Archive for the ‘World’ Category

The Most Striking Photos of 2016   Leave a comment


Each week in 2016, an art historian has taken a photo in the news and compared it with a great artwork for BBC Culture. Here’s our round-up of images that have shocked and inspired us.

January: Tim Peake’s spacewalk


In the 1960s, writes Catherine Ingram, space travel had a different colour. As the US artist Andy Warhol described it, back then “silver was the future, it was spacey – the astronauts wore silver suits”. This photo of British astronaut Tim Peake’s spacewalk reminds Ingram of Warhol’s 1966 work Silver Clouds, with “a sense of the infinite – that there are no walls or ceiling or floor; that where you are goes on forever”.


February: A soldier in the Free Syrian Army stands guard


Taken as a major ceasefire in the war in Syria came into effect, this photo shows a soldier who “seems forever poised on a threshold”, according to Kelly Grovier. Arguing that the perspective of this photo works in the same way as a 19th-Century trompe l’oeil, he looks at how news photos help break down “the barrier between the stresses of a conflict raging in an inconceivable elsewhere and the retinas of distant readers”.


March: The father who saved his son


Snapped at the instant when a bat slipped from the hands of a baseball player and a fan instinctively stretched out his arm to save his son, this heart-stopping photo went viral in March. 


April: Ruins at Palmyra


After Palmyra was retaken by Syrian forces, a photographer captured the extent of the damage wrought by militants. Joseph Eid held up a picture he’d taken of the Arch of Triumph at the ancient city in 2014 – against the backdrop of the arch in ruins, after it was destroyed by the so-called Islamic State. Kelly Grovier looked at Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (1995), by the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei, a work that Grovier believes is “cruel to be kind by forcing observers to confront an isolated, if vivid, instance of the destruction of heritage he believes is raging all around us in a world obsessed with the superficial rewards of the fast-and-easy here and now”.


May: The woman who defied neo-Nazis

(Credit: David Lagerlöf/Expo/TT News Agency/Press Association Images)

A photo of a single figure standing up against nationalists at a rally in Sweden went viral in May. When Afro-Swedish social activist Tess Asplund came face-to-face with a May Day march of 300 uniformed nationalists in Borlänge, she faced them silently, fist clenched. Her spontaneous reaction was unstaged and yet, according to Kelly Grovier, the image has all the “power of Delacroix’s epoch-defining painting” Liberty Leading the People (1830).


June: A Chinese lawyer with torn clothes

(Credit: Wu Liangshu)

Taken in Nanning, Guangxi, this photo shows a lawyer outside a district court. He told reporters that when he refused to hand over his mobile phone, court officials violently attacked him and nearly ripped his clothes off his body.


July: Fishermen surprised by Whales



August: A human pyramid

(Credit: Jordi Boixareu/Rex Features)

Taken during a festival in Barcelona’s Gràcia district, this photo “shows scores of Barcelonans in a surge of torsos and limbs that culminates in the outstretched arms of a soaring figure atop the living tower”.


September: A protestor in Santiago

(Credit: Carlos Vera/Reuters)

“Staring is power,” writes Kelly Grovier. “The ability to command another’s gaze, to transfix their mind and muscles by using nothing more than… one’s unblinking eyes, requires discipline and courage of purpose.” This photo of a standoff between a protester and a Chilean policeman in Santiago prompted Grovier to consider the meaning of an unflinching gaze. In her 2010 work The Artist is Present, performance artist Marina Abramović stared into the eyes of visitors. It was a reminder of John Ruskin’s belief that “All great and beautiful work has come of first gazing without shrinking into the darkness.”


October: Man and machine

(Credit: EPA/Alexandra Wey)

After the world’s first Cybathlon – an international competition for disabled athletes assisted by robotic technology – Kelly Grovier looked at art’s fascination with the blurred boundary between man and machine. The contest, in the Swiss city of Zurich, included “competitors whose physical shapes are a fusion of athleticism and cutting-edge engineering”.


November: A sinkhole in Japan

(Credit: Kyodo/via Reuters)

On the day of the US election, a sinkhole appeared in Japanese city of Fukuoka. Social media users were quick to see the event as an omen, offering competing prophecies attached to the crater.


December: Stars in time-lapse

(Credit: Grey Chow)

We began the year with a spacewalk, and end with the stars – as shown in this time-lapse photo taken in Indonesia. 

