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epa Photo Essays 2009
The Operation Cast Lead led by the Israeli forces started on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January 2009. The attacks included the entire Gaza Strip but mainly focused on Gaza City, targeting the infrastructure of the Hamas movement and its government buildings. According to the Gaza Ministry of Health, hundreds of Palestinians lost limbs during the offensive. Most of the patients need medical treatment abroad because of the lack of medical equipment and staff expertise. The Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that some 1,410 Palestinians were killed, including 355 under the age of eighteen.
Crisis, the national charity for single homeless people, opened nine temporary centers across London on 23 December 2009, providing companionship, food and access to vital services for up to 2,000 homeless and vulnerably housed people over the Christmas period. A center in the Docklands has been set up catering for the needs of rough sleepers in London, some of the most vulnerable people in society. The gap between the rich and poor is now arguably even more evident as the recession is becoming more apparent.
Hisatsuna Soi Kanazawa is one of the senior tea masters in the Urasenke school of tea ceremony. The day begins for the Japanese tea master by teaching an apprentice geisha, the art of tea ceremony at a special maiko school in Kyoto’s Gion geisha district. Following the lesson he returns to his traditional style home in the center of Kyoto, which comprises a number of various tea rooms and garden where he entertains his students and visitors who regularly travel from around Japan to have tea with a Kyoto tea master. The Way of Tea, is a means of teaching and experiencing the refined art of Japanese hospitality.
The most dramatic of the 1989 revolts against Communist regimes in eastern and Central Europe took place in Romania. The Romanian revolution began as a small protest against the deportation of dissident ethnic-Hungarian priest Laszlo Tokes, in mid-December in the western city of Timisoara. Within a few days there was a national uprising calling for the end of the communist regime. In Timisoara thousands of demonstrators marched to the Opera building. More than 1,000 people were killed across Romania during clashes between demonstrators and forces loyal to ruthless dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.
Dalits are shunned by the rest of society and live in quarters that are too small, congested and unhealthy. Dalit girls and women, who rank among the highest levels of illiteracy, often fall victim to prostitution and trafficking of bonded labor. Discrimination against Dalit women is also reinforced by traditional norms and customs in Hinduism and Islam that often deprive the women not only of control over property, but also over their own bodies. Dalit women in Bangladesh are also victims of political violence and the country witnessed a number of fatwas issued against women's right to vote, accompanied by violent attacks.
Cash crops, rivers and wildlife - are crucial to Kenya's long-term viability. But they are being starved of moisture because of the degradation of the Mau forest that serves as the drainage basin at the country's ecological heart. The Mau was once a 400,000 hectare closed canopy forest which captured rain water and funnelled it via aquifers into 12 rivers and five big lakes. But since the early 1990s nearly 30 per cent of it has been destroyed by settlers and squatters who have cleared the trees to make way for subsistence farm plots and by politically connected landowners with huge commercial farms and tea estates.
India has one of the largest developing economies and climate change represents an additional stress on a country that is already facing tremendous pressures due to rapid development. India is home to a third of the world’s poor, and climate change will hit this section of society the hardest. Set to be the most populous nation in the world by 2045, the economic, social and ecological price of climate change will be massive as already decreased snow cover, affecting snow-fed and glacial systems such as the Ganges and Bramhaputra. Seventy percent of the summer flow of the Ganges comes from meltwater.
26 December 2009 marks the fifth anniversary of the tsunami which decimated coastlines across the Indian Ocean, wiping out villages, killing entire families and crippling the economies in parts of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. This feature comprises images of people living in communities in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka showing how the disaster affects their live five years after the huge wave of water hit the coastal areas devastating these regions.
On 26 December 2004, 07:58 Local Time, a great earthquake with a magnitude of 9.0 occurred off the west coast of northern Sumatra, Indonesia. The aftershocks extended northward along an approximately 1,000 km rupture zone. The tsunami that accompanied this earthquake propagated over the entire Indian Ocean and caused extensive and significant damage. The reported number of casualties was approximately 300,000. The plight of the many affected people and countries prompted a widespread humanitarian response. In 2004 more than 7 billion US dollars were donated in humanitarian aid.
