Archive for February 14th, 2011

February 14, 2011

Press Release: At a glance: Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Cached:  http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/laopdr_57663.html

Two-year campaign aims to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Lao PDR

Third immunization round completed

VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 14 February 2011– As morning broke in the province of Bollikhamxay, health workers made final preparations for a mass immunization drive targeting women and children from surrounding villages. Tucked into the rolling mountainous landscape of Laos, Bollikhamxay is one of many provinces that recently conducted the third round of a national campaign designed to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, or MNT, by 2012.

Tetanus is a rapid and painful killer, globally affecting tens of thousands of newborns each year. Lao PDR is one of the few remaining countries in Asia still affected by this disease, which is a common consequence of unhygienic deliveries and poor umbilical cord practices.

The two-year campaign, which started in December 2009, comprised three rounds of immunization for girls and women from 15 to 45 years of age, and vitamin A and de-worming capsules for children aged 6 to 59 months.

High turn-out is essential

UNICEF Image. A woman receives a tetanus vaccination in Lao PDR's remote Bollikhamxay Province during the third round of a national campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, which results from unhygienic conditions during childbirth.

The aim of this effort: to reduce the number of maternal and neonatal tetanus cases to such low levels that MNT is no longer a threat to public health.

For the health workers, achieving a high turn-out is essential. And it is evident, here in the heart of rural Laos, that people understand the importance of protecting themselves against tetanus.

“In this district we have a strong commitment to raising awareness about immunization,” said Dr. Somphone Lassavong, head of the Vienthong District Health Office. “It is essential we have good coordination with district and village committees so our communities can be informed about the benefits of the vaccine.”

UNICEF a key supporter

UNICEF Image. A child receives vitamin A and de-worming capsules as part of a two-year campaign to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Lao PDR, one of the few remaining countries in Asia still affected by this disease.

In a country where it can take days to reach the nearest hospital, mobile vaccination clinics that travel from village to village play a crucial role in reaching even the most remote locations.

“In the past, I have seen many children becoming infected because we had no way of receiving this vaccine and preventing this disease,” a villager in Nam Van Kai told UNICEF. “Since this campaign has come to our village I have witnessed a change in the health of our community.”

Having joined forces with the World Health Organization and Lux Development, UNICEF is a key supporter of the campaign.

“Helping countries to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus is a global UNICEF objective,” explained UNICEF Lao PDR Immunization Specialist Dr. Ataur Rahman. “Thanks to our donors, partners and strong political support, we hope this campaign will boost tetanus protection levels throughout the country and help us achieve virtual elimination of this disease.”

One step closer

While progress continues to be made, discussions are ongoing to assess whether an additional campaign is needed in areas with low tetanus immunity.

Here in Bollikhamxay Province, however, as health workers gathered their vaccines move from village to village during the recent immunization round, the goal of the campaign travelled with them. Each stop they made brought Lao PDR one step closer to achieving the virtual elimination of MNT by 2012.

February 14, 2011

Report Finds Energy Drinks Risky for Kids

 

Researchers Says Poison Centers Are Getting Calls About Caffeine Overdoses in Children

Cached:  http://children.webmd.com/news/20110214/report-finds-energy-drinks-are-risky-for-kids

By Brenda Goodman | Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
WebMD Health News

 

Feb. 14, 2011 — A new research review finds that kids are big consumers of caffeinated energy drinks, and experts say the beverages may be giving young users unsafe amounts of stimulants.

The special article, which is published online in the journal Pediatrics, sounds the alarm about the increasing number of health problems tied to caffeine use in youngsters. It calls for more caution with the popular beverages, which are often sold in brightly-colored cans with bold graphics and frenetic sounding names that may be particularly attractive to tweens and teens.

According to the review, 30% to 50% of adolescents and young adults report using energy drinks, and consumers younger than age 26 represent half of the rapidly growing $9 billion market for these beverages in the U. S. These beverages can contain three to five times as much caffeine as an 8-ounce serving of soda.

But a spokesman for the American Beverage Association disagrees with the report, noting that caffeine has been well tested and is generally deemed safe.

Caffeine Overdoses in Kids

The researchers report that in 2008 there were more than twice as many cases of caffeine toxicity reported to the nation’s poison centers each year in children as there are in adults.

