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NEWS ROUNDUP January 2015

2015 Jan

January 31, 2015
Laos: Thousands suffering from the deadly aftermath of US bomb campaign

“If I had arrived 15 minutes later at the hospital, I would have died. I underwent 12 blood transfusions in order to survive.” Sitting in the living room of her wooden stilt house, 39-year-old Buan Kham slowly lifted her skirt to expose what remains of her right leg, amputated at the knee. “If I hadn’t gone to the capital, Vientiane, I would have lost both,” she added, caressing the deep scars running along her left thigh.
Less than a year ago Kham, from the rural village of Na Dee, became one of the 20,000 victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO). The weapons are a lethal legacy of the Vietnam war, which turned this poor, landlocked south-east Asia nation of 6 million into the most bombed country per capita in the world.
More on this story at The Guardian and much more here on Eternal Harvest.

January 29, 2015
Afghans live in peril among unexploded Nato bombs that litter countryside

International troops pulling out of Afghanistan have left behind a lethal legacy of unexploded bombs and shells that are killing and maiming people at a rate of more than one a day. The vast majority are children.
Bombs dropped from the air coupled with munitions left behind in makeshift firing ranges in rural Afghanistan have made parts of the countryside perilous for locals who are used to working the land for subsistence and raw materials.
Since 2001, the coalition has dropped about 20,000 tonnes of ammunition over Afghanistan. Experts say about 10% of munitions do not detonate: some malfunction, others land on sandy ground. Foreign soldiers have also used valleys, fields and dry riverbeds as firing ranges and left them peppered with undetonated ammunition. Read more about this deadly legacy at The Guardian, The Russia Times, and News Everyday.

January 28, 2015
Minor Injured by Israeli UXO in Jordan Valley

Head of al-Maleh village council, Aref Daraghmeh, told WAFA correspondence that 15-year-old Ali Ilyan sustained injuries from the shrapnel of a remnant Israeli bomb, necessitating his transfer to hospital for treatment.
According to al-Monitor website, “The Israeli army holds periodic military exercises in the Jordan Valley involving the use of warplanes and live ammunition.”
It said that the number of those killed by Israel’s unexploded ordnance in the Jordan Valley has reached three since the beginning of 2014. More at The International Middle East Media Center.

January 27, 2015
Unexploded military ordnance detonates, critically injures two El Paso women

Unexploded military ordnance detonated Saturday afternoon near Chaparral, critically injuring two El Paso women who were looking for scrap metal, officials said.
The Otero County Sheriff’s Office said the ordnance went off about 1 p.m. near Landing Stripin Road just west of U.S. Highway 54.
The kind of ordnance that exploded was not identified. The rest of the story is at The Alamogordo Daily News and The El Paso Times.

January 27, 2015
UK offshore ‘underplays UXO risk’

Developers, utilities and asset owners are failing to take account of the risks posed by munitions moving from their recorded positions during the operation and maintenance phase of offshore wind projects, warns 6 Alpha Associates.
The consultancy said that prior to installation work, where there is a high risk of encountering unexploded ordnance (UXO), it is common to carry out a specialist geophysical survey to detect it.
However, the seabed is often littered with debris that can be mistaken for UXO and the cost of investigating each and every anomaly is prohibitively expensive. Any anomalies that turn out to be UXO and slip through the net may shift on the seabed due to wave and tidal processes and in some cases human activities, such as fishing. Read more on this hazard to offshore wind farms here at ReNews.

January 24, 2015
From the Front: Kuchis

Kuchis (koo-cheez) are Afghan nomads. Poorer and outcast, they are the bottom of the Afghan barrel. They do some pretty extreme stuff to survive.
When insurgents fire rockets at us (a daily event), some of them land outside our base without exploding. This creates an are of UXO (unexploded ordnance). A UXO area is a wasteland of explosives. We mark it with the bright orange streamers and cordon it off with razor wire.
Because the unexploded rockets are metal and metal has value, there is incentive to harvest the metal as scrap. Enter the Kuchis. If their trip into the UXO area goes well, they return with metal they can sell. If their trip doesn’t go well… You can read the rest of this short dispatch from Afghanistan at the Pryor Daily Times.

January 23, 2015
Army bomb squad disposes of Georgetown cannon ball

U.S. Army bomb squad Soldiers disposed of a cannon ball that was found in a Georgetown townhouse’s chimney here Jan. 21.
Soldiers from the 55th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company responded to the unexploded ordnance discovery at the 1890s townhouse in this historic neighbor in the nation’s capital. Read more here … and a more interesting read on the same topic from The Daily Mail.