Posted December 30, 2016 by markosun in World

Operation Christmas Drop   Leave a comment


For the last sixty four years the US army has been playing Santa Claus to some 20,000 people inhabiting dozens of tiny Micronesian islands spread across a vast area in the western Pacific Ocean. Each year in December, these islanders receive all sorts of gifts and useful supplies packed in approximately a hundred crates and dropped gently to earth on green military parachutes. Known as Operation Christmas Drop, this effort on the part of the United States Air Force has been called the “longest running humanitarian mission in the world.”

Operation Christmas Drop has its roots to the Christmas of 1952, when the crew of an Air Force B-29 aircraft, flying a mission to the south of Guam, saw some of the islanders waving at them. In the spirit of the season, the crew gathered some items they had on the plane, placed them in a container, attached a parachute and dropped the bundle to the islanders below.



An airman of the US Air Force pushes a bundle from a C-130 Hercules during Operation Christmas Drop over Guam on Dec. 5, 2016. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Delano Scott




A witness to the first drop on the island recalls, “We saw these things come out of the back of the airplane and I was yelling: ‘There are toys coming down'”. The effort grew from there into a major annual training exercise.

All the gifts are donated by residents, civic organizations, military personnel and businesses of Guam, which are collected by private organization and the US Air Force, and then sorted and packed into boxes. The items sent to the Micronesian include fishing nets, construction materials, powdered milk, canned goods, rice, coolers, clothing, shoes, toys, school supplies and so on.

The Air Force uses old parachutes that have outlived their military usefulness, but are still strong enough to support bundles weighing up to 500 pounds. The parachute is said to be the most important item on the bundle. Islanders use it for a variety of applications, from roofing their houses to covering their canoes.

Some of these islands are so remote that they receive supplies from passing ships only once or twice per year.

“Christmas Drop is the most important day of the year for these people,” said Bruce Best, a communications specialist at the University of Guam who has been volunteering his time to help Operation Christmas Drop for the last 34 year.

“The yearly success of this drop is a testament to the generosity of the civilian and military population of Guam,” said U.S. Air Force sergeant and Operation Christmas Drop committee president. “We continue to do this to help improve the quality of life of the islanders. We may take it for granted that we can go to a mall to purchase our daily needs, but these folks do not have the same privilege from where they live.”

In recent years, the US Air Force has received assistance from members of the Royal Australian Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force in the collection and distribution of the Christmas Drop crates. According to organizational data, by 2006, the Christmas drop operations have delivered more than 800,000 pounds of supplies.



A bundle exits the ramp of a C-130H aircraft during an airdrop mission over the Federated States of Micronesia during Operation Christmas Drop 2013.


A pallet containing toys, holiday decorations and other donated items floats toward an island of the Western Pacific and Micronesia area, bringing holiday cheer Dec. 14 during Operation Christmas Drop. While Santa Claus must find a rooftop to land his reindeer on, America's Airmen and their four-propeller C-130 Hercules deliver the holiday items from the air and move on to their next target. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brian Kimball)

A pallet containing toys, holiday decorations and other donated items floats toward an island of the Western Pacific and Micronesia area, bringing holiday cheer Dec. 14 during Operation Christmas Drop. While Santa Claus must find a rooftop to land his reindeer on, America’s Airmen and their four-propeller C-130 Hercules deliver the holiday items from the air and move on to their next target.





A resident of Mokil Atoll waves to the C-130 crew after receiving an air dropped aid package in 2012



Loadmasters from the 36th Airlift Squadron, Yokota Air Base, Japan, prepare humanitarian aid bundles destined for remote islands within the Micronesian Islands, Dec. 11, 2012.



Senior Airman Angel Torres, 36th Airlift Squadron C-130 Hercules loadmaster, pushes a low-cost, low-altitude bundle drop over the Federated States of Micronesia during Operation Christmas Drop 2016.



Airmen from the Royal Australian Air Force deliver a low-cost, low-altitude bundle during Operation Christmas Drop 2015 to the island of Mogmog. Photo credit: U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Katrina Brisbin



A bundle exits the ramp of a C-130H aircraft during an airdrop mission over the Federated States of Micronesia during Operation Christmas Drop 2013.



A resident of Mokil Atoll waves to the C-130 crew after receiving an air dropped aid package in 2012.




Tech. Sgt. Magen Harger, 36th Medical Support Squadron medical lab technician, pushes a box of supplies to islanders Dec. 11, 2014, over the Pacific Ocean.



Packages make their way to the shore of Kayangel Island during Operation Christmas Drop 2013.



Islanders watch a C-130 Hercules fly overhead during Operation Christmas Drop 2015 at Fais Island, Federated States of Micronesia, Dec. 8, 2015.