“I really wouldn’t have expected the number of calls that reported caffeine toxicity in children less than age 6,” says study researcher Steven E. Lipshultz, MD, who is chair of the department of pediatrics at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Researchers found roughly 1,200 cases of caffeine toxicity reported to U.S. poison control centers each year in children younger than age 6 from 2006 through 2008.

And roughly half of all caffeine overdoses in the U.S. in 2007 occurred in children younger than 19.

“It is shocking,” Lipshultz says.

It’s impossible to know, however, how many of those might have been related to energy drinks because they were not tracked as a separate category in the years covered by the review.

But other countries, including New Zealand and Germany, have documented increasing tween and teen consumption of energy drinks, sometimes with ill effects.

Reported outcomes linked to the consumption of energy drinks in Germany, for example, have included liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disorders, agitation, seizures, psychotic conditions, high blood pressure, heart failure, and disruptions of heart rhythms, among others, according to the review.

“Children and adolescents are more susceptible to the adverse health effects of caffeine compared to adults,” says Mary Claire O’Brien, MD, an associate professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C.

“Part of that may be that their livers are not used to caffeine consumption regularly. So the first time that kid buys an energy drink that contains 300 milligrams of caffeine and drinks it, he’s not like his mom or dad and sits down and has a cup and a half of coffee each morning. He’s never been presented with that chemical before, and it’s a drug,” says O’Brien, who has studied the health risks of energy drinks to kids but was not involved in the current review.

What’s more, researchers say, parents may equate energy drinks to soda or sports drinks, when, in reality, they are very different.

Under FDA rules, soda can’t contain more than 71 milligrams of caffeine in every 12 ounces.

Energy drinks, on the other hand, are regulated as dietary supplements, a designation that means there are no limits on how much caffeine they can contain. Some are packed with as much as 500 milligrams per serving.

“It’s become kind of acceptable,” O’Brien says. “You wouldn’t put an espresso machine in a middle school cafeteria. Nobody in their right mind would do that. Everyone would be up in arms, and yet they think nothing of putting these products in the vending machines.”

Beverage Industry Responds

“When it comes to caffeine, it’s important to put the facts in perspective. Most mainstream energy drinks actually contain about half the caffeine of a similar size cup of coffeehouse coffee. In fact, young adults getting coffee from popular coffeehouses are getting about twice as much caffeine as they would from a similar size energy drink,” says Maureen Storey, PhD, senior vice president of science policy for the American Beverage Association, in a news release.

“What we do know is that caffeine is one of the most thoroughly tested ingredients in the food supply today. It has been deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as more than 140 countries around the world,” the statement says. “Many of our member companies voluntarily list the amount of caffeine on their products’ labels and have provided caffeine content information through their websites and consumer hotlines for years.”

In its statement, the American Beverage Association also took issue with the reports of caffeinated overdoses reported to poison control centers, saying that the researchers had mischaracterized the data.

“Further, the review misinterprets the data from a 2007 study by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which reported more than 5400 caffeine cases from pharmaceutical exposures, not exposure to caffeine from foods or beverages.”

The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), for its part, says the researchers got it right.

“As indicated in the paper by Seifert et al., the category caffeine refers to a broad category of caffeine-containing products. The category includes approximately 300 products ranging from coffee to caffeine tablets and various diet aids. At the time of these reports, caffeine-containing energy drinks in the products database were also included in this category,” says Alvin C. Bronstein, MD, acting director of toxicosurveillance for the AAPCC and the medical director for the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

What Parents Should Know

Energy drinks may be especially dangerous during sports, says John P. Higgins, MD, assistant professor of medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

The jolt of caffeine may interfere with something called coronary flow reserve, which is the ability of the arteries around the heart to dilate during intense exercise, a problem that may contribute to heart attacks and abnormal heart rhythms in athletes.

“The caffeine actually makes these arteries more likely to spasm and actually shut,” says Higgins, who recently reviewed the medical literature on energy drinks for paper published in November 2010 in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Caffeine and taurine, which are commonly combined in energy drinks, also makes the heart pound harder than caffeine would alone Higgins, says.

Other experts add that energy drinks may be harmful not just for what’s in them, but what they may replace, drinks like water and milk that hydrate and have minerals and protein that are important for growing bodies. And many are high in calories, which may contribute to obesity.

