A photo blog of world events by Sacbee.com Assistant Director of Multimedia Tim Reese.
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January 31, 2013
Roadside bomb kills two polio workers in NW Pakistan

PARACHINAR, Pakistan (AP) -- A roadside bomb killed two Pakistani polio workers on their way to vaccinate children in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border on Thursday, an official said.

The two men were on their way to Malikhel village as part of the U.N.-backed anti-polio campaign when the bomb hit their motorcycle, said government administrator Yousuf Rahim.

The attack -- the third this week against polio workers in Pakistan -- took place in the Kurram region, a known militant stronghold.

Rahim said it was not immediately clear if the two workers killed Thursday were the actual target of the bombing.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but suspicion fell on Islamic militants.

Some of the militants oppose the vaccination campaign, accuse health workers of acting as spies for the U.S. and claim the polio vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile.

Pakistan is one of only three countries where the crippling disease is endemic. The virus usually infects children living in unsanitary conditions; it attacks the nerves and can kill or paralyze. As many as 56 polio cases were reported in Pakistan during 2012, down from 190 the previous year, according to the United Nations.

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A Pakistani schoolgirl, who was displaced with her family from Pakistan's tribal areas due to fighting between militants and the army, receives a polio vaccine from a health worker, while other children wait their turn, at their school in a poor neighborhood on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013. AP / Muhammed Muheisen
January 29, 2013
Egypt army chief warns state could collapse

PORT SAID, Egypt (AP) -- Thousands of mourners chanting for the downfall of Egypt's president marched in funerals again Tuesday in the restive city of Port Said as the army chief warned the state could collapse if the latest political crisis drags on.

Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's warning, his first comments after six days of rioting and violence across much of the country, appeared aimed at pressuring Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in particular but also his opponents to find some common ground and the worst political crisis to hit Egypt since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak nearly two years ago.

So far, the military -- which for months seems to have had an understanding with Morsi -- has allowed him to deal with the crisis and on his orders deployed troops and tanks over the weekend in Port Said and Suez, two riot-torn cities along the strategic Suez Canal.

But it has been willing to go only so far, clearly reluctant to clash with protesters. Troops stood by and watched Monday night as thousands took to the streets in direct defiance of a nighttime curfew and a 30-day state of emergency declared by Morsi in the cities.

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Egyptian protesters celebrate the capture of a state security armored vehicle that demonstrators commandeered during clashes with security forces and brought to Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. AP / Amr Nabil
January 28, 2013
Detentions made in Brazil fire, funerals begin

SANTA MARIA, Brazil (AP) -- There was no fire alarm. There were no sprinklers or fire escapes. And when a band member tried to put out a fire that had been started by pyrotechnics, the extinguisher didn't work.

All the elements were in place for the tragedy at the Kiss nightclub early Sunday. The result was the world's worst fire of its kind in more than a decade, with 231 people dead and this southern Brazilian city in shock and mourning.

Funerals began on Monday, as reports continued to emerge about the accumulation of neglect and errors at the packed night spot. Brazilian police officials said Monday they've made three detentions and are seeking a fourth person in connection with a blaze. -- story updated 1 p.m., Monday, Jan. 28

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A man cries during the burial of Vinicius Rosado, who died in a nightclub fire, at a cemetery in Santa Maria, Brazil, Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. AP / Felipe Dana
January 24, 2013
Deep freeze to continue into weekend in East

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- A teeth-chattering cold wave with subzero temperatures is expected to keep its icy grip on much of the eastern U.S. into the weekend before seasonable temperatures bring relief.

A polar air mass blamed for multiple deaths in the Midwest moved into the Northeast on Wednesday, prompting the National Weather Service to issue wind chill warnings across upstate New York and northern New England and creating problems for people still trying to rebound from Superstorm Sandy.

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A barge motors through arctic sea-smoke on its way out of Portland Harbor, where the temperatures at sunrise was about minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, in Portland, Maine. AP / Robert F. Bukaty
January 23, 2013
Fight for Mali town reflects Islamist tactics

DIABALY, Mali (AP) -- Abou Zeid, the shadowy and feared emir of one of al-Qaida's most successful cells, commandeered the packed-dirt home of a family here last week, embedding himself and his hundreds of men in this community of rice growers. He ate spaghetti and powdered milk, read the Quran and planned a war.

His bearded and turbaned men parked cars under the mango trees of the farmers, slept in their bedrooms and turned their courtyards into command centers and their warehouses into armories. And it took eight days before French air strikes finally drove them out of Diabaly, a pinprick of a town, in the first major showdown of the struggle to reclaim Mali's al-Qaida-occupied north.

