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8 U.S. Presidents With Statues Abroad

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Every former U.S. president has been honored with a statue in the United States, some more than others. A handful of the 43 men who have held the nation's highest office have also been honored with statues abroad. Here are a few examples, including some that may surprise you.

1. George W. Bush—Albania

Bush will always be welcome in the Albanian town of Fushe-Kruje, which recently announced plans to erect a statue of the former president to commemorate his June 2007 visit. Seven Albanian sculptors are competing for the rights to design the statue, which will be unveiled in Bush Square on the third anniversary of Bush's visit next year. "If I had the final say, I would very much like a three-meter statue, probably in bronze, that captures his trademark way of walking with energy," Fushe-Kruje's mayor, Ismet Mavriqi, told reporters in a phone interview. In addition to the square where the statue will be erected, Bush's name already adorns a street and a café in Fushe-Kruje, and the places he stopped during his visit, including a bakery, have become national landmarks.

2. Harry S. Truman—Greece

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In 1963, a statue of Truman was erected in Athens to honor the military and financial aid provided to Greece under the Truman Doctrine after World War II. The Greek government used some of that support to fend off communist insurgents during the civil war of 1946-49.


The 12-foot bronze statue has been a popular target of protesters since it was first erected in a downtown Athens square. In 1970, nine Greeks were sentenced for planning to set off time bombs at several locations in and around Athens, one of which was the site of the Truman statue. A successfully detonated bomb blew the statue off its pedestal in 1986, and 20 years later, anti-war protesters toppled the statue yet again.

3. Dwight D. Eisenhower—England

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Eisenhower is one of several former U.S. presidents who have been honored with statues in London. Eisenhower's statue stands in Grosvenor Square, outside of the U.S. Embassy, and across the street from the buildings that he occupied as Commander in Chief of the Allied Force and then Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force during World War II.


The statue was dedicated in 1989 by U.S. Ambassador Charles Price and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. One of the two quotes on the statue's pedestal is from Eisenhower's first Inaugural Address: "The faith we hold belongs not to us alone but to the free of all the world."

4. John F. Kennedy—Cameroon

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A bronze bust of Kennedy was unveiled on Kennedy Avenue in Cameroon in 2007 to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Peace Corps' arrival in the country. According to the Cameroon Tribune, the statue has been a target of vandalism. "the head of the statue is gradually being scraped off and the right eye almost damaged." [Image courtesy Flickr user FriendsofCameroon.]

5. Bill Clinton—Kosovo

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In early November, Clinton attended the unveiling of an 11-foot bronze statue of himself along a boulevard in Kosovo that bears his name. Thousands of ethnic Albanians attended the ceremony for Clinton, who is regarded as a national hero for launching NATO's campaign to drive Yugoslavian troops out of Kosovo in 1999. The statue depicts Clinton with his left arm raised holding a portfolio bearing his name and the date when that air campaign began—March 24, 1999. "I never expected that anywhere, someone would make such a big statue of me," said Clinton, who was making his first trip to Kosovo since it declared its independence from Serbia last year.

6. Abraham Lincoln—Mexico (among others)

Lincoln's legacy is among the greatest of any former U.S. president in the international community. There are multiple statues of Lincoln in Mexico, including one that was a gift from President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. In return, the Mexican government presented a statue of former president of Mexico Benito Juarez to the United States in 1969. There's also a statue of Lincoln in Havana, Cuba, outside a foreign language school bearing the 16th president's name.

7. Rutherford B. Hayes—Paraguay

In her 2007 mental_floss cover story "All the Presidents' Secrets," Senior Editor Jenny Drapkin explained Paraguay's obsession with our 19th president:

The country is littered with Hayes memorials—from statues to schools to streets named in his honor. There's even a city in Paraguay called Villa Hayes, which lies in the middle of a province called Presidente Hayes, which is roughly the size of South Carolina.

What did Rutherford do to deserve all this? From 1864 to 1870, Paraguay was engaged in one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the Americas—the War of the Triple Alliance. Facing the combined forces of Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, the people of Paraguay were mercilessly defeated. Two-thirds of the country's population died.

But even after the war ended, Argentina and Paraguay continued to scuffle over the Chaco, a huge tract of land in the southwest region of Paraguay. Unable to come to a resolution, diplomats from both countries traveled to Washington, D.C., so that President Hayes could arbitrate the debate. As you've probably guessed, Hayes decided in favor of Paraguay—and he's been a national hero ever since. Once every 50 years, Villa Hayes hosts a huge festival in his honor. The next one is in 2028, so mark your calendars.

8. Barack Obama—China

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In advance of Obama's recent visit to China, Beijing artist Liu Bolin created one of the most interesting monuments to a U.S. president ever created—a statue that shoots fire. Bolin's statue features tiny holes through which gas ignites every couple of minutes. "He's so hot right now, so I wanted to translate that through my work," Bolin told reporters. Bolin acknowledged that some might misinterpret his work as offensive, but he said his piece "represents energy and life that Obama has given to the world."

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Stephen Missal
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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