February 14, 2011

One-party Laos to get more legislators

Monsters and Critics.com

Cached:  http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/africa/news/article_1619113.php/One-party-Laos-to-get-more-legislators

Vientiane, Laos – Communist Laos is to get more legislators in a general election scheduled for April 30 although only one party will be allowed to contest the polls, state media reported Monday.

The 7th National Assembly would see its membership boosted from 115 to 132 seats in the April polls, ‘to provide better representation for socioeconomic development,’ according to a recently issued presidential decree.

Although the number of Lao legislators is set to increase, there will be only 190 candidates contesting the polls, all of them either under the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party or as independents, the state-run Vientiane Times reported.

Laos has been under communist rule since December 1975. In the past six general elections, candidates have only been allowed to run for the Communist Party or as independents.

‘Having more members will increase the knowledge and skills base in the next legislature,’ Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hiem Phommachanh said.

The main task of the assembly will be to ‘oversee implementation of activities set out in the 9th Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party,’ he added.

February 14, 2011

Energy Drinks May Pose Risk to Young People

Cached:  http://www.medpagetoday.com/Pediatrics/GeneralPediatrics/24856

GeneralPediatrics

By Charles Bankhead, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: February 14, 2011
Reviewed by Robert Jasmer, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco.

Popular energy drinks — which may contain high levels of unregulated ingredients — could pose a health risk to children, adolescents, and young adults, who consume many of the drinks sold, a review suggests.

The review found that almost half of 5,448 caffeine overdoses reported in 2007 involved people under age 19, according to Sara M. Seifert, BS, of the University of Miami, and colleagues.

Many energy drinks contain 70 to 80 mg of caffeine per 8-oz. serving — about three times the concentration in cola drinks, Seifert and co-authors noted in a special report published in the March issue of Pediatrics.

Surveys suggest that up to half of the energy drinks on the market are consumed by adolescents and young adults — and reports in the literature have linked the drinks to serious adverse effects in young people, including seizures, diabetes, cardiac abnormalities, and mood and behavioral disorders, the authors wrote in background to their review.

“Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit, and many ingredients are understudies and not regulated,” Seifert and her co-authors concluded. “Both the known and unknown pharmacology of various ingredients, combined with reports of toxicity, suggest that these drinks may put some children at risk for serious adverse health effects.”

“In the short term, pediatricians need to be aware of the possible effects of energy drinks in vulnerable populations and screen for consumption to educate families,” they added.

Marketed in more than 140 countries, energy drinks constitute the fastest growing segment of the U.S. beverage market, with sales expected to exceed $9 billion in 2011. Children (<12 years old), adolescents (ages 12 to 18), and young adults (ages 19 to 25) account for half of the energy-drink market, according to the authors.

Consumption of high doses of caffeine has been associated with a variety of serious adverse effects, documented primarily in the popular press but also in sporadic case reports in the medical literature.

The growing energy-drink market, combined with the reports of serious adverse events, provided a rationale to investigate the potential risks, the authors continued.

Children with underlying health problems — including cardiovascular, renal, or liver disease, seizures, diabetes, mood and behavioral disorders, or hyperthyroidism — or those who take certain medications, may be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of high doses of caffeine and other ingredients found in energy drinks.

“Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration limits caffeine content in soft drinks, which are categorized as food, there is no such regulation of energy drinks, which are classified as dietary supplements,” the authors wrote.

“Despite the large, unregulated market for energy drinks and reports in the literature and popular media of serious adverse events associated with their consumption, research into their use and effects has been sparse.”

Seifert and colleagues conducted a search of the medical literature, trade media, and other potential sources of information about the potential health implications of energy drinks. They identified 121 references, two thirds of which were in the scientific literature.

Although caffeine is the main ingredient in most energy drinks, various additives can further increase the caffeine concentration, especially guarana, but also kola nut, yerba mate, and cocoa.

Every gram of guarana (Paullinia cupana) contains 40 to 80 mg of caffeine, as well as theobromine and theophylline. Interaction with other plant compounds has the potential to increase the half-life of guarana.

Because manufacturers do not have to specify the caffeine content of other ingredients in energy drinks, the actual caffeine concentration might exceed the amount on the label, the authors noted.