January 12, 2015
Bullsbrook bushfire: wind change may push fire to high-fuel load area

A wind change could push a bushfire 40 kilometres north-east of Perth towards a high-fuel load area, authorities warn. The fire has been downgraded to a watch and act and is now contained and under control but authorities are warning the wind change could see it break containment lines.
Mr Gale said firefighters had focussed on area with unexploded ordnance (UXO) on Royal Australian Air Force land on Monday. Read more on fire and UXO in Australia at

January 11, 2015
Uxo Kills Three in East Jebel Marra, Thousands Without Aid in North Darfur

Three people were killed when unexploded ordnance detonated near Mashrou Abu Zeid in East Jebel Marra today. Thousands of newly displaced villagers from East Jebel Marra, who reached Shangil Tobaya and Tabit in Tawila locality, North Darfur, are living in the open, without water, food, or shelter. “At a distance of seven km east of Mashrou Abu Zeid, Abdelmalek Ishag Adam, Musa Yahya Yagoub, and Hawa Eisa were killed, as well as the donkeys they were riding,” a man from the group they were travelling with, told Dabanga.
“Suddenly we heard and felt a loud explosion, and saw them been torn to pieces,” he said. “It must have been a landmine, or an unexploded bomb, they stepped on.” Learn more at

January 9, 2015
ANAMA neutralizes 76 UXOs in December

Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action has detected and neutralized 76 unexploded ordnance (UXO), as well as mines including 17 anti-personnel devices and one anti-tank mine during last December, ANAMA said.
Some 484 deminers and 118 support staff, six mechanical demining machines and 36 dogs involved in demining operations.
So far, the agency cleared over 278 million square meters from the UXOs and mines in the country, as well as detected and neutralized about 690 thousand unexploded mines and ammunition. The rest of the story is at AzerNews.

January 6, 2015
Afghanistan seeks NATO info on unexploded ordnance

Afghanistan has called on US-led foreign forces to hand over more information about their unexploded ordnance (UXO) across the war-torn country. Mohammad Sediq Rashid, the director of the Mine Action Coordination Center for Afghanistan (MACCA), said Tuesday that the information would save lives.
“They used weapons and they know that unexploded ordnance (UXO) will be left behind. This information is life-saving,” said Rashid.
Rashid added that Afghan authorities have raised the issue with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF); but, so far, there has been no action. He warned that if the US-led forces do not provide Afghans with more required coordinates and locations, lots of people, especially children, will lose their lives. Read more about how wars don’t end when the fighting stops at PressTV.

January 6, 2015
Unexploded munitions a lingering peril as NATO ends Afghan war

The end of NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan could be a watershed moment in tackling unexploded ordnance littering the country, but experts complain US-led forces need to hand over more information on where it all is.
Decades of conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979 have left landmines, shells, bombs and rockets scattered across towns, villages and fields, even after extensive clearance efforts that have safely removed millions of items. More on the story over at The Daily Mail.

January 6, 2015
Vietnam War’s deadly legacy continues to haunt Laos

Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. The United States dropped around two million tonnes of bombs on the country from 600,000 bombing missions during the Vietnam War more than four decades ago.
But many of these bombs failed to detonate. And these unexploded ordnance continue to kill and maim as many as 100 people per year in Laos. Laos is labelled as the “most heavily bombed country, per capita, in the world” – with more bombs falling on it than Europe had during World War II. And by some estimates, up to 30 per cent of the explosives failed to detonate. More on the story both here at Eternal Harvest and over at

January 5, 2015
JICA’s Efforts to Remove UXO in Cambodia and Laos

Landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) remain in the ground long after a conflict has come to a close, threatening the lives and wellbeing of people and impeding agricultural and economic development. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has provided aid in Cambodia for many years to remove landmines and is now drawing on this experience in developing similar programs in neighboring Laos. JICA has more on their work in SE Asia at their website.

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Food — and bombs — in Laos, with Jeremy Cherfas

By Jeremy Cherfas
February 3, 2014
Eat This Podcast

FoodBombKaren talks with noted food blogger and audio producer Jeremy Cherfas on Eat This Podcast about the wonderful food of Laos (it’s not Thai food!) and the effects of the American bombing campaign on farming and food in Laos today.

