learning how to ride a bike or crossing the street.

Quang Tri was the most heavily bombed province of the Vietnam War, says my host and guide, Chuck Searcy of Project Renew, which runs the center. As much as 10 percent of those munitions didn’t detonate, according to the Pentagon.

“Four decades later, it is still a threat in heavy concentrations in certain parts of the country, Quang Tri being the worst,” Searcy says. “The ordnance is still active, lethal and will still blow your arm or leg off or kill you, and these kids are especially vulnerable.”

Which is why Project Renew, in cooperation with local schools, runs awareness workshops for students from all over the province. They’re quick learners. Fourth grader Huy Nguyen says he knows exactly what to do if he sees unexploded ordnance in a ditch or the garden — or the schoolyard.

A sign created by Project Renew shows mortar shells and warns, "Extreme danger, keep out, stay away."

A sign created by Project Renew shows mortar shells and warns, “Extreme danger, keep out, stay away.” Michael Sullivan for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Michael Sullivan for NPR

“Yeah, I run,” he says in perfect English. “But first I calm down. And then I’ll run. And then I’ll call my dad.”

His dad will then call one of Project Renew’s disposal teams, who’ll come and deal with it, Searcy says.

“Every day, these teams operating all over the province get five or 10 calls a day,” he says. “Our teams safely destroy 200 to 300 munitions in a week. So it’s an ongoing problem. It will continue. But it can be managed.”

Managing the problem is something Searcy’s been doing for a while — more than 20 years. He made his first trip to Vietnam almost 50 years ago, as a reluctant draftee.

“I really had no idea where Vietnam was, I couldn’t find it on a map or a globe,” he says. “And I didn’t have any particular interest in Vietnam, except, like many young men at the time, I wanted to avoid serving in Vietnam. I didn’t want to go to war.”

But he did. He was assigned to military intelligence. Now everyone — Congressional delegations, tour groups, businesspeople — comes to see Searcy. A genial, softspoken native of Athens, Georgia, he came back for good in 1995, working first with the Vietnam Veterans of America and later, Project Renew. He’s tall and lean, and looks and talks like a cross between Jimmy Carter and Gary Cooper.

Searcy remembers a time in the mid-1990s when it was difficult to get U.S.-based donors interested in helping here. The war was still too fresh in the minds of many back home. And in Vietnam, too.

“I’ve been here a long time and it’s been a frustrating process at times, and sometimes not very hopeful,” he says.

But in the last year or so, Searcy says, there’s been a sea change. Earlier, his group would be lucky to get a few hundred thousand dollars a year from the U.S. government to help fund its work. But in the last year, the spigot has opened. The State Department, he says, recently gave nearly $8 million dollars for Project Renew’s partner, Norwegian People’s Aid, and even more for several other ordnance-disposal groups working in Quang Tri.

“It’s been a long time coming, but the U.S. government is now fully engaged in dealing with these efforts,” he says. “In fact, now the U.S. government is the biggest donor in supporting cleanup efforts to rid Vietnam of the bomb and mine threat. And there’s greater cooperation between all organizations and with the Vietnamese government than ever before.”

After so many years, Searcy says he now sees a light at the end of the tunnel — a time, he says, within a decade, maybe less, when Vietnam will be able to manage its unexploded ordnance problem on its own and keep its people safe, even in Quang Tri province.

Smoke rises from a B52 air strike on a North Vietnamese tank column about 15 miles west of Dong Ha on April 18, 1972. Quang Tri province was hit hardest in the war.

Smoke rises from a B52 air strike on a North Vietnamese tank column about 15 miles west of Dong Ha on April 18, 1972. Quang Tri province was hit hardest in the war. Nick Ut/AP hide caption

toggle caption Nick Ut/AP

“Not that every bomb and mine will be cleaned up, that’s impossible,” Searcy says. “They’re still doing cleanup in Europe from World War I and II, 5,000 bombs a year is not uncommon.”