The review identified several other ingredients common to energy drinks, including taurine, L-carnitine, ginseng, and yohimbine.

The authors also found a potential for drug interactions with certain energy-drink ingredients, such as 5-hydroxy tryptophan, vinpocetine, yohimbine, and ginseng.

Overall, the review suggested that 30% to 50% of young people consume energy drinks, although the type of drink and frequency of consumption varied substantially.

Adverse events associated with energy drinks could not be tracked in the U.S. until recently because exposures were coded as caffeine or “multisubstance exposure,” and included with caffeine-related adverse events. According to the authors, the American Association of Poison Control Centers created a separate reporting code for energy drinks in 2010.

Among countries that have collected data on adverse effects associated with energy drinks, Germany has maintained records since 2002 and documented effects that included liver damage, kidney failure, respiratory disorders, agitation, seizures, psychotic conditions, rhabdomyolysis, tachycardia and cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, heart failure, and death.

Ireland documented 17 incidents, including two deaths, between 1999 and 2005. New Zealand reported 20 energy drink-associated incidents, including nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, “jitteriness,” racing heart, and agitation.

Seifert and co-authors also reviewed potential and documented adverse events associated with specific ingredients found in energy drinks. They called for more research into the safety of energy drinks, as well as consideration of regulatory control.

“Until research establishes energy-drink safety in children and adolescents, regulation, as with tobacco, alcohol, and prescription medications, is prudent,” they wrote in conclusion.

Action Points


  • Explain that energy drinks may contain high levels of unregulated ingredients and could pose a health risk to children, adolescents, and young adults — who comprise half the market for these drinks.
  • Note that many energy drinks contain 70 to 80 mg of caffeine per 8-oz. serving — about three times the concentration in cola drinks — and often include other ingredients that can further boost caffeine concentrations.
  • Further note that consumption of energy drinks has been linked to seizures, cardiac dysrhythmias, and behavioral abnormalities in young people.

The authors had no relevant disclosures.

Primary source: Pediatrics
Source reference:
Seifert SM et al. “health effects of energy drinks on children, adolescents, and young adults.” Pediatrics. 2011;127:511-528.

Related:

National Interest

Pediatrics Report Details Risks from Energy Drinks

Published February 14, 2011 | Associated Press

AP/ Of the more than 300 energy drink poisonings this year, a quarter of them involved kids younger than 6, according to a data chart from the poison control group.

CHICAGO –  Energy drinks are under-studied, overused and can be dangerous for children and teens, warns a report by doctors who say kids shouldn’t use the popular products.

The potential harms, caused mostly by too much caffeine or similar ingredients, include heart palpitations, seizures, strokes and even sudden death, the authors write in the medical journal Pediatrics. They reviewed data from the government and interest groups, scientific literature, case reports and articles in popular and trade media.

Dakota Sailor, 18, a high school senior in Carl Junction, Mo., says risks linked with energy drinks aren’t just hype.

Sailor had a seizure and was hospitalized for five days last year after drinking two large energy drinks — a brand he’d never tried before. He said his doctor thinks caffeine or caffeine-like ingredients may have been to blame.

The report says some cans have four to five times more caffeine than soda, and Sailor said some kids he knows “drink four or five of them a day. That’s just dumb.”

Sailor has sworn off the drinks and thinks other kids should, too.
The report’s authors want pediatricians to routinely ask patients and their parents about energy drink use and to advise against drinking them.

“We would discourage the routine use” by children and teens, said Dr. Steven Lipshultz, pediatrics chairman at the University of Miami’s medical school. He wrote the report with colleagues from that center.

The report says energy drinks often contain ingredients that can enhance the jittery effects of caffeine or that can have other side effects including nausea and diarrhea. It says they should be regulated as stringently as tobacco, alcohol and prescription medicines.

“For most children, adolescents, and young adults, safe levels of consumption have not been established,” the report said.

Introduced more than 20 years ago, energy drinks are the fastest growing U.S. beverage market; 2011 sales are expected to top $9 billion, the report said. It cites research suggesting that about one-third of teens and young adults regularly consume energy drinks. Yet research is lacking on risk from long-term use and effects in kids — especially those with medical conditions that may increase the dangers, the report said.

