The West African country Mali made international headlines early January, when France, a former colonizer of the region, announced plans to send troops into the country, in an effort to help Malian government ward off Islamist tribal extremists. On Jan. 16, reports of a hostage situation in the southern Sahara of Algeria left nearly 40 oil workers and contractors dead, after militant groups who had been fighting in Mali, took over the gas plant. With the Malian government reporting an increase in rebel activity, French troops have continued to push farther into the country. While some argue a necessary presence of French troops in Mali, others argue that this could lead to a second wave of the country’s colonization.
Brazilian officials say the death toll has reached 237 from a tragic fire in Brazil’s Santa Maria. The city saw the Kiss nightclub erupt into flames on Sunday Jan. 27, destroying the club and killing many with it. Police have been able to link the cause of the fire to the use of a flare by two musicians performing at the club. Both musicians illegally used the flare indoors, knowing that the pyrotechnic could only be used outdoors. The Kiss fire is the second deadliest fire disaster for the country. December 1961 saw a fire that killed 503 people during Brazil’s Great North American Circus.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the weekend to attend the funeral of the late Cambodian king, Norodom Sihanouk. The King died of a heart attack, at the age of 89, on Oct. 15, but his body has been laying in the royal palace for the past three months, to allow people to pay their respects. Sihanouk was creamated on Feb. 4. The cremation ceremony was followed by celebrations of the King’s memory.
Thousands of contestants showed up on Sunday Feb. 3 to take part in England’s annual Tough Guy Challenge. The challenge claims to be the world’s toughest and most demanding one-day survival race, and pushes participants to endure freezing cold weather, balancing across a fire pit, swimming in chest-deep mud water, and crawling under a 70-meter section of barbed wire. Going onto its 27th year, the challenge attracted close to 6,000 participants from 20 countries around the world this year.
February opened the doors to one of India’s holiest ceremonies – Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival. One of the world’s largest religious gatherings, the festival lasts 55 days, and only occurs every third year. Hindus believe the festival is a chance to purify the self and rid oneself of sins, by bathing in one of the scared rivers. More than 110 million people are expected to partake in the ceremony this year.
Monkey in Space
On Sunday Jan. 27, Iran took a leap of faith, and sent its first successful monkey into space. The monkey was trained for more than a year before being put into a miniature rocket and launched into space for 20 minutes. This space exploration was Iran’s first, and the country hopes to send a human into space by 2020, and to the moon by 2025. The first monkey astronaut was U.S. primate Albert, who was sent into space in 1948. Albert died of suffocation during his flight.
Photo courtesy of usatoday.com