The goal isn’t to remove every piece of ordnance, Searcy says, but to keep Vietnam safe through education. “We’re doing it in Quang Tri province, teaching the children and adults how to be safe. The combination of local people being informed, knowing what to do, calling the hotline number, that’s the answer to the problem.”

Searcy is also encouraged that the U.S. is now doing more to help deal with the lingering effects of the chemical defoliant Agent Orange. U.S.-funded teams are now cleaning up Agent Orange hotspots in several parts of the country, though Searcy says the U.S. could and should do more to help Vietnamese families who may be suffering from exposure to it.

“Three million families, according to the Vietnamese government, suffering health consequences of exposure to Agent Orange, or a genetic link to Agent Orange,” he says. “Those people need help of the most basic kind at home to make their lives a little more bearable and we haven’t quite gotten a handle on that.”

The work is far from over. Meanwhile, the danger from unexploded ordnance is still very real.

While Searcy and I were talking, one of his colleagues was killed as he worked to dispose of a cluster bomb just a few miles down the road. Ngo Thien Khiet was a 45-year-old father of two, a team leader who’d been with Project Renew for nearly a decade. He joins the list of more than 100,000 Vietnamese killed or wounded by unexploded ordnance since the war ended more than 40 years ago.

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Why You Should Take A Deep Breath Before Reading The Latest Trump-Clinton Polls

Clinton takes a selfie with campaign supporters after her address at a campaign rally at La Gala May 16, 2016, in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Clinton takes a selfie with campaign supporters after her address at a campaign rally at La Gala May 16, 2016, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. John Sommers II/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption John Sommers II/Getty Images

Hooray! It’s that time of election season again, when (depending on whom you support) every single poll is cause for either panic or triumphantly punching the air.

Election Day, by the way, is November 8. That’s almost half a year more of hyperventilation over polls.

That sounds exhausting.

But to be fair, there is actual cause for excitement in the polling numbers these days, as polls have swung dramatically in Donald Trump’s favor in a matter of weeks. Two new polls released over the weekend showed Clinton and Trump within the margin of error of each other. The reality TV star and former Secretary of State are now within 0.2 percentage points of each other in the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Whether that makes you ecstatic or enraged, calm down. Here’s what these first few general-election polls do and don’t tell you.

Let’s count grains of salt

The number-one rule to remember about polls: they’re a snapshot of how people feel right now. They do not predict how Election Day will look. And there are dozens of ways that snapshot can be distorted at any given point in the campaign.

So if you’re looking for grains of salt to take with the latest poll results, there are quite a few to pick from:

1) Clinton and Trump are in vastly different situations.

Trump has soundly defeated all his GOP opponents. Clinton, meanwhile, is fighting a two-front battle — one against Trump and one against a primary opponent who, while very unlikely to win the nomination, is still very popular.

That is a much worse situation for Clinton than Trump.

“Polls are probably measuring her at a down point in the race right now,” said Cliff Zukin, a professor of public policy and polling expert at Rutgers University. “This is a weak moment to measure Clinton support because Sanders supporters are beating on her.

Meanwhile, Trump is alone at the head of his party. That gives him the same kind of polling advantage any other presumptive nominee would have at this point.

“If one party has their nominee wrapped up before the other, we usually see a bump for the nominee who’s the presumptive nominee,” says Patrick Murray, founding director of the Monmouth Polling Institute. “And that’s exactly what we’re seeing right now.”

Consider that after McCain locked up the nomination in March 2008, his numbers bounced above Obama’s briefly. But as Obama got close to the Democratic nomination, he gained ground back away from McCain.

It’s not that the current polls are wrong or mis-measuring how people feel. Rather, it’s that the current state of the race may be pulling poll respondents in one direction or the other.

2) The big stuff hasn’t happened yet.

Conventions and the first debate are both two big potential turning points in public opinion, Zukin says. If this is the start of a proverbial roller coaster ride, those are two predictable sharp turns.