Micronesian islanders receive supplies airdropped from a C-130 Hercules near Andersen Air Force Base, on December 16, 2013


 Operation Christmas Drop is primarily conducted from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam and Yokota Air Base in Japan.


Posted December 28, 2016 by markosun in World

The World’s Most Reputable Countries   Leave a comment


Reputation Institute

What we believe about a place can often be more powerful than the hard facts. A country’s reputation can influence everything from foreign policy to foreign investment ­– to whether or not people want to visit or live there.

One recent study by the Reputation Institute, a consultant and advisory firm specializing in reputation, sought to quantify the idea of the most well-thought-of countries. They measured 16 different factors ­– including being a beautiful and safe place to visit, and having friendly and welcoming residents, progressive policies and an effective government – via an online survey with more than 48,000 residents in the G8 countries, representing the world’s eight leading industrialized nations. The 55 countries rated as part of the survey include those with the largest GDPs, largest populations, and countries with relevant events.

To find out if the reputation matched up to the facts, we talked to residents and expats living in the top five reputable countries.

Newly ranked as the most reputable country in the world (knocking out Canada), Sweden hits all the marks of being safe, welcoming and beautiful, according to its residents. The county is also unique in Western Europe, having been spared from much of the impact of World War II and remaining neutral today.



“Swedes seem to be happy with this independent status, while at the same time being one of the most welcoming countries for refugees in all of Europe,” said Dr Ernest Adams, an American-born British citizen who lives in Sweden part time as a consultant and a senior lecturer at Uppsala University. “This is a virtue they have had for a long time – they saved almost all of Denmark’s Jews during the war.”

Most expats live in Stockholm where the business and government hubs are located. English is commonly spoken, though some expats initially feel that residents can be standoffish.

“But after being here a while, you begin to realise that people like to keep themselves to themselves and they afford that respect to others too, for better or worse,” said Kat Trigarszky, current resident and author of an An English Mamma in Stockholm. “It’s quite usual not to know your neighbours at all well.”

Entertainment and luxury items can be quite expensive in the city (VAT is 25%, and residents regularly complain about the high price of alcohol, which averages around 130 krona a cocktail). Still, many Swedes cook at home, and save on car costs by using the country’s vast and affordable public transportation network.


Despite dropping to second on the list, Canadians speak more positively than ever about their home country, especially as the government continues an “arms wide open” approach to Syrian refugees.

“There’s a national concern to ensure that those who have suffered so much can rebuild the lives they deserve,” said Jeremy Arnold, a native and frequent Quora author on life in Canada. “The average Canadian is defined by their zeal to see our inclusive and communal way of life protected. We love seeing the videos of Syrian immigrants enjoying their first Canada Day.”




Canada also scores high for being one of the world’s safest countries. That doesn’t mean it’s without its problems. “It isn’t a utopia. We have crime. We have gangs,” Arnold explained. “But we also have a strong social safety net and a shared commitment to values like mutual respect and joyful multiculturalism.”

Almost all Canadian residents live in cities that are within 100 miles of the US border, making it especially easy for American expats to come and go. “We also have fairly open visa policies for member countries of the Commonwealth of Nations,” Arnold said.  Vancouver and Toronto are perennial favourite expat spots, but many choose to live near friends and family or where previous generations of a country’s expats have settled.

While both Vancouver and Toronto are expensive cities relative to world prices, Canada in general is relatively affordable compared to many other developed countries. Even the big cities can be navigated affordably by living a little further away from main amenities, said Arnold.


While natural beauty may be a matter of luck, factors like friendly residents and progressive policies come down to a country’s wealth and culture, both of which Switzerland has in spades, explained Jason Li, who lived in Switzerland for three years and now lives in Canberra, Australia.

“It’s needless to say that Switzerland is a wealthy country. It has a long tradition of organized hospitality ever since the days of the grand tours of the English aristocracy and Thomas Cook’s first organized tours of the country in 1841,” he said. “Twenty percent of Swiss residents are expats, and tourism is a significant industry, so those who work in hospitality and tourism are accustomed to dealing with foreigners.”




While many expats end up in business centres like Geneva, Basel and Zurich, Li found himself partial to Lausanne, located in 60km east of Geneva.

“Unlike Zurich or Geneva, it is university town that is not dominated by industry,” said Li. “Students from UNIL [Université de Lausanne] and EPFL [École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne] provide the energy and thrust, and it has one of the best nightlife scenes in Switzerland.”

Despite Switzerland being consistently ranked as one of the world’s most expensive countries, residents do get the benefit of rent control and universal healthcare.