The report comes amid a crackdown on energy drinks containing alcohol and caffeine, including recent Food and Drug Administration warning letters to manufacturers and bans in several states because of alcohol overdoses.

The report focuses on nonalcoholic drinks but emphasizes that drinking them along with alcohol is dangerous.

The American Association of Poison Control Centers adopted codes late last year to start tracking energy drink overdoses and side effects nationwide; 677 cases occurred from October through December; so far, 331 have been reported this year.

Most 2011 cases involved children and teens. Of the more than 300 energy drink poisonings this year, a quarter of them involved kids younger than 6, according to a data chart from the poison control group.

That’s a tiny fraction of the more than 2 million poisonings from other substances reported to the group each year. But the chart’s list of reported energy drink-related symptoms is lengthy, including seizures, hallucinations, rapid heart rate, chest pain, high blood pressure and irritability, but no deaths.

Monday’s paper doesn’t quantify drink-related complications or deaths. It cites other reports on a few deaths in Europe of teens or young adults who mixed the drinks with alcohol, or who had conditions like epilepsy that may have increased the risks.

Maureen Storey, senior vice president of science policy at the American Beverage Association, an industry group, said the report “does nothing more than perpetuate misinformation” about energy drinks.

Many of the drinks contain much less caffeine than coffee from popular coffeehouses, and caffeine amounts are listed on many of the products, she said in a written statement.
Caffeine is safe, but those who are sensitive to it can check the labels, she said.

A clinical report on energy drinks is expected soon from the American Academy of Pediatrics that may include guidelines for doctors.

Dr. Marcie Schneider, an adolescent medicine specialist in Greenwich, Conn., and member of the academy’s nutrition committee, praised Monday’s report for raising awareness about the risks.
“These drinks have no benefit, no place in the diet of kids,” Schneider said.

February 14, 2011

In Vietnam War Love Story, A Medallion Comes Home

Cached:  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=133727146

by The Associated Press

PARIS February 13, 2011, 02:54 pm ET

It was a love token worn through the blood-drenched rice paddies and jungles of the Vietnam War.

For Henri Huet, the Virgin Mary medallion was his one constant link to Cecile, the woman he loved. The celebrated Associated Press photographer carried it in his pocket or hung it around his neck. It was engraved for her baptism and when he left for the war, she gave it to him.

On assignment, the military helicopter Huet was riding in got shot down over Laos. Huet was killed. The medallion the size of a penny disappeared into the thickness of a bamboo forest, where it slept for nearly three decades.

This past week, the gold medallion was again in the hands of Cecile, the culmination of an extraordinary journey that took it across epochs and continents — and whose mystery was unlocked by a long-lost trove of letters.

———

Their story started in 1968 with an apple grabbed for lunch outside New York’s Rockefeller Center. The 20-year-old Cecile Schrouben was about to bite into it when Huet approached her and told her it was no proper meal. He suggested oysters instead, a nod to the rocky coast of Brittany, where he grew up.

The lanky man with a roguish grin was irresistibly charming. They had lunch, “American-style” oysters scrubbed especially clean. Before long, the Agence France-Presse employee and the dashing AP shooter twice her age were a couple.

He was at AP headquarters, recovering from a leg injury suffered in Vietnam. She was an AFP archivist, receptionist and general gofer. They jetted off to Mexico, where Huet took her under his wing and taught her photography.

Duty called later in the year: Huet was sent back to cover the war.

He wanted her to join him in Asia — but not in war-ravaged Vietnam. Parting, she gave him the medallion — a baptismal gift from her godmother, in keeping with Roman Catholic tradition.

They wrote each other letters, hundreds of them. The correspondence lasted nearly three years. She wrote her last letter the day he died — when she woke up in the middle of the night, sensing a “need” to write.

———

It was Feb. 10, 1971. Huet, 43, had boarded a South Vietnamese military helicopter in the town of Khe Sanh, near the border with Laos, with a mission to inspect efforts by U.S.-backed forces to sever Viet Cong supply lines.

With him were three other legendary news photographers: Larry Burrows of Life magazine, Kent Potter of United Press International and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek.

In a flash of anti-aircraft fire, the chopper was gunned down. All four photographers were killed, along with seven Vietnamese troops, one of them a military photographer.