And then there are the unforeseen issues: in mid-2012, Obama had to deal with the Benghazi crisis and Romney made his infamous 47 percent remark. In 2008, McCain chose a running mate who some say cost him dearly on Election Day (one analysis says Palin cost him 2 million votes).

Any number of crises, revelations, and gaffes could wildly skew these poll numbers — and with two deeply unpopular candidates, there’s plenty of reason to think either candidate could have his/her share of Swift Boat or 47 percent moments.

3) Late-May polling is historically bad.

Fun fact: statistically, we are coming up on what should be the point at which polls are farthest-off from the eventual Election Day outcome. That’s what Princeton University’s Sam Wang found in a recent analysis.

“Truly, now is the single worst time to be paying attention to fresh polling data,” the neuroscientist and polling expert wrote in a Sunday blog post.

With the election 169 days away, he added, we’re almost at the time of the year where polls tend to deviate most from the eventual general election outcomes.

Past elections give all kinds of anecdotal evidence of this. Maybe the most popular example is Michael Dukakis’ 10-point lead over George H.W. Bush at this point in 1988.

As for why polls should be the farthest-off from Election Day right now, Wang writes that he doesn’t know. Quite possibly, it’s because right now, parties are usually still going through their nomination contests. That would lend weight to the theory that Clinton’s numbers could shift after she is decisively the Democratic nominee.

Once again, of course, polls provide good snapshots of how voters feel right now, but polls aren’t meant to be predictive. And today’s polls right now might be a lot farther from Election Day outcomes than those in coming months.

4) Unprecedented unpopularity

Clinton and Trump are the most unpopular candidates on record. And because they’re such anomalies in that sense, Murray explained, it’s hard to explain what polls are saying with much certainty.

“Because it’s such an unusual and unprecedented situation it’s hard to know what this will mean,” he said. “Usually if there is a wide gap in favorabilities between the two candidates, it’s no contest, but a small gap could go either way. But usually the small gap is with them both being positive, not negative.”

“It’s not a situation where we have any evidence in prior elections for how this will play out,” he added.

But still: fewer grains of salt than usual

Yes, there are the Dukakises who led earlier on, only to lose their footing. But this is not 1988, and Clinton and Trump are no Dukakis, for one glaring reason: everyone knows who Clinton and Trump are.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday, 97 percent of Americans had an opinion on Clinton or Trump — that is, they were able to say they saw them favorably or unfavorably. That’s unusual compared to many past election years. Usually, non-incumbent candidates post higher no-opinion numbers.

That ABC-WaPo poll in May 2012 found that 14 percent of Americans had no opinion on Mitt Romney. In 2004, 12 percent had no opinion of Kerry. In 2000, more than 20 percent of Americans had no opinion of George W. Bush, and 20 percent said the same of Gore. For Dukakis in 1988, it was 25 percent.

And because people already know what they think of Trump and Clinton, it could be tougher to change those opinions.

“These are more likely to be an accurate assessment of a starting point than if the candidates were new,” Zukin said.

What about Bernie?

To be clear, Sanders’ path to the nomination is exceedingly narrow at this point. He would need to win 68 percent of pledged delegates (that is, 68 percent of the vote in the remaining states) at this point in order to win the nomination.

That looks unlikely, to put it mildly. In California, with its 475 pledged delegates, Clinton leads in polls right now by around 10 points.

But still, Sanders is performing better in general-election match-ups against Trump than Clinton is — a fact he touts constantly as a reason he should still be in the race.

It’s true that Sanders is viewed more favorably than Clinton right now. Multiple polls have indicated that her supporters like him better than his like her.

However, it’s also true that Sanders simply hasn’t been subjected to the kind of scrutiny and attacks that Clinton has. Clinton has been reserving her harshest jabs lately for Trump, not Sanders, and Trump has likewise been saving his attacks for Clinton. Moreover, Murray adds, Sanders benefits in those polls from Clinton and Trump’s uber-high unfavorability numbers.