The annual Mr Gay South Africa pageant takes place at the State Theatre in Pretoria, South Africa. The pageant is set in the backdrop of South Africa having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world including the rights of the gay community. During the Apartheid years the gay community did not have equal rights and this event would never have taken place, especially at the State Theatre, once the bastion of the Afrikaaner white ruling party's entertainment.
Las Memorias is a shelter for people with HIV/AIDS in Tijuana, Mexico. Tijuana, which is the Mexican border city to San Diego, California, USA, has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in Mexico - three times the national rate - in part because of its proximity to the United States. More than 50 per cent of the HIV-positive Tijuana residents cross monthly into the United States. High incidence of drug abuse in the city and sexual activity including a high percentage of prostitution on both sides of the border are attributed to the spread of AIDS.
Muay Thai boxing has its roots in ancient Thai battles, the fists, knees, elbows and legs turning into weapons. Young boys and men live in small rooms beside the boxing rings, and fight in regional competitions, hoping to become famous and win prize money in the fiercely competitive, brutal modern martial arts sport. Daily training is rigorous and builds physical and character prowess, including values of obedience and respect, attracting boys from five or six years of age. Poor parents are keen for their children to attend and live at the gym, hoping this will keep them away from the attraction of crime and drugs to make a living.
The ecological health of Lake Victoria has been affected profoundly as a result of a rapidly growing population, clearance of natural vegetation along the shores, a booming fish-export industry, the disappearance of several fish species native to the lake, prolific growth of algae, and dumping of untreated effluent by several industries, towns and villages along its shores. Much of the damage is vast and irreversible. Traditional lifestyles of lakeshore communities have been disrupted and are crumbling.
The Sato Seni Co. Ltd. factory is a knitware wholesale manufacturing company located in Sagae city, Yamagata province, Japan. It is known for creating the world's thinnest mohair yarn and other unique yarns and sells to such top class fashion brands as Chanel, Nina Ricci, and Issei Miyake. Sato Seni was founded in 1932 by the great-grandfather of the present president Masaki Sato, who created the M.&Kyoko fashion brand with his wife Kyoko, which recently opened its first international store in Milano, Italy. The company factory is located in a 100 year-old sake storehouse and employees 100 local people.
On 03 December 1984, some 3,800 people died instantly, many of them in their sleep, when around 40 tons of highly poisonous methyl isocyanate gas leaked out of a pesticide-producing unit at the Union Carbide plant. According to official data, the gas disaster killed 15,274 people although assessments by groups such as Greenpeace say 25,000 died. 03 December 2009 marks 25 years since a gas leak devastated the central Indian city of Bhopal in what is considered one of the world's worst industrial disasters.
The Al Habbash charcoal production facility is the largest producer in the Gaza strip. Seven men work throughout the year, especially during winter and holidays periods when coal is in high demand. While workers cut down various types of trees, firewood is typically used to make charcoal. After harvesting the trees, workers shape the wood into a pyramid. The pyramid burns from the inside for several days. When the fire has subsided, the sand is cleared, leaving the burned wood exposed for a 6-day period. The workers are then able to harvest and clean the raw charcoal. Finally, any excess is mechanically ground off.
During a speech at the Brandenburg Gate commemorating the 750th anniversary of Berlin US President Ronald Reagan claimed to 'tear down this wall!'. Two years later, on 09 November 1989, GDR government-spokesperson Guenter Schabowski announced during a press conference the immediate opening of the inner German border. The Berlin Wall came down and two parts of Germany was reunified after 28 years of separation. The building of the Wall began on 13 August 1961. German Democratic Republic (GDR) armed forces started to seal off the eastern part of the city with road barriers made from barbed wire, to build an 'anti-Fascist protective barrier.'
Nestled in the mountains of northern Japan the seventy-five years old Oriental Carpet Mills Ltd. that employs only 40 people has supplied fine hand woven carpets to the Imperial Palace, Japan's most exclusive hotels and institutions, and such global clients as the Vatican and the Roosevelt Memorial Hall in Washington D.C. Its high end carpets sell for upwards of 5.5 million yen (60,000 US dollars or 40,000 euros). The company stands as an example of a small Japanese company using traditional craftsman skills to provide high-end products to discerning international clients.