Along with the men, the camera equipment, and the military hardware, a tiny disc of gold also tumbled down from the skies above Laos. On one side was a relief of the Virgin Mary; on the other was etched, “Cecile, nee le 16-6-1947″ — French for “born on June 16, 1947.”

———

For 27 years, the keepsake lay on an overgrown Laotian hillside.

The wreckage from the downed helicopter was inaccessible to U.S. military investigators until 1992, when Washington restored diplomatic ties to the communist governments of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

A U.S. search team found the crash site four years later. In 1998, a U.S. Army forensic team traveled to the site. Former AP Saigon Bureau Chief Richard Pyle and AP photographer Horst Faas, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Vietnam coverage, were on hand for the start of the search.

The team, staffed with Laotian locals, found camera parts, broken watches, bits of wreckage — and the tiny cameo.

Pyle suspected it belonged to Huet because of the French. But he’d never heard the photographer speak about a Cecile, and a search of AP archive photos didn’t turn up Huet wearing the medallion.

With no proof of ownership, the medallion stayed in U.S. Army storage. Until a woman came forward with a mysterious packet of letters.

———

In 2004, Helene Gedouin, who works in publishing in France, came across “Requiem,” a book by Faas about photographers like Huet who were killed in action in Vietnam and Indochina.

The book inspired her to delve deeper into the life of Huet, who was a relative of hers through marriage — one of his brothers had married her aunt. She met Faas, and two years later they co-authored a book on Huet.

In the fall of 2006, upon return from a photojournalism conference in the south of France, Gedouin found an email in her inbox.

“Hello, I have nothing to do with Henri Huet,” the message read, “but it turns out — by the greatest happenstance — that I have in my possession a correspondence from Henri Huet that he wrote to a woman. They are love letters, and there are about 400 of them. I’d like to meet you.”

The letters were addressed to a Cecile Schrouben. In one of them, he mentioned a small town in Belgium where she was born. Gedouin went through the local phone directory, called all the Schrouben households she could find — and in the fourth call, found Cecile’s brother.

“I said, ‘could you call your sister and tell her that we have something in our possession that she had lost?’” Gedouin recalled.

“The next day, she called me.”

———

The letters were all the proof the U.S. military needed to release the medallion.

Pyle got in touch with American authorities after learning about the letters from Gedouin.

“When I called the (U.S. Army) laboratory director in Hawaii and told him this, he was ecstatic,” Pyle recalled. “He said: ‘That’s it, that’s the final proof. That’s what we needed.’”

Larry Burrows’ son Russell, as a relative of a crash victim and one who has had repeated contacts with the U.S. military about recovering items lost, was sent the medallion in a Federal Express parcel last fall.

Cecile told AP she had stored the letters in a box in a Paris apartment where she once lived. In a chaotic move, she left them behind.

A young man who had helped the new owner move in noticed them. Intrigued by the epistolary romance, he gave them to his mother for safekeeping.

Why the woman came forward after holding on to the letters for 15 years remains a mystery. Gedouin declined an AP request that she provide a way to contact the woman.

———

Huet was born in Dalat, Vietnam, in 1927, the second son of four children to a high-society Vietnamese mother and a French civil engineer for France’s colonial government in Indochina.

Pyle has described Huet as one of “the three finest people that I ever met in my life;” Cecile calls him one of the two “best” people she has known. “Lost over Laos” — a book by Pyle and Faas about the photographers in the crash — cites a U.S. officer calling Huet the bravest man he’d ever seen.

Colleagues and acquaintances describe Huet as modest, discreet, full of integrity and compassion — and a charmer of women.

He spent his early years in the care of his mother’s family. His father then had the children sent to his family home in France. A turbulent youth, he eventually settled down and studied painting. He took up photography while in the French navy.

In the 1950s, he married a Russian-Vietnamese woman, and had two children with her. But the marriage didn’t last.

“He was a mystery man,” said Pyle. “The only reason we didn’t know anything was that he never told anyone anything.”

———

In a small ceremony this past Tuesday, Russell Burrows gently handed a Ziploc bag containing the medallion to Cecile at the opening of an exhibit on Huet’s work at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie in Paris. The show is co-curated by The Associated Press.