“You get this hypothetical situation in which you say, ‘Give me anyone who’s not Hillary or Trump,’ and Sanders is the last man standing in that equation,” he said.

Moreover, this happens in primaries. There is an emotional fight on the Democratic side right now, with Sanders supporters pitted against Clinton’s. Once a nominee is selected, that can still change, or at least Clinton hopes — just as her supporters eventually came around to Obama in 2008.

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Going There: The Future Of Water

A man crosses a bridge over the Poudre River, in Fort Collins, Colo. The picturesque Colorado river is the latest prize in the West's water wars, where wilderness advocates usually line up against urban and industrial development.

A man crosses a bridge over the Poudre River, in Fort Collins, Colo. The picturesque Colorado river is the latest prize in the West’s water wars, where wilderness advocates usually line up against urban and industrial development. Brennan Linsley/AP hide caption

toggle caption Brennan Linsley/AP

The Colorado River has been a major source of water in the southwestern United States region, but many worry that it’s beginning to dry up. Some observers point to population growth, climate change and water mismanagement as causes in discussions regarding the dwindling river.

Could the water crisis that has struck many western states be a sign of what’s to come for the rest of the nation? And who decides how much water is used or who controls it?

On Tuesday, May 24, I’ll be in Fort Collins, Colo. to dive into these issues. In collaboration with member station KUNC, Going There: The Future of Water will feature a night of spirited discussion and performances. We also take the conversation to social media with a live Twitter chat, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, using the hashtag #NPRH2O.

You can tune into the live stream of the event on this page, or on Facebook via NPR Extra.

Joining us on Twitter are:

Ashley Ahearn, @aahearn, is the environment reporter at member station KUOW and part of the regional multimedia collaborative project EarthFix.

Drew Beckwith, @DrewBeckwith, is a water policy manager for Western Resource Advocates. He works closely with water providers, state officials, and partner organizations around the Inter-mountain West to find sustainable ways to meet human and environmental water needs.

Stephanie Malin, @stephmalin_soc, is an environmental and natural resource sociologist at Colorado State University. She focuses on natural resource extraction, energy development, water and their relationships to global political economies.

Luke Runyon, @LukeRunyon, is a reporter for member station KUNC based in Ft. Collins. He primarily reports on local food systems, cattle and agricultural technology.

Featured Live Panelists

Paolo Bacigalupi is a Hugo-award winning author of The Water Knife. Paolo’s writing has appeared in Wired magazine, High Country News, OnEarth magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and on Salon.com.

Kathleen Curry is a Colorado native and rancher who served in the Colorado Legislature from 2005 to 2010. Prior to serving in the legislature, she managed the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District.

Roger Fragua of Jemez Pueblo in New Mexico has dedicated his professional career to the advancement and development of American Indian communities. Roger is currently the president of Cota Holdings, LLC, and ndnEnergy, LLC. Both organizations are engaged with Tribal development in the energy sector.

Patty Limerick is the faculty director and chair of the board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado Boulder, where she is also a professor of environmental studies and history. In addition, Patty serves as the official state historian for Colorado State and was appointed to the National Endowment for the Humanities’ advisory board and the National Council on the Humanities in 2015.

Melissa Mays has proudly lived in Flint, Michigan since 2002, where she is a clean water activist. With her husband, Melissa formed Water You Fighting For, an organization that connects activists with the stated mission of standing together against the loss of democracy and denial to clean, safe and affordable water.

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Supreme Court Orders New Trial For Black Death Row Inmate Convicted By All-White Jury

In a 7-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Georgia death-row inmate appealing his murder conviction, citing efforts by prosecutors to exclude blacks from the jury panel.

In a 7-1 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with a Georgia death-row inmate appealing his murder conviction, citing efforts by prosecutors to exclude blacks from the jury panel. Win McNamee/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that a black Georgia man convicted of murder by an all-white jury should have a new trial because the prosecution deliberately excluded African-Americans from the jury based on their race.