For almost two years foreign investors have been fleeing this former light industrial centre, once known as 'workshop of the world.' The export oriented shoe, furniture and electronics businesses that had seen greater than 20 percent growth per annum for almost two decades are now in freefall. Empty factories, abandoned shops and banks and department stores converted into dormitories are visible all over Dongguan, China. The population of this city includes around one million locals and five million migrant labourers many of whom have lost their jobs.
Founded in 1999, Ajax Cape Town runs the most effective youth development scheme on the African continent. The club identified that successful soccer clubs around the world all boast effective youth development schemes. Ajax Cape Town pioneered a youth development structure on the African continent in line with the best youth developers in Europe. The club is seen as a leader in the African football industry as a whole; from marketing objectives, technical know-how, state of the art facilities to effective management and administration.
The poor white community of Coronation Park in Johannesburg hit the headlines in South Africa when the community won a court case stopping their forced removal by the state. The state had claimed they where living in the park land without permission and where due to relocated them to state land. Seventy poor white families live in the public park space with no running water or electricity. They receive no government support at all claiming that this is because they are white. The community relies on public food hand-outs and NGO aid to survive.
When an 'Official Major League Baseball' hits the metallic portion of the left field wall at Fenway Park, known as the 'Green Monster,' the ball acts in the same manner as a rubber stamp and leaves behind an impression from the ink on the green paint of the wall. The wall, standing 32 feet, 2 inches (9.8 meters) built in 1936 and then painted green in 1947, was constructed to protect the buildings behind Fenway Park, the oldest Major League Ball Park, in Boston Massachusetts, USA. But it is known for preventing home runs and increasing the prevalence of doubles or 'wallballs.'
Graffiti is rare in China but in permitted areas such as this collection of dozens of galleries and workshop free rein is allowed with colourful and unexpected results. Originally built in 1959 as a state-owned factory creating military electronics, Beijing’s 798 or Dashanzi Art District was mostly abandoned until less than a decade ago aspiring artists began renting spaces ahead of China's burgeoning art market. Now it has over 100 galleries featuring Chinese and international artists, as well as restaurants, cafes and bookshops. An increasing number of artists have moved away as a result of surging rental fees.
Italian artist Alessandra Cristiani, members of the German dance company 'Gauthier Dance' and members of the French dance company 'Asphalte' perform during a general rehearsal at the Sofia Dance Week held in Sofia, Bulgaria, 28 September 2009.
The Sofia Dance Week runs from 24 September to 01 October 2009.
Over 100,000 people gather together in downtown Addis Ababa to celebrate Meskel, one of the most holy days in the Ethiopian Orthodox religion commemorating the legendary 'Finding of the True Cross' on which Christ was crucified. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church lights a large bonfire in Maskal Square and smaller bonfires are lit by individuals and local parishes throughout the country. Thousands attend the colourful and vibrant ceremony of religious chanting which comes to an end with fireworks and a huge bonfire in Maskal Square.
Xinjiang, meaning 'New Frontier' in Chinese, is also known as Chinese Turkestan. The Kashgar Sunday Animal Bazaar, held every weekend, is the reason why Kyrgyz, Pakistani, Tajik and Uighur farmers travel the distance into Kashgar. It is a wide, open space crowded with shouting hawkers, food stalls, and merchants shearing their sheep, hair flying in the air. People from all around come with their animals to sell them. Some have one cow or donkey to trade; others bring a truck full of sheep. Little has changed over the centuries but from 2001 the animal market was moved from the city centre to the periphery of Kashgar.
Today Kibera is home to almost one million people, with densities of over 3,000 people per hectare - one of the most densely populated informal settlements in the world. Half of Nairobi's population lives in 100 slums and squatter settlements where sanitation is almost non-existent: each pit latrine caters for almost 100 people daily. For some residents all that is about to change. In the last two weeks almost 200 families have been moved out of Kibera into purpose built stone apartments in a nearby upmarket estate as a part of a trial slum program as part of a joint UN-Habitat/government-funded upgrading project.
15 September 2009 marked the first anniversary of the collapse of US investment bank, Lehman Brothers, the largest bankruptcy in US history, and the beginning of a deep economic and financial crisis. Situated on California's southern border with Mexico, the Imperial Valley area is one of the US regions most hard hit by the down swing in the economy. Predominately Hispanic and heavily dependent on seasonal agriculture, the Imperial Valley area has one of the nation's highest rate of unemployment. The crisis has left many people without work and facing foreclosure on their homes.