The land down under is loved by residents for its feelings of safety, security and peacefulness, driven in some part by the country’s stance on firearms.

“Australia banned guns few decades back, which means that gun violence is minimal,” said Ganesh Krishnan, originally from India who currently lives in Melbourne. “Here in Melbourne we can be assured that we can walk free of fear anytime, night or day, on the streets.”




Retired US Navy sailor Pedro Vasquez feels similarly from his three years stationed in Canberra, praising the illegality of firearms. “This is very important to me because as someone that values life, I do not want to put mine at risk,” he said. “I also like that Australians care so much about the environment and about animal welfare. Of course, it helps that Australians are such a friendly bunch.”

Melbourne has been ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities, largely due to its extensive public transportation system that covers the city and much of the suburbs. Family-friendly Perth and economic hub Sydney also typically top the list of cities that attract expats from around the world.

The country tends to be very affordable to live, with universal and high-quality health care and government-funded tertiary education.


As a safe and scenic country, Norway more than lives up to its reputation according to residents.

“The prejudices about Norway are all true: the people are beautiful, gender equality is anchored in daily life and the natural scenery is breathtaking,” said Barbara Schwendtner, an Oslo resident from Austria, and a guide for Your Local Cousin, a travel startup that matches travellers with locals. Norway is also a rich country, and is both investing oil money in development and saving in funds for future generations.




Expats also fit in here easily; residents don’t really distinguish between locals and those who’ve moved from abroad. Most residents choose to live in Oslo, which is not a very big city, so activities usually congregate around the city centre.

No matter where they live, Norwegians spend plenty of time in the fresh air. “Norwegians are crazy about the outdoors!” Schwendtner said.”They love to be outside, go cross-country skiing in winter and hiking in summer. The activity level of the population is extremely high, with gym memberships often offered to employees.”

That love for the outdoors can be a good thing, especially as other activities can be quite expensive. “While one can dine out several times a week in other countries, the same lifestyle is certainly not recommended in Norway,” Schwendtner said. “Naturally, people try to find leisure activities for less money, such as training or enjoying nature.”













Posted December 24, 2016 by markosun in World

Kids from around the World with their favourite Toys   2 comments


By Kaushik

Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti is always traveling the world in search of adventure, good stories, and interesting people. For his latest project entitled “Toy Stories”, Galimberti photographed children from around the world with their most prized possesion. He did not expect to uncover much we did not already know. “At their age, they are pretty all much the same,” is his conclusion after 18 months working on the project. “They just want to play.”

But it’s how they play that seemed to differ from country to country. Galimberti found that children in richer countries were more possessive with their toys. “At the beginning, they wouldn’t want me to touch their toys, and I would need more time before they would let me play with them,” says the Italian photographer. “In poor countries, it was much easier. Even if they only had two or three toys, they didn’t really care. In Africa, the kids would mostly play with their friends outside.”

However, there are many similarities in which the kids regard their toys, especially when it comes to their function. Galimberti met a six-year-old boy in Texas and a four-year-old girl in Malawi who both maintained their plastic dinosaurs would protect them from the dangers that await them at night. More common was how the toys reflected the world each child was born into – the girl from an affluent Mumbai family loves Monopoly, because she likes the idea of building houses and hotels, while the boy from rural Mexico loves trucks, because he sees them rumbling through his village to the nearby sugar plantation every day. A Lativian kid plays with miniature cars because his mother drove a taxi, while the daughter of an Italian farmer has an assortment of plastic rakes, hoes and spades.

Working for Toy Stories, Galimberti learned as much about the parents as he learned about the children. Parents from the Middle East and Asia, he found, would push their children to be photographed even if they were initially nervous or upset, while South American parents were “really relaxed, and said I could do whatever I wanted as long as their child didn’t mind”.



Watcharapom – Bangkok, Thailand



Stella – Montecchio, Italy



Ralf – Riga, Latvia



Botlhe – Maun, Botswana



Orly – Brownsville, Texas



Noel – Dallas, Texas



Maudy – Kalulushi, Zambia



Li Yi Chen – Shenyang, China



Chiwa – Mchinji, Malawi



Davide – La Valletta, Malta



Cun Zi Yi – Chongqing, China



Arafa & Aisha – Bububu, Zanzibar



Tyra – Stockholm, Sweden

Posted December 19, 2016 by markosun in World

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It’s a Wonderful World   Leave a comment



Posted December 19, 2016 by markosun in World

National Geographic’s Best Photos of the Year   Leave a comment



Kirill Vselensky perches on a cornice in Moscow as Dima Balashov gets the shot. The 24-year-olds, risktakers known as rooftoppers, celebrate their feats on Instagram.