The tactics used by the Islamist fighters in Diabaly offer a peephole into the kind of insurgency they plan to lead, and suggest the challenges the international community will face in the effort to dislodge them. They show how the Islamists are holding their ground despite a superior French force with sophisticated fighter jets, a fleet of combat helicopters and hundreds of soldiers.

"The only thing that prevented the French planes from annihilating these people is that they were hiding in our homes. The French did everything to avoid civilian casualties," said Gaoussou Kone, a resident of the Berlin neighborhood of Diabaly, where Abou Zeid set up his command center. "That's why it took so long to liberate Diabaly."

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French foreign legionnaires get ready in Niono, some 400 kilometers (249 miles) north of the capital Bamako, Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013. AP / Jerome Delay
January 20, 2013
Thousands plunge into icy waters for Epiphany

Thousands of Russian Orthodox Church followers plunged Friday and Saturday into icy rivers and ponds across Russia and Belarus to mark the approaching Epiphany, cleansing themselves with water deemed holy for the day. Water that is blessed by a cleric on Epiphany is considered holy and pure until next year's celebration, and is believed to have special powers of protection and healing. The Russian Orthodox Church follows the old Julian calendar, according to which Epiphany falls on Jan.19. Moscow temperatures on Saturday night dropped to -10 C ( 14 F).

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Russian Orthodox believers swim in the icy water on Epiphany at a pond in at a pond in Tyarlevo village outside St.Petersburg, Russia, early Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. The temperature in St.Petersburg was -26C ( -14.8 F). AP / Dmitry Lovetsky
January 16, 2013
Dakar Rally 2013

Competitors finished the eleventh stage of the Dakar Rally on Wednesday. The long-distance race involving hundreds of cars and motorbikes began on Saturday, Jan. 5 in Lima, Peru. The race traverses Argentina and Chile before ending Jan. 20, in Santiago, Chile. The 15-day race is a challenge in driving as well as orienteering and survival.

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Yamaha rider David Casteu of France rides on a stretch of fesh-fesh during the 5th stage of the 2013 Dakar Rally from Arequipa, Peru, to Arica, Chile, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. The race finishes in Santiago, Chile, on Jan. 20. AP / Victor R. Caivano
January 14, 2013
Millions of Hindus enter Ganges during festival

ALLAHABAD, India (AP) -- Indian authorities braced for one of the world's largest religious gatherings with more than 10 million Hindus entered the Ganges River early Monday to cleanse their sins in a festival held once every 12 years.

Naked ash-smeared holy men with long hair and beards and tridents in their hands held a massive procession to the riverbank in Allahabad where the Ganges joins the Yamuna River, and according to Hindu belief, the mythical Saraswati River. They entered the water at the auspicious time of 5 a.m. amid the chanting of hymns and blowing of conch shells.

Masses of people, their hands clasped in prayer, walk knee-deep into the frigid water, with temperature expected to dip to about 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees F).

Devout Hindus believe bathing in the Ganges during the festival can cleanse their sins and free them from the cycle of death and rebirth.

More than 100 million pilgrims from India and abroad were expected to attend the 55-day Maha Kumbh festival, said Devesh Chaturvedi, an official of Uttar Pradesh state in northern India.

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Hindu devotees take a dip at Sangam, the confluence of the Rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati as others cross a make shift bridge, on one of the most auspicious day Makar Sankranti, the first day of the Maha Kumbh Mela, in Allahabad, India, Monday, Jan. 14, 2013. AP / Rajesh Kumar Singh
January 11, 2013
Mysticism, modernity abound in Benin Voodoo fest

OUIDAH, Benin (AP) -- The deified residents of the Temple of Pythons, when released to find food, sometimes slither across the road into a Catholic church that once hosted Pope Benedict XVI. The local priest, the snake handlers say, is always good enough to call or bring the gorging reptiles back to their own spiritual home.

This is life in Ouidah, a mecca of spirits and gods worshipped by practitioners of Voodoo, a recognized religion in this former French colony in West Africa that is home to 9 million people. The religion has its own pope -- or two, depending on who you ask -- whose reign dates back to the 1400s and can be seen about town in his SUV.

This past Thursday, local banks and the post office closed as the town celebrated its annual Voodoo Festival, an event increasingly drawing curious foreigners. With its mix of beliefs and traditions, the Voodoo practiced here shows both a clash of cultures and the ability for ancient traditional beliefs to adapt to modern life.