Ko Kret is a man-made island north midstream of the Chao Phraya River just north of Bangkok, which is home to an old Mon community. The island dates only to 1722, when a canal was constructed to bypass a bend in the river. As the canal was widened several times, the section cut off eventually became a separate island. The Mon dominated central Thailand between the 6th and 10th century and have retained a distinct identity in their flavor of Buddhism and, particularly on Ko Kret, their pottery.
Bow-maker Yang Fuxi is China's last known traditional bow and arrow maker following in the tradition of his ancestors. Currently the last in a long line of bow-makers originally from Northeastern China, Yang Fuxi, 10th generation bow-maker, hopes his 21-year-old son, currently one of his eight apprentices, will keep the 4,500 year-old tradition alive. Yang's best bows are made of a Guangxi bamboo body and elm (for the string support) and reinforced with water buffalo horns. The entire process of making the perfect bow can take up to four months, and Yang is able to produce an average of 100 bows a year.
Models become art during the Daegu International Bodypainting Festival 2009. The festival runs from 10 – 13 September 2009 in Daegu, South Korea and is the largest event in the field of body painting. The celebration of this unusual art form attracts thousands of interested visitors each year.
About 180,000 foreign domestic workers live in Singapore, mostly from the Philippines and from Indonesia, according to Bridget Lew, founder president of HOME. The shelter is home to about 50 foreign maids, most of whom have been mistreated by their employers. Cases of physical abuse or sexual harassment make up about one fifth of all cases at the HOME shelter. Maids at the shelter can take classes in dancing, singing, cooking, baking, computer or languages while waiting for their cases to be resolved by the authorities.
The Tikves Vintner winery in Kavadarci has produced wine since 1885. The entire capacity of production is 35 million liters. The Wine Vault processes 30 million kilos of grapes and produces an average of 22 million liters of wine. The Wine Vault is 6,500 square meters and contains 450 barrels of the Barrique mark and 180 oak barrels. The Tikves Vintner produces 30 kinds of wine: 15 are in the Classic wine category, 7 in Special Selection, 4 in Limited Edition, and 3 in the new Aleksandrija Cuvee. Tikves Vintner exports its wine to Croatia and Serbia as well as to EU, Canada and USA.
A devastating drought is sweeping across Kenya killing children, livestock, wild animals and crops. The arid lands of north-west Kenya, home to the Turkana an ancient pastoralist tribe renowned for its personal adornments using anything from beads to branding, has been one of the hardest hit. In some villages it has not rained in years. Mighty rivers that had never run dry in living memory and have always been oasis' in hard times are now barren sandy trenches. Woman can be seen hand digging wells up to 10 meters deep in the sandy banks in search of water for home and the animals.
The Jua Kali market is infamous in Kenya for being the main source of inexpensive but well made metal goods from pots and pans to farm machinery. The goods are all hand-made using recycled materials and crafted by artisans crowded into the Kamakunji slum. Thousands of people earn their living in the market or indirectly from the traffic the market brings into the area. The artisans work crowded together in difficult and dangerous conditions turning out items from inexpensive charcoal burners to wheelbarrows while an army of shop keepers and touts advertise the goods and arrange for their shipment.
Tang Silk (formally named gambiered Guandong silk), originated from the era of Hantang. The making of Tang Silk is absolutely handmade and usually takes ten and more days. The blank silk fabric is dipped into the juice of the Shouliang Yam Rhizome, a kind of herb existing only in the Chinese Guangdong area. All its raw materials are reproducible and degradable natural resources, and it can decompose completely when being discarded. The production process is clean and environmental friendly: There is neither the utilization of synthetic dyestuff or chemical auxiliary, nor the discharge of environment pollutant.
The origins of the traditional wedding ceremony in the village of Donje Ljubinje, Kosovo, date from beyond living memory. It is virtually viewed by almost all residents with universal pride as it has come to symbolize this place's special identity. The bride has her face painted to prevent bad luck during the wedding ceremony. Donje Ljubinje is situated in the Shar mountains that form the border between Kosovo and Macedonia. The inhabitants are Kosovar Bosnian and call themselves 'Torbesh'. Their language is a mix of Serbian and Macedonian, with a few Turkish words.
The Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island was inscribed as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1996. The present shrine was erected in the 12th century, its origin dates back to the sixth century A.D. The buildings are located on the Seto Inland Sea shore against a mountainous backdrop. The 16.8 meters high shrine gate O-Torii is set in the sea. At high tide, the gate is half submerged in the sea, but it can be accessed by foot from the seashore at low tide. The tidal range is higher than three meters. The island of Miyajima itself has been worshipped as a goddess since ancient times, and living there was prohibited.
The 5th ASEAN Para Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, take place from 15-16 August 2009. About 1,200 athletes and officials participate in the event which is considered the biggest multi-sports and multi-disability sporting event for athletes with a disability in the ASEAN region. The biannual games are participated by the 11 countries located in Southeast Asia.
The Ba Vi Orphange in Vietnam's Ba Vi Province is home to over 140 children, most with severe mental and physical handicaps. Director Do Duc Hong says many of the children suffer from supposed effects of Agent Orange. During the Vietnam War large numbers of Vietnamese were exposed to Agent Orange when US forces sprayed the chemical defoliant on jungles to deny sanctuary to communist troops. Between 1962 and 1971, an estimated 75 million liters of the dioxin were dropped on Vietnam's forests. Vietnam claims that up to four million of its citizens suffer from Agent Orange-related diseases.
Dating back from the 16th century, coastal whaling is a centuries-old tradition in Japan and Wada is one of the last ports where fishermen hunt in the Japanese waters for the Baird's beaked whale as it is not restricted by the IWC (International Whaling Commission). Within the ten-weeks-long whaling season ending 31 August, fishermen in Wada are allowed to catch up to 26 whales, a small figure compared to the hundreds killed for the scientific hunt. Until the 1970s, whale meat was commonly served in school refectories and eaten nationwide as it was cheaper than other meat like beef.
The Union of the Comoros is an archipelago formed by the Grand Comore, Moheli, Anjouan and Mayotte islands located off the Eastern coast of Africa. In the sixth century A.D., the Comoros are thought to have been settled first by Polynesians, Melanesians, Malays and Indonesians travelling by boat. At the crossroads of many civilizations, the archipelago is notable for its diverse culture and history. Since its independence from France the Comoros has experienced more than 20 coups d'etat or attempted coups d'etat and half the population lives in poverty.
The King of Hell, or 'Enma' is the Japanese name for Yama, the superintendent of death who appears in the Vedas, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. In Japanese Buddhist mythology, when a person dies, he or she must face Enma, the chief judge at the gate of hell who decides if a person should go to heaven or hell. The Hojoin Temple is famous for having a high-tech 21st century style Enma, where people can listen to Enma's 'recorded' sermons by playback system after tossing an offering coin into one of the metal offertory pots while the decorated wall flashes lights and becomes luminous.
Okunoshima is now mainly known as Rabbit Island as a large population of wild rabbits occupies the small island. Some sources say they were originally brought to the island to perform laboratory testing of the chemicals as the island was hiding a poison gas factory producing much of the chemical weapons during World War II. Chosen for its isolation and far enough from populated areas in case of disaster, the complex produced over 6,000 tons of toxic gases before being totally destroyed at the end of the war. Silence about this facility remained until the activities of the chemical weapons industry came to light in 1984.
The one year anniversary of the Sichuan earthquake on 12 May 2009 is a sensitive issue in China. The magnitude-8 earthquake left nearly 90,000 people dead or missing and another 5 million homeless. An enormous rescue operation was launched and thousands of troops were dispatched to the region. According to the first official figures released on 07 May 2009 a total of 5,335 schoolchildren died or went missing when their classrooms collapsed. As the first anniversary approaches China denied allegations of poor construction - a politically charged issue that is a source of grief to parents.
Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta region and Yangon on 02 May 2008, one year ago on Saturday. There were an estimated 138,000 people killed or missing and a further 2.4 million severely affected by the devastating cyclone, many are still trying to put their lives back together again.