The court’s decision reversed as “clearly erroneous” an earlier ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court, which had said the defendant had not proved racial discrimination in the selection of his jury.

It’s been nearly 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court set new rules to counter race discrimination in the seating of juries. But in some jurisdictions, the propensity to bar non-white jurors has persisted, even in capital cases such as the one against Timothy Foster, a black man accused of killing an elderly white woman.

The case was tried in 1987, one year after the Supreme Court had said lawyers could not use their right to “peremptory strikes” (dismissals without cause) to remove jurors if those peremptory strikes showed a racial pattern.

All of the prospective jurors who were black were kept off the jury, compared with only 16 percent of the white prospective jurors.

Foster was sentenced to die. He has been on death row ever since, as a series of appeals have made their way through the state and federal court systems.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there was ample evidence that the juror strikes in Foster’s trial not only resulted in an all-white jury, but also showed clear evidence of being racially motivated — even though other reasons were cited at the time.

Those purported reasons included observations about how individual black prospective jurors had behaved in court, or how their religious affiliation might affect their willingness to impose the death penalty.

Those alternative explanations for the strikes had been accepted by appeals courts since the trial, even after an attorney for Foster obtained notes from the prosecution team in 2006 (using Georgia’s Open Records Act). In those notes, all blacks in the pool of prospective jurors had their names highlighted in green and marked with the letter “B.”

“[T]he focus on race in the prosecution’s file plainly demonstrates a concerted effort to keep black prospective jurors off the jury,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the ruling he wrote for the court majority of 7-1, with Justice Clarence Thomas the lone dissenter.

The court has only eight justices at present because the late Antonin Scalia’s seat remains vacant pending consideration of a successor by the U.S. Senate.

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Robert Ellis: Tiny Desk Concert

May 23, 201611:09 AM ET

Robert Ellis somehow finds wide-eyed wonder in heartbreak. His downbeat themes come up against sonically ambitious and lushly arranged sounds on his self-titled, fourth album, which plays with country and Americana music tradition, not to mention the legacy of ’70s singer-songwriters.

So when Ellis and backing guitarist Kelly Doyle came to the NPR Music offices dressed in sharp suits (Ellis’ “uniform” this year, he told me), they retained these meticulous and thoughtful arrangements by foregrounding the tender and timeless melodies with busy, yet reinforcing guitar work. The grandiose “How I Love You” becomes a slow-burner desperate with lingering desire. The fiery, bluegrass-inspired “Drivin'” guzzles fuel with no destination in mind, Ellis “just surviving” without his lover. It’s a song that makes a point out of the many things we do to forget, lyrically (“I’ve changed all the light bulbs and had this conversation about three million times or more. I guess I’ll walk around the grocery store … again”) and musically as Ellis and Doyle’s fingers blaze across guitar strings.

Ellis closes with “California” at the piano like the soft-rockers of yesteryear — tellingly, Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is” was teased during sound check — but he wrenches drama from his Texas twang, a soulfully bouncing rhythm and Doyle’s hypnotic guitar pattern. On record, synths and electronics take the song to atmosphere, but here “California” is broken down as hopes fall apart.

Robert Ellis is available for pre-order now. (iTunes) (Amazon)

Set List
  • “How I Love You”
  • “Drivin'”
  • “California”
Credits

Producers: Lars Gotrich, Niki Walker; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Niki Walker, Kara Frame; Production Assistant: Jackson Sinnenberg; Photo: Brandon Chew/NPR.

For more Tiny Desk concerts, subscribe to our podcast.

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Baltimore Police Officer Found Not Guilty In Freddie Gray Case

Baltimore police Officer Edward Nero has been found not guilty of multiple misdemeanor charges in connection with the death of Freddie Gray.

Gray died on April 19, 2015, after suffering injuries while in police custody.