“Such a small thing for such a big story,” Cecile said. “It’s made a long journey.” Over a black sweater, she wore a three-pointed silver pendant that was designed by jeweler Georg Jensen — the first gift Huet gave her.

Cecile declined to show the letters Huet had written her, saying the correspondence was private. She said that Huet, who was an intensely discreet person, didn’t intend for them to be made public and she wanted to protect his memory and intimacy.

Cecile left New York for France in the mid-1970s. She worked at now-defunct TWA airlines and then Air France, and married in 1978 — becoming Cecile Blumental. She and her husband have two daughters. Now 63, she has five grandchildren.

She says her five-year-old granddaughter will get the medallion one day.

1_Vietnam_War_Love_Story.sff.jpg

Associated Press.  FILE – In this Jan. 23, 1966 file photo, Associated Press photographer Henri Huet is shown in Saigon. It was a love token worn through the blood-drenched rice paddies and jungles of the Vietnam War. For Huet, the Virgin Mary medallion was his one constant link to Cecile, the woman he loved. The celebrated Associated Press photographer carried it in his pocket or hung it around his neck. It was engraved for her baptism and when he left for the war, she gave it to him. On assignment, the military helicopter Huet was riding in got shot down over Laos. Huet was killed. The medallion the size of a penny disappeared into the thickness of a bamboo forest, where it slept for nearly three decades. This past week, the gold medallion was again in the hands of Cecile, the culmination of an extraordinary journey that took it across epochs and continents _ and whose mystery was unlocked by a long-lost trove of letters.
6_Vietnam_War_Love_Story.sff.jpg

Enlarge Associated Press.  Cecile Blumental, born Schrouben, friend of Henri Huet, left, Russell Burrows, 2nd left, Helene Gedouin, the niece through marriage to Henri Huet, 2nd right, and former Chief of Bureau of Saigon, Richard Pyle, right, look at the Cecile Blumental birth medallion at the ‘Henri Huet, Vietnam’ exhibition at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, MEP in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. The exhibition commemorates AP Photographer Henri Huet work during the Vietnam war before he perished when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. The Exhibition ends on April 10, 2011.
5_Vietnam_War_Love_Story.sff.jpg

Enlarge Associated Press.  The birth medallion of Cecile Blumental born Schrouben is displayed in the hand of Russell Burrows at the ‘Henri Huet, Vietnam’ exhibition at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, MEP, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. It was a love token worn through the blood-drenched rice paddies and jungles of the Vietnam War. For Henri Huet, the Virgin Mary medallion was his one constant link to Cecile, the woman he loved. The celebrated Associated Press photographer carried it in his pocket or hung it around his neck. It was engraved for her baptism and when he left for the war, she gave it to him. The exhibition commemorates AP Photographer Henri Huet’s work during the Vietnam war before he perished when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. The Exhibition ends on April 10, 2011.
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Enlarge Associated PressThe birth medallion of Cecile Blumental, nee Schrouben, friend of Henri Huet, is seen in her hand beside photographs of the medallion displayed in the book “Lost over Laos”, at the ‘Henri Huet, Vietnam’ exhibition at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, MEP,in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. It was a love token worn through the blood-drenched rice paddies and jungles of the Vietnam War. For Henri Huet, the Virgin Mary medallion was his one constant link to Cecile, the woman he loved. The celebrated Associated Press photographer carried it in his pocket or hung it around his neck. It was engraved for her baptism and when he left for the war, she gave it to him. The exhibition commemorates AP Photographer Henri Huet’s work during the Vietnam war before he perished when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. The Exhibition ends on April 10, 2011.
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Enlarge Associated Press.  Cecile Blumental, born Schrouben, friend of Henri Huet, poses at the ‘Henri Huet, Vietnam’ exhibition at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, MEP in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. The exhibition commemorates AP Photographer Henri Huet’s work during the Vietnam war before he perished when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. The Exhibition ends on April 10, 2011.
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Enlarge Associated Press.  Cecile Blumental, nee Schrouben, friend of Henri Huet, stands next to a photograph of Henri Huet, at the ‘Henri Huet, Vietnam’ exhibition at the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, MEP, in Paris, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011. The exhibition commemorates AP Photographer Henri Huet’s work during the Vietnam war before he perished when his helicopter was shot down over Laos. The Exhibition ends on April 10, 2011.
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