Dezhou, a city of 5.5 million people, has been designated as 'China's Solar Valley' by the country's central government. Around 90 per cent of all households use solar thermal water heaters. More than ten cities in China have made it compulsory or offered subsidies for less than twelve-storey buildings such as restaurants, hotels and some residential buildings to install solar thermal water heaters. China, the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, is seeking to reduce its reliance on carbon dioxide emitting coal fired power stations by promoting and developing more sustainable sources of energy, like solar.
This feature portraits coffee farming in a tribal Katu village in the fertile coffee growing area on the Bolaven Plateau, in southern Laos. Coffee farming in Laos was started in the early 20th century by the French colonialists with the Robusta coffee crop favored as the most productive cash crop after opium, with Arabica coffee also grown. The beans are exported as well as roasted locally and the crops grown in village lots on the fertile plateau. A cup of green tea, also grown in Laos, is served with your coffee. While production is low, Lao coffee fetches among the highest prices in the world.
The Kanchipuram silk saree is a magnificent creation of the craftsmen living in a small town, Kanchipuram also known as Silk City. The silk used is extremely fine as well as durable and is one of the most popular forms of silk in the state of Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram sarees make use of a combination of numerous colored threads and adding to the attraction of the saris is the exquisite and elaborate zari (a form of embroidery) work. Nearly 170 dyeing units are operated in Kanchipuram and more than 5,000 families are engaged in this handloom industry.
Every year a spring divination ceremony and festival is held in the mountains of central Japan. First a Shinto priest pours sacred water from an ancestral spring into special divination cauldrons at the Matsudaira family's Toshogu Shinto Shrine. The next day, local villagers in feudal era festival dress walk in a procession from the local Shinto shrine to the local Buddhist temple. The village is the ancestral home of the Matsudaira clan. The Tokugawa branch ruled Japan for 260 years and built the city of Edo, present day Tokyo. The Matsudaira family’s men were famed for their superior samurai warrior skills.
Hundreds of spectators enjoyed the 'Honozumo', a ceremonial sumo tournament, in Tokyo, Japan, where sumo wrestlers perform their skills. Sumo wrestling is originated in Japan where it is practised professionally. Its tradition is very ancient and the sport includes many ritual elements related to the Shinto religion. Professional sumo can trace its origins back to the Edo Period starting in the 17th century as a form of sporting entertainment. Even if professional sumo is practiced exclusively in Japan, wrestlers of other nationalities participate.
The small village of Ribnovo in Bulgaria is home of the 'pomaks', Bulgarian speaking Muslims believed to have converted to Islam in the late 1300s. Amidst high mountains they practise their own rituals and customs and wear typical Muslim cloths including headscarfs making Ribnovo a unique place for ethnographs and minority studies. In 1964 the ruling communists launched a campaign to convert the minority into Bulgarians by changing the Muslim names to Slavonic ones and forbidding them to practise Muslim customs. The campaign continued in 1989 and lead to the exodus of about 350,000 ethnic Turks.
In 1979 the worst civilian nuclear accident in US history occurred. The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania suffered a cooling malfunction that caused a severe core meltdown in the Unit 2 reactor destroying the reactor. But it did not lead to a breach of the walls of the containment building and release massive quantities of radiation to the environment. Although there were no deaths or injuries to plant workers or civilians, the accident brought about sweeping safety changes across nuclear power plant operations. Today Unit 2 is sealed and Unit 1 continues to generate electrical power.
Some Palestinian workers from the West Bank city of Qalqilyah cross the Israeli army checkpoint located in the Kibbutz Eyal, Israel, during the night to avoid a long wait in a line and arrive at work on time. With no shelter, they must then wait for morning to arrive. Whilst some huddle in small groups around fires others try to get some sleep. A couple of men lay on the ground and use plastic sheets as blankets. This only adds to the eeriness of the twilight hours at this border checkpoint.
Every weekend blood and guts spill on the dirt side walks of the Madagascar capital Antananarivo as trainers pit their huge, athletic fighting chickens in front of many thousands of punters. Cock fighting is part of the island life as men gather at the ring side to gamble on the cocks that are bred by trainers. Even high society personalities get involved in the fights with houses being betted on the long and often bloody fights. Although the fighting is not recognized by the government it does have a federation which is often called on to handed disputed outcomes of fights.