Nero was not charged directly with Gray’s death. As we reported when the trial began, he faced charges of second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.

Nero was accused of negligence for failing to buckle Gray, 25, into a seat in the police van. Gray’s neck was broken during transport while he was handcuffed and shackled, but not buckled in.

One unconventional element of the case against Nero has drawn attention: Nero was accused of assaulting Gray by arresting him without probable cause.

“Nero’s defense has said they can find no other case of an officer being prosecuted like that,” NPR’s Jennifer Ludden reported earlier this month.

Multiple police officers face charges in connection with Gray’s death, including charges of manslaughter and murder.

Nero is the second of the officers to be brought to court; the first trial, of Officer William Porter, ended in a hung jury.

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3 Days On Everest End With 3 Climbers Dead, 2 Missing

Mount Everest, with a white cloud on top, is seen from Gokyo Ri at sunset.

Mount Everest, with a white cloud on top, is seen from Gokyo Ri at sunset. Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Frank Bienewald/LightRocket via Getty Images

Eric Arnold had tried to summit Mount Everest before.

He survived the earthquake and avalanche at base camp in 2015, which shut down the mountain for last year’s climbing season, The Washington Post reports. And he was at the mountain for the tragedy in 2014, when 16 guides were killed by collapsing ice at the mountain’s notorious Khumbu Icefall.

In 2012, the Dutch alpinist made it almost to the top, before bad weather forced him to turn back.

But this year would be different. The mountain was reopened for climbers, after it was shut down in the wake of the 2014 and 2015 disasters. A bout of favorable weather had helped hundreds of climbers make it to the mountain’s top since May 11.

Bergbeklimmer Eric Arnold bereikt top Mount Everest bij vijfde poging https://t.co/oeswLrfXyd pic.twitter.com/991NvMg6Op

— Eric Arnold (@EricArnold8850) May 20, 2016

On Friday, he summited at last. He posted a celebratory picture on Twitter.

Then he started to descend — and his movements slowed, and slowed, according to the company that organized his trip. Two sherpa guides helped him down. He showed symptoms of altitude sickness — the condition caused by the thin air atop the mountain, which can lead to fatal brain swelling or fluid in the lungs. But after he returned to his tent at the final camp on the mountain, it looked like he was recovering.

Then he died.

***

Maria Strydom decided not to risk it.

The Australian finance professor and experienced mountaineer had been looking forward to the climb. It wasn’t just about the thrill, she told the business school where she taught; she wanted to prove “that vegans can do anything.”

Strydom had climbed Denali, Aconcagua, Ararat and Kilimanjaro. She knew the risks. She knew fewer than a third of would-be Everest climbers make it to the top. And she knew she was moving slowly — too slow to summit in a safe time. So she turned back.

She grew more and more ill. Soon she could barely manage to move. Her husband and two sherpa guides “struggled all night to bring her down,” writes the guide company.

Overnight, guides worked in Arnold’s tent and in Strydom’s tent, trying to stabilize them both.

As Arnold worsened and died, Strydom seemed to gain strength. The next morning she could walk on her own.

The team headed towards Camp III — where a helicopter would be able to land, and Strydom could be evacuated.

Two hours away from the evacuation site, Strydom collapsed.

Her husband, veterinarian Robert Gropel, tried to carry her body. He, too, had altitude sickness. Fluid was gathering in his lungs, Reuters reports.

Retrieving his wife’s body “was not possible,” the guides said.

***

They were missing at the world’s highest peak.

Four members of an Indian climbing expedition — Subhash Paul, Sunita Hazra, Paresh Nath and Goutam Ghosh — had lost contact with their guides on Saturday.

The four climbers were somewhere at the South Col, nearly 26,000 feet above sea level. That’s approximately the height where the “death zone” begins — where the air has grown so thin that altitude sickness can swiftly become fatal.

Leaders of the expedition eventually made contact with Paul and Hazra, and helped them down the mountain.