“The story of unexploded ordnance in Laos was an eye opener, for me. But I also wanted to know about food in Laos, and so that’s where we began our conversation,” writes Cherfas. READ AND LISTEN

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Laos Can Be a Dangerous Tourist Destination – Terry Ambrose

By Terry Ambrose
Nov. 15, 2013
Terry Ambrose Mysteries with Character

EH book coverIt has been 40 years since the U.S. military dropped the last bomb on Laos, yet the effects of unexploded ordnance (UXO) are being felt today. Jerry Redfern is an award-winning photojournalist who moved to Cambodia with his wife, Karen Coates, in 1998. Both are senior fellows at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University. It was an anniversary trip that later kindled a passion in the two about this little-known legacy of war, and encouraged a renewed commitment to redressing historical injustices and building positive peace.

Redfern said, “I thought it would be cool to go to the Plain of Jars. We were living in Cambodia and were there and heard about the bombs. We decided to take an  anniversary trip to the Plain of Jars.” READ MORE.

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Q&A with author Karen Coates and photographer Jerry Redfern – Haunting Legacy

By Deborah Kalb
Oct. 5, 2013
Haunting Legacy

REDCOATES ParisWriter Karen Coates and her husband, photographer Jerry Redfern, have collaborated on the forthcoming book Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos. Their other work together includes the book This Way More Better: Stories and Photos from Asia’s Back Roads. They are based in New Mexico and travel frequently to Asia. Many of their projects have focused on the issues of food and the environment.

Q: How did the two of you end up working on Eternal Harvest?

A: This grew out of a story on the archaeological work around the Plain of Jars that we did in 2005 for Archaeology Magazine. We had traveled to Laos before and knew the general history of the bombings, but it wasn’t until that reporting trip that we saw first-hand just how devastating the effects remain today. READ MORE

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Q&A with Jerry Redfern – Boulder Stand

Photojournalist Jerry Redfern accepted the first place award for outstanding photography at the 11th annual Society of Environmental Journalists Conference on Oct. 17, 2012.

By Christi Turner
Oct. 17, 2012
Boulder Stand

REDFERN profileAlthough a self-described “straightforward journalist,” Jerry Redfern and his work are far from traditional.

Redfern’s intense, beautiful images from Southeast Asia are compiled in his upcoming book, Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos, which documents what Redfern calls the most important environmental story he has ever done — and perhaps also the most dangerous. The striking images have won him the 2011-2012 Photographer’s Award for Reporting on the Environment from the Society of Environmental Journalists, which he received earlier this week.

Redfern has spent over 20 years in photojournalism, and over a decade of those working in close quarters with UXOs – or unexploded ordnances – in Southeast Asia. He frequently teams up with his wife and traveling companion, freelance journalist Karen Coates, to cover the stories they feel need to be told.  Redfern provided the images for Coates’ upcoming book, This Way More Better: Stories and Photos from Asia’s Back Roads.

As a Scripps Fellow at the CU Center for Environmental Journalism, a fellowship previously held by his wife, Redfern is adding new multimedia to his storytelling arsenal.  Pursuing a project to document, share and live-update the environmental health of the Rio Grande, Redfern hopes to culminate his fellowship with the design of a new mobile app for the purpose.

We recently spoke with Redfern about his extensive travels, his award-winning photographs and his ambitious project. READ MORE

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An Eternal Harvest – Georgetown Review

By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
Spring 2010
Georgetown Review

Eternal Harvest Georgetown ReviewOne Saturday afternoon in the brittle clinch of the dry season, my husband, Jerry, and I hike through the Laotian countryside with a guide named Manophet. We spot a boy on a barren hillside, his frame silhouetted against blue sky. He’s poised at an angle, aligned with the slope of the hill. He keeps a basket at his side, a shovel in his grip. He’s digging for ant eggs, for fishing bait. As he drives the shovel into the ground, I cringe and back away.

The boy knows the earth could explode beneath him. He knows this ground is covered in bombs dropped before he was born by foreigners who live thousands of miles away. He knows many of those bombs never detonated and that now, as he digs, the ground could blow. Jostled, jiggled, heated, tossed or moved in the currents of annual monsoons—it doesn’t necessarily take much to revive the life of a dormant bomb. Today many Laotian farm fields remain covered in unexploded ordnance (UXO). Fist-sized “bombies” lie a few inches below the surface. During the war, these little explosives were crammed into cluster-bomb canisters, 670 at a time. The canisters opened mid-air, raining bomblets across the ground.

Contamination and death are the natural course of life across Laos. Bomb canisters abound. They’re formed into fence posts and feeding troughs, they’re planted with pretty little flowers. They’re melted down and shaped into bowls and spoons. Laotians have lived with bombs for so long, their presence is no longer aberrant but simply ordinary. READ MORE (PDF)