Some 2,000 Roma from the southern parts of Bulgaria gathered in the village of Mogila to celebrate the Day of Saint Todor or Horse Easter. At this traditional gathering the Roma families expose their teenage daughters with the intention to find a husband for them who is willing to pay a large amount of money for his future wife. At this ‘bride market’ the price of a beautiful young woman is said to be several thousands levs. The teenage girls, usually over 15 years old, wear their best cloths, attractive make up and some of them golden necklaces and rings.
Earth Day is celebrated in many countries annually on 22 April to inspire awareness of and appreciation for the earth's environment.
On Earth Day individuals as well as environmental groups around the world take action to enhance political attention, to raise consciousness for environmental issues like pollution problems, global warming and climate change, and to encourage public endeavour for a clean environment.
The team of ten veterinarians working at the Singapore Zoo's Wildlife Healthcare and Research Centre oversees health and medical needs of around 4,000 animals at the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari. The centre has medical equipment worth 3.6 million Singapore dollars (1.75 million euros) including X-ray and ultrasound machines and a fully-equipped operating theater. The team currently handles more than 120 cases and performs in excess of 12 anesthesia and five surgeries in an average working week.
To add zest to the Japanese economy childless Japanese women ride a wooden phallic fertility symbol in Osawa hotsprings. Since 2005, Japan's population has begun to decline, especially in rural areas, leaving an adverse effect on the economy. In the hope of getting pregnant the women wash the wooden phallus and balls before taking a ride on the sacred rod around the hot springs pool. The giant phallus, said to represent a local fertility god, is traditionally believed to have curative powers, promote harmony between husbands and wives and help women to get pregnant.
The Jewish Abayudaya congregation is located in Nabugoye in Eastern Uganda. A community of ethnic African Jews have lived in the area since the early 1900's after a former Ugandan administrator for the British colonial government converted to Judaism along with his small band of followers. There are now over 1,100 Ugandans who practice Judaism in the Abayudaya congregation.
South Africa's coastline stretching 2,798 km offers a variety of magnificent beaches. This combined with long warm sunny days, beautiful coastal bush and some of the widest beaches in the world make for a major tourist attraction ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Nineteen South African beaches have been awarded international Blue Flag status for 2008/09 for excelling in safety, cleanliness, provision of amenities and maintenance of environmental standards. Fine grained, clean and white most of the beaches of South Africa offer perfect conditions.
After years of political sabotage, judicial bickering, corruption allegations and funding shortages, the Khmer Rouge is likely to begin facing retribution for the crimes of its 1970s reign of terror. A UN-backed tribunal announced last week it would put the first of five former Khmer Rouge leaders before a panel of Cambodian and international judges on 17 February on charges of crimes against humanity. The trials of the other four, all old and ailing, are unlikely to begin until 2010. Stepping first into the 504-seat courtroom will be 65-year-old Kaing Guek Eav, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary, his wife Ieng Thirith, and Nuon Chea. They face a maximum of life imprisonment.
Banei Horse Racing is a draft horse race localized in Japan's Obihiro region. The one-ton draft horses compete on a straight 200m race track in every weekend all year long. The track course includes two hills, as well as obstacles that the horses must endure while carrying one-ton sleds. The Banei draft horses played an important role in the lives of the 19th century Hokkaido pioneers for farming, transportation and other daily chores to develop the Japanese northern island. Around 1900, the horses were used to play a form of tug-of-war for entertainment for the pioneers living in Hokkaido.
The newly restored chapel of the seminary of St. Joseph dates back to 1740. The seminary was founded by the Jesuit order of Catholics who have been involved in intellectual engagement with China since Macau was established as a Portuguese colony in 1595. Currently there is a shortfall of priests entering the Jesuit order. Where once hundreds studied with a view to converting China to the Catholic faith only 20-30 are currently enrolled. Relations with mainland China are constructive with academic exchanges on a regular basis though officially the mainland does not maintain diplomatic relations with the Vatican.
This year's Oscars are scheduled to be presented at the 81st Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, California, USA on 22 February 2009. The Oscar, officially named the Academy Award of Merit, is plated with copper, nickel and finally gold. It stands 13 1/2 inches (34,29 cm) tall and weighs 8 1/2 pounds (3,85 kg) and has been presented for outstanding work in the motion picture industry since 1929 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Oscar statuettes have been produced at R.S. Owens in Chicago, Illinois, USA, since 1983.
