• Genre: Power Metal / Heavy Metal
    Label: Steamhammer
    Playing time: 57:28
    Band homepage: Pell, Axel Rudi


    1. The Inquisitorial Procedure
    2. Tower of Lies
    3. Long Way to Go
    4. Burning Chains    
    5. When Truth Hurts    
    6. Changing Times
    7. Touching Heaven
    8. High Above
    9. Hey Hey My My (Neil Young cover)
    10. Into the Storm
    Pell, Axel Rudi - Into The Storm

    AXEL RUDI PELL already comes around with his sixteenth studio record entitled “Into The Storm”. Despite the band’s regular high quality releases, the group around the guitarist from Wattenscheid where even local legends like the punk band DIE KASSIERER haven’t heard of him for many years has always remained an underground band. The group still has close ties to the European Heavy and Power Metal scenes of the late eighties and a few American Hard Rock ballads of the same time. The reason why this band never got the credit it deserved is maybe due to the fact that the old guitar player of STEELER fame gave his project a rather odd name which is simply his own. Another point could be the fact that the band never really revolutionized the genre or tried out any experiments. You really know what to expect when you pick up an AXEL RUDI PELL record which can be seen as a charismatic strength but also as a repetitive weakness. Last but not least, the somewhat cheesy lyrics are also a considerable issue. One still hears worn-out high school rhymes like “fire” and “desire” or “pain” and “rain” on this album. Oh boy!

    The band’s lack of success is surely not due to its song writing qualities and sound. The German band delivers once again a balanced mixture of gracious nostalgia and fresh power on this record. The mid-tempo songs have an epic touch and are carried by melodic but gripping riffs. The new rhythm section is more than just solid as well. The keyboards add some more epic atmosphere to the tracks without taking too much space. Almost all songs have extremely catchy hooks carried by the powerful and charismatic vocals by Johnny Gioeli who is definitely one of the genre’s most underrated singers.

    While some songs obviously sound quite alike on here, this album includes no stinker and has a constant high quality. Highlights include the heavy but atmospheric Heavy Metal anthem “Tower Of Lies” which is a well chosen opener. Another outstanding piece of music is the diversified “Touching Heaven” that starts as a keyboard driven half ballad before a much darker tone pushes this epic somewhere between IRON MAIDEN, RAINBOW and SCORPIONS forward. The powerful and bass guitar driven mid-up-tempo banger “High Above” is also quite solid. Last but not least, the somewhat lengthy but nevertheless addicting closer “Into The Storm” that includes some keyboard driven folk elements and an atmospheric closure is another track that stays on your mind after the first few spins. Let's add that even the NEIL YOUNG cover "Hey Hey My My" is performed with passion and convinces as an orchestrated Hard Rock ballad with goosebump vocals.

    In times where comparable German bands such as AXXIS, EDGUY, GAMMA RAY, PRIMAL FEAR and SINNER are releasing somewhat lackluster records, AXEL RUDI PELL still incarnates the power other Power Metal bands seem to have lost. Fans of DIO, JORN, LIZZY BORDEN and even WHITESNAKE will also feel at home when they are listening to this release. The veterans are really attacking the genre thrown this year. They don’t do it with a big bang but prove their honest consistency that their colleagues have lost over the last years. That's why I'm so particularly impressed with this release. Sometimes, the simplest ingredients make the best dishes. Fans of all aforementioned bands should check this album out as it’s never too late to discover AXEL RUDI PELL.

    (Online January 20, 2014)

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  • Genre: Progressive Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 53:33
    Band homepage: -


    1. Overture
    2. Bridge Of Sorrow
    3. The Last Trial
    4. Endless Sky
    5. Truth Be Told
    6. Fallen From Grace
    7. Black Judgment Day
    8. Dream Survives
    9. Prayer To Survive
    10. The Curtains Fall


    Vital Science - Imaginations On The Subject Of Infinity

    VITAL SCIENCE is a Progressive Metal band with several Symphonic Power Metal influences. The project is composed by members from Estonia and Latvia and also features Brazilian guitarist Thiago Trinsi in three tracks who is usually involved in Taiwanese Symphonic Power Metal band SERAPHIM.

    The project’s first output entitled “Imaginations On The Subject Of Infinity” sounds as sophisticated as many tracks on this release happen to be. “Fallen From Grace” features for example a lengthy instrumental section with vivid keyboard patterns, a beautiful guitar solo and some quite technical and modern metal riffs. The whole thing is surrounded by melodic but grounded and even slightly raw vocals that are shining in one of the record’s catchiest choruses. This track is not only among my favourites but also quite representative for the entire album. Sharp and technical riffs, dominant keyboards, a few orchestral sound samples here and there, modern progressive instrumental sections and charismatic vocals are the ingredients in here. Keyboarder Sergey Boykov is the most impression among these skilled musicians in my humble opinion. To give you a reference, I would say that this band sounds quite similar to SYMPHONY X.

    While this mixture is technically stunning and emotionally energizing, only a few tracks really stand out on here as most songs sound quite alike. Especially the guitar riffs in the verses sound too similar on this release. The dark symphonic elements and harp samples in the faster “Black Judgement Day” are amazing while the keyboard solos would even make AYREON and DREAM THEATER jealous. “Truth Be Told” is probably the record’s most epic track and opens with almost cinematic orchestral passages that can also be heard in the chorus section while the rest of the song has an American Power Metal touch.

    Fans of powerful Progressive Metal with hard riffs, majestic orchestrations and a clever use of keyboards should definitely dig this release. The record is technically impressive and has also emotionally driven parts that can convince. The overall lack of diversity in the song writing concerning the guitar riffs is probably the biggest flaw on here but doesn’t stop this album from being a promising first genre highlight of the early year 2014. If you’re intrigued by my review, you can listen to or purchase the record under the following link: http://www.powerprog.net/releases_vital_science_imaginations.html

    (Online January 20, 2014)

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  • Dear readers,

    I just felt like sharing three intriguing survival stories with you that I will be teaching to my students later this week. I will soon update the "school" section of my blog with many inspiring tasks and texts I have created over the last month. This is just an appetizer for those who share my passion for energizing adventures, foreign cultures, moving history, foreign languages and - of course - teaching. Enjoy!


    Incredible survival stories

    Name: ___________________________________ Group: _______


    1. Read these three texts about an incredible survival story. Underline the most important facts (how, what, when, where, who and why).

    2. Do the short tasks below each text.


    Shackleton’s expedition to the Antarctic in 1914

    Sir Ernest Shackleton was an Irish polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. During one of these expeditions that started in August 1914, his ship «Endurance» got crushed in pack ice and eventually sank under the big pressure.

    The crew first thought of crossing Antarctica on foot but they abandoned this idea. Over one year and a half, Shackleton led the crew across different ice floes in the hope that they would