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The Easter Rocket War of Vrontados

Every Easter, in the Greek village of Vrontados, members of rival churches sitting across a small valley stage a "rocket war" by firing thousands of homemade rockets towards each other while services are held. The objective for each side is to strike the bell of the opposing church. The festival, called Rouketopolemos, has been celebrated by the churches of Agios Markos and Panagia Erithiani for at least 125 years, its exact origins a mystery. Gathered here are images of this rocket war from the past few years. [26 photos]


Battling for Control of Eastern Ukraine

For the past few weeks, armed groups of pro-Russian men have been storming and seizing government buildings in towns across eastern Ukraine. Angered by the new pro-western Ukrainian government and emboldened by Russia's annexation of Crimea, these groups are demanding separation from Ukraine. Ukraine's new government has asked for western assistance, as it tries to recapture police stations, airbases, and other government properties -- without resorting to violence that may trigger a Russian response. Meanwhile, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers are deploying in eastern Ukraine, with even more Russian soldiers massed on the other side of the border. NATO officials said they planned to deploy more forces in eastern Europe and called for Russia to stop "destabilizing" the former Soviet satellite, which has been in deep turmoil since the ouster of the pro-Kremlin leadership in February. [36 photos]


South Korea Ferry Sinks, Hundreds Missing

Yesterday, off the coast of South Korea, a large passenger ferry named the Sewol sank in calm seas, while carrying more than 450 passengers, mostly high school students on an overnight trip to a tourist island. Officials currently confirm only 164 have been rescued, another four listed as killed, leaving approximately 300 passengers still missing. By nightfall, the Sewol had turned upside down, sinking nearly completely below the surface - only a small part of its bow still visible. Reuters quoted one survivor as saying "The on-board announcement told people to stay put... people who stayed are trapped." As anxious relatives await word, officials have resumed rescue operations after a short pause during the darkest hours of the night. [23 photos]


Scenes of Spring

Temperatures in the northern hemisphere are finally warming, flowers are blooming, and the sunshine beckons us outside once again. On a nice spring day like today, I thought I'd share some recent colorful images of the season from Germany, Japan, Scotland, the United States, and more. [28 photos]


Fire Destroys 2,000 Houses in Valparaiso

In the port city of Valparaiso, Chile, a massive fire started late Saturday. Fueled by strong winds, flames swept across hilly residential areas, destroying more than 2,000 houses and killing at least 12. Firefighters battled the blaze throughout the weekend and are still extinguishing isolated hot spots. Today, some Valparaiso residents are being allowed to return to their homes to assess the damage, recover what they can, and plan their next steps. [32 photos]


A Hundred-Pound Suit of Bees

On Wednesday, on a hill in China's Chongqing municipality, 34-year-old beekeeper She Ping covered himself in 460,000 bees weighing 45.65kg (100 pounds) in a publicity stunt to promote his honey sales. The bee suit fell well short of the record 135 lbs claimed by India's Vipin Seth, according to Guinness. Ping claims he was stung about 20 times during the 40-minute stunt. [12 photos]


Frozen In Time: The Cyprus Buffer Zone

This year marks four decades since the Cyprus National Guard staged a coup that led to Turkish military intervention and escalated the civil war between the Greek and Turkish communities on the island. After the ceasefire, a heavily restricted buffer zone, controlled by the United Nations, was established between the north and south. It stretches 180 km (112 mi) across the whole island measuring 7.4 km (4.6 mi) at its widest and 3.3 m (11 ft) at its narrowest point. The demilitarized zone is restricted to the general public and no Greek or Turkish Cypriots are allowed inside. Reuters photographer Neil Hall recently visited the buffer zone, which still contains crumbling relics of times gone by - abandoned houses, businesses, and even an airport - crumbling snapshots of Cyprus in 1974. [28 photos]


Smithsonian Magazine's 2013 Photo Contest

The editors of Smithsonian magazine have just announced the 60 finalists in their 11th annual photo contest. They've kindly allowed me to share several of these images here, including some great shots from each of the competition's six categories: The Natural World, Travel, People, Americana, Altered Images and Mobile, a new category this year. [16 photos]


London and the U.K. From Above

Photographer Jason Hawkes has been making fascinating aerial images since 1991. With a gyro-stabilized camera, he takes photos directly from the open door of a helicopter. Hawkes has covered subjects around the world, but specializes in aerial shots of the United Kingdom. Once more, he's been kind enough to share some of his recent photos with us here. [24 photos]


Nyepi, the Balinese 'Day of Silence'

Every year, Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali celebrate Nyepi, the Balinese New Year's Day. Nyepi is a day of silence, reserved for self-reflection, where people stay home and are not allowed to use lights, start fires, work, travel or enjoy entertainment - even tourists are asked not to leave their hotels. However, the days surrounding Nyepi are anything but silent - several rituals of offering and cleansing take place before and after New Year's Day, to rid worshipers of past evils and bestow good fortune in the year ahead. Devotees burn huge demonic effigies, whip each other with fiery coconut husks, give prayers and offerings, and young couples are doused with water during a lively kissing festival. Gathered here are images from Nyepi rituals in Bali and other parts of Indonesia over the past few years. [27 photos]


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