The combined effect of high worldwide food prices and a crippling drought are seriously jeopardizing the lives of up to 20 million people in rural and urban communities, according to the IFRC. Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki just launched a 470 million dollar aid appeal to help millions of hungry people. The Kyenza family from Kyua village has not eaten in two days. Their crops have withered due to short rains; and after eating their reserves including the seeds for the next planting season, have no option but to rely on food aid. Father Daniel was born and raised on the farm he inherited and cannot remember it ever being so dry.
Ha Giang province is inhabited by many ethnic minorities. Hmong is the largest group making up about 30 percent of the population. In late 19th century Hmong, also known as Miao in China, immigrated to Vietnam to flee from oppressive rule imposed by China's Qing Dynasty. Surrounded by rocky mountains of karstic region where land is unfit for agriculture, the principle diet of Hmong of Ha Giang are corn, bean, wheat, vegetable, and occasionally some rice. The large number of Hmong in Ha Giang is still struggling to make a living in a harsh environment with many children being forced to give up education at a young age.
Empty and abandoned galleries along with very few visitors characterize the 798 Arts Centre as grim economic times are now affecting the Chinese art market. Dozens of galleries in the formerly booming artentre for both Chinese and foreign art have closed in the last 3 months with little sign of activity from buyers expected any time soon. 798 is a large industrial compound dating back to the 1950s when it produced parts for the nuclear weapons programme. Having fallen on hard times and with a crippling pension and welfare obligation much of the area transformed over the last ten years into a commercial art zone.
The Screen Actors Guild statuettes are casted at the American Fine Arts Foundry in Burbank, California, USA, 14 January 2009. 'The Actor' statuettes will be awarded to winners in five film and eight primetime television categories at the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards on 25 January 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
Photographer Safder Ali, 62, works with his old box camera at Gulistan, Dhaka, Bangladesh. The camera has a glass lens without conventional shutter while the exposure is made by taking off the lens cap and counting for a few seconds. Ali has started his career when he was 10 years old taking passport photos with the pinhole cameras. He has three sons and three daughters living at North Mousondi, Sutrapur, Dhaka for almost 35 years. He earns 100-150 taka (1-1.5 euro) per day while this camera business is dying. Ali's sons have been doing different jobs to help him run the family.
The Li River has been a revered area of outstanding natural beauty in China for more than 2,000 years. The otherworldly karst mountains that surge vertiginously out of the flat paddy filled landscape have inspired artists and poets from across China and now also tourists from across the world. The area has been under special state protection since the 1980s but recent development has brought pollution and overbuilding in some areas. Apart from the tourism industry the area has little to support the local population - predominantly of the Zhuang ethnic minority who is quite distinct in culture from the Han Chinese.
The Coming of Age day is celebrated on the second Monday of January in Japan and is a national holiday. All young people who turn twenty years old this year celebrate in the day's ceremony. Age twenty is considered the beginning of adulthood and is the minimum legal age for voting, drinking, and smoking in Japan. For Megumi Nakajima the day began at 3:00 a.m. to prepare for the ceremony. Her mother booked a 5:30 a.m. beauty parlor appointment one year in advance for the day. Beauty parlors stay open all night in order to handle the rush for hair styling on Coming of Age Day.
Bulgarians are celebrating Gergyovden, the day of St. George who is among the few venerated by Christians and Muslims alike. He was a Roman officer who was tortured and then beheaded because of his refusal to renounce his Christian faith. The holy martyr St. George the Victor has been considered one of the most important Saints ever since Christianity became the official state religion in Bulgaria in the 9th century. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St. George is the patron saint of shepherds.
Bengtskaer is the southernmost inhabited Finnish island. Scandinavia's highest lighthouse (52 meters above the sea) was built on the island in 1906 after numerous shipwrecks prompted the authorities to secure the seaway. The lighthouse suffered damage in both world wars and was the scene of fierce fighting between Finnish and Soviet troops in 1941. The granite rock islet is only some two hectares large, with very little fauna and plants and is visited by thousands of tourists yearly.