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Aduare Achumba, a visitor to the Temple of Pythons, reacts as a guide puts a python on her head in Ouidah, Benin, on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. Ouidah, considered the major cultural city in the West African nation of Benin, held its annual Voodoo Festival on Thursday. Voodoo is an official religion in this nation of 9 million people and this year's festival honored the slaves taken from surrounding countries and sent into America and the Caribbean, people who brought the religion with them. AP / Sunday Alamba
January 9, 2013
Winter storm brings more misery to Syrian refugees

ZAATARI, Jordan (AP) -- A winter storm is magnifying the misery for tens of thousands of Syrians fleeing the country's civil war, turning a refugee camp into a muddy swamp where howling winds tore down tents and exposed the displaced residents to freezing temperatures.

Some frustrated refugees at a camp in Zaatari, where about 50,000 are sheltered, attacked aid workers with sticks and stones after the tents collapsed in 35 mph (60 kph) winds, said Ghazi Sarhan, spokesman for the Jordanian charity that helps run the camp. Police said seven Jordanian workers were injured.

After three days of rain, muddy water engulfed tents housing refugees including pregnant women and infants. Those who didn't move out used buckets to bail out the water; others built walls of mud to try to stay dry.

Conditions in the Zaatari camp were "worse than living in Syria," said Fadi Suleiman, a 30-year-old refugee.

Most of Zaatari's residents are children under age 18 and women. They are some of the more than 280,000 Syrians who fled to Jordan since the uprising against President Bashar Assad broke out in March 2011. As the fighting has increased in recent weeks, the number of displaced has risen.

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A Syrian refugee stands on top of a water tank at Zaatari refugee camp, near the Syrian border in Mafraq, Jordan, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. The unusual weather was a particularly harsh blow for the vulnerable Syrian refugees, especially about 50,000 sheltering in the Zaatari tent camp in Jordan's northern desert. Torrential rains over the past four days have flooded 200 tents and forced women and infants to evacuate in temperatures below freezing at night, whipping wind and lashing rain. AP / Mohammad Hannon
January 7, 2013
More than 100 die in historic Indian cold snap

LUCKNOW, India (AP) -- More than 100 people have died of exposure as northern India deals with historically cold temperatures.

Police spokesman Surendra Srivastava said Thursday that at least 114 people have died from the recent cold in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Many were poor people whose bodies were found on sidewalks or in parks.

The weather department said temperatures were 4 to 10 degrees Celsius (7 to 18 degrees Fahrenheit) below normal in the state.

Temperatures in New Delhi, which borders Uttar Pradesh, hit a high Wednesday of 9.8 degrees (49.6 Fahrenheit), the lowest maximum temperature in the capital since 1969.

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An Indian ragpicker is wrapped in a blanket as he sits in a market on a cold morning in New Delhi, India, Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. North India continues to face below average weather conditions with dense fog affecting flights and trains. More than 100 people have died of exposure as northern India deals with historically cold temperatures. AP / Kevin Frayer
January 4, 2013
Traditions in Chad harm, kill underfed children

MOUSSORO, Chad (AP) -- On the day of their son's surgery, the family woke before dawn. They saddled their horses and set out across the 12-mile-long carpet of sand to the nearest town, where they hoped the reputed doctor would cure their frail, feverish baby.

The neighboring town, almost as poor and isolated as their own, hosts a foreign-run emergency clinic for malnourished children. But that's not where the family headed.

The doctor they chose treats patients behind a mud wall. His operating room is the sand lot that serves as his front yard. His operating table is a plastic mat lying on the dirt. His surgical tools include a screwdriver. And his remedy for malnourished children is the removal, without antiseptic or anesthesia, of their teeth and uvula.

That day, three other children were brought to the same traditional doctor, their parents paying up to $6 for a visit, or more than a week's earnings. Not even a mile away, the UNICEF-funded clinic by contrast admitted just one child for its free service, delivered by trained medical professionals.

The 4:1 ratio that you see in this sandy courtyard on just one day in just one town is a microcosm of what is happening all over Chad, and it helps to explain why, despite an enormous, international intervention, malnutrition continues to soar to scandalous levels throughout the Sahel.

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Mothers feed their malnourished children at a nutritional health clinic run by Action Against Hunger with the support of UNICEF, in Mao, Chad on Nov. 4, 2012. In this Sahel nation, childhood malnutrition and related mortality persist at alarming rates, despite the fact that many affected families live within a day's journey of internationally-funded nutrition clinics. One reason is that families, bound by local custom, choose instead to seek traditional treatments, treatments which can lead to the very infections that kill their undernourished children. AP / Rebecca Blackwell