But Paul — who had made it to the summit — collapsed on the infamous Hillary Step on Saturday, Agence France-Presse reports.

The 43-year-old mountaineer died Sunday.

Hazra, meanwhile, was evacuated by helicopter and was in critical condition, according to AFP.

The two other members of their team have not been located.

A sherpa guide from the agency coordinating the expedition told The Associated Press it was unlikely Nath and Ghosh had survived conditions on top of Everest.

***

Three days, three deaths — and two climbers missing, with their guides fearing the worst.

On top of the fatalities, more than three dozen climbers have suffered injuries or illness, including frostbite and altitude sickness, in recent days, according to the Press Trust of India.

Climbing Everest is known to be dangerous — hundreds of people have died attempting to summit.

But expedition leaders had been hoping for a calm season this year, after the deadly disasters of 2014 and 2015.

This weekend’s spate of deaths — not from avalanches, but from altitude sickness — has raised questions about safety protocols and the business of Everest expeditions.

The Associated Press reports:

“Poor planning and overcrowding on the world’s tallest peak may have led to bottlenecks that kept people delayed at the highest reaches while waiting for the path to clear lower down, Ang Tshering of the Nepal Mountaineering Association said Monday.

“Tshering said the competition between expedition organizers has become so fierce that they are dropping their prices, which can lead to compromises in hiring equipment, oxygen tanks and experienced guides to help get climbers to the top.”

Everest has been crowded in the last few days, as numerous climbers attempt to take advantage of the same window of good weather to reach the summit, the wire service notes.

“This was a man-made disaster that may have been minimized with better management of the teams,” Tshering told the AP. “The last two disasters on Everest were caused by nature, but not this one.”

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Songs We Love: Sarah Jarosz, 'House Of Mercy'

Undercurrent
YouTube

Prior to the proliferation of feminist performance art — begun half a century ago and continuing today — the presence of a naked female body in artistic media connoted a kind of shorthand. Naked women in paintings and movies were typically offered to convey a very limited range of concepts — innocence, corruption, vulnerability and sexual availability chief among them. Artists like Yoko Ono and Carolee Schneemann exploded that vocabulary. Artistic nudity came to signify nothing, and everything. What this means is that in 2016, when bluegrass and folk artist Sarah Jarosz releases a video for her potent new single “House of Mercy” featuring many stylized images of her own bare skin, she is not limited in the story she’s trying to tell. Her only irrefutable message is that now she’s got literal skin in the game.

Undercurrent Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

Jarosz’s music and image aren’t conservative, per se, but her roots are traditional. She’s a prodigiously talented mandolin and banjo player, and her first major single was an adaptation of the Edgar Allen Poe poem “Annabel Lee.” The music on her new record, Undercurrent, takes a big, bold step in the direction this video hints at — which is to say, a step into new territory altogether. Undercurrent is Jarosz’s first album since her graduation from the New England Conservatory of Music, and it plays like a declaration of independence. This is the first of her records to feature entirely original songwriting (“House of Mercy” was co-written with Jedd Hughes), and she newly favors the guitar throughout. “House of Mercy” is a perfect introduction to the new Sarah Jarosz. The lyrics are sharp, even cruel; the guitars are low and steady; and Jarosz’s vocal carriage is uncharacteristically (and deliciously) unyielding.

In that context, the “House of Mercy” video is less surprising. Jarosz is more involved and invested in her work than ever, pushing herself into instruments she’s not known for, new writing styles and darker, more mature material. The stark black-and-white imagery in the video, including intriguing and inchoate images of naked flesh (both Jarosz’s and her costar’s), reads like exploration of the area beyond previous comfort zones. This video requires multiple viewings — at least once each for images and then for lyrics and music. In each iteration, the overarching theme (or undercurrent, as it were) is that, like the artists who decades ago laid the groundwork for this video, Sarah Jarosz is ready to broaden the conversation.

Undercurrent comes out June 17 on Sugar Hill Records.

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