In the spring of 1954, Allen Pope risked life and limb to fly covert Central Intelligence Agency resupply missions to besieged French forces in what is now Vietnam. But the thing he recounts most vividly is not the dangers he faced. It's the heroism of the French troops he was helping. \n"This is what I'll always remember: the way they fought. There were men without hands, men without legs, men without feet, men that were blinded," he says. "They were catching hell." \nThey caught it at Dien Bien Phu, a cluster of villages in a valley ringed by mountains near the Laotian border. Communist rebels on higher ground pummeled the French with artillery in an epic battle that marked the end of French colonial rule in Indochina and foreshadowed the US involvement in Vietnam. \nNext week, nearly 51 years after the fall of Dien Bien Phu, the seven surviving US pilots who braved those perilous skies -- but later were essentially disowned by the CIA -- will be awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, or Legion of Honor, France's highest award for service. \nSix of the seven will gather at the official residence of French Ambassador Jean-David Levitte for a Feb. 24 ceremony to commemorate an important chapter in the history of US-French relations. \n"It's a nice gesture on their part," says Douglas Price, who was 29 years old when he flew 39 airdrop missions to Dien Bien Phu in April and May 1954 as a civilian employee of Civil Air Transport, a flying service whose undeclared owner was the CIA. \n"There has been a lot of friction between the [US and French] governments lately," he said, alluding to the leading role France played in opposing the Bush administration's decision to go to war in Iraq. "Maybe they're making a gesture, hoping that they can get things back together again." \nThe gesture will exceed any public thanks these now-elderly Americans have received from their own government, which sent them into harm's way in unarmed C-119 "Flying Boxcar" cargo planes with the understanding that if captured or killed they would not be acknowledged as agents of the US government. \n"I was a covert employee. We were expendable," says Roy Watts. \nHe unsuccessfully sued the government for extended disability and retirement benefits based on his 16 years of flying covert missions in Asia for the CIA. \nThe CIA argues that the men technically were not government employees since they worked for a CIA front company.
CALIBRATED RESPONSE: The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants to assess the situation and the risks, the transport minister said Singapore will strive to keep its borders open and stay connected to the rest of world even if a new variant of COVID-19 emerges, Singaporean Minister for Transport S. Iswaran said on Wednesday. The city-state has learned from its past experiences of dealing with COVID-19 variants, Iswaran said in an interview with Bloomberg News. When the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 hit, Singapore did not backtrack on its reopening plans, but rather decided to wait and see how things panned out, he said, adding that the response was different versus the Delta outbreak. “We’ve all learned to adapt,” Iswaran said on the sidelines
‘EATING UP SPRING’: Temperatures are 10oC to 15oC above the seasonal average and a city northwest of Madrid experienced its first ‘tropical’ May night on Friday Parts of Spain are experiencing their hottest May since records began, as a mass of hot, dry air blows in from Africa, bringing with it dusty skies and temperatures of more than 40°C. Spain’s state meteorological agency, Aemet, has warned of a weekend heat wave of an “extraordinary intensity,” with temperatures between 10°C and 15°C above the seasonal average and more akin to high summer than mid-May. “The early hours of 21 May have been extraordinarily hot for the time of year across a good part of the center and south of the peninsula,” Aemet said on Saturday. “In many places the
BUSINESS AS USUAL: Thousands of people were forcibly removed from their homes in the dead of night and all mentions of the incident were scrubbed from the Internet Thousands of COVID-19-negative Beijing residents were forcibly relocated to quarantine hotels overnight due to a handful of infections, as the Chinese capital begins to take more extreme control measures resembling virus-hit Shanghai. Beijing has been battling its worst outbreak since the COVID-19 pandemic started. The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 has infected more than 1,300 since late last month, leading city restaurants, schools and tourist attractions to be closed indefinitely. China’s strategy to achieve zero COVID-19 cases includes strict border closures, lengthy quarantines, mass testing and rapid, targeted lockdowns. More than 13,000 residents of the locked-down Nanxinyuan residential compound in southeast Beijing were
‘I’M STUNNED’: The disease is not known to be sexually transmitted, but a large outbreak might reveal previously unknown transmission routes, a virologist said Scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the disease’s recent spread in Europe and North America. Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa. However, in the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, the US, Sweden, Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who had not previously traveled to Africa. There are about 80 confirmed cases worldwide and 50 more suspected ones, the WHO said. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia reported their first cases on Friday. “I’m stunned by this. Every day I