This photo was originally published in “Why Many Young Russians See a Hero in Putin,” in December 2016.



As an evening storm lights up the sky near Wood River, Nebraska, about 413,000 sandhill cranes arrive to roost in the shallows of the Platte River.

This photo was originally published in “What Happens to the U.S. Midwest When the Water’s Gone?,” in August 2016.



Ye Ye, a 16-year-old giant panda, lounges in a wild enclosure at a conservation center in China’s Wolong Nature Reserve.

This photo was originally published in “Pandas Get to Know Their Wild Side,” in August 2016.



Tempted by the fruit of a strangler fig, a Bornean orangutan climbs 100 feet into the canopy. With males weighing as much as 200 pounds, orangutans are the world’s largest tree-dwelling animals.

This photo was originally published in “Inside the Private Lives of Orangutans,” in December 2016.



In Flint, Michigan, siblings Julie, Antonio, and India Abram collect their daily allowance of bottled water from Fire Station #3, their local water resource site.

This photo was originally published in “Intimate Portraits of Flint Show Frustration, Fear, Perseverance,” in February 2016.



Russia’s Bovanenkovo natural gas field, on the Yamal Peninsula, was deemed too expensive to develop until President Vladimir Putin made it a priority.

This photo was originally published in “In the Arctic’s Cold Rush, There Are No Easy Profits,” in March 2016.



The colors of Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone come from thermophiles: microbes that thrive in scalding water.

This photo was originally published in “Learning to Let the Wild Be Wild in Yellowstone,” in May 2016.



Steven Donovan, flipping into a pool, took a seasonal job at Glacier National Park to sharpen his photography skills.

This photo was originally published in “Can the Selfie Generation Unplug and Get Into Parks?” in October 2016.



Kirk Odom was convicted of rape after an expert testified that a hair on the victim’s nightgown matched his. He spent years in prison before DNA tests proved his innocence.

This photo was originally published in “How Science Is Putting a New Face on Crime Solving,” in July 2016.



In Alaska, a mother grizzly and her cubs cause a “bear jam” on Denali’s 92-mile-long Park Road, open to private vehicles only five days each summer.

This photo was originally published in “How Can 6 Million Acres at Denali Still Not Be Enough?” in February 2016.



On a mountainside in Yosemite National Park, photographer Stephen Wilkes took 1,036 images over 26 hours to create this day-to-night composite.

This photo was originally published in “How National Parks Tell Our Story—and Show Who We Are,” in January 2016.



Dressed for Mars, space engineer Pablo de León tests a prototype space suit at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, where fine soil and fans simulate conditions on the red planet.

This photo was originally published in “Mars: Inside the High-Risk, High-Stakes Race to the Red Planet,” in November 2016.



Villagers in Bagaran, Armenia, sing of cultural endurance and survival while picnicking at night beneath apricot trees—and a giant cross that shines defiantly into Turkey.

This photo was originally published in “A Century Later, Slaughter Still Haunts Turkey and Armenia,” in April 2016.



These rhinos on a South African ranch have recently had their horns trimmed. Unlike elephant ivory, rhino horn grows back when cut properly. The rancher is stockpiling the horn in hopes that selling it will soon be legal.

This photo was originally published in “Special Investigation: Inside the Deadly Rhino Horn Trade,” in October 2016.



On their first migration to their summer range in southeastern Yellowstone, three-week-old calves of the Cody elk herd follow their mothers up a 4,600-foot slope.

This photo was originally published in “The Yellowstone We Don’t See: A Struggle of Life and Death,” in May 2016.



Summer attracts sunbathers—clothed and otherwise—to the grassy banks of Munich’s Schwabinger Bach. The meadows here have been popular with nudists since the 1970s.

This photo was originally published in “How Urban Parks Are Bringing Nature Close to Home,” in April 2016.



A panda keeper in China uses a stuffed leopard to train young pandas to fear their biggest wild foe. A cub’s reactions help determine if the bear is ready to survive on its own.

This photo was originally published in “Pandas Get to Know Their Wild Side,” in August 2016.



Lounging in inches of warm water, blacktip reef sharks wait for the tide to refill the lagoon at Seychelles’ Aldabra Atoll.

This photo was originally published in “In the Seychelles, Taking Aim at Nature’s Bullies,” in March 2016.

Posted December 18, 2016 by markosun in Nature, World

As the World Turns   Leave a comment















Bin diver drawing courtesy of

Posted December 9, 2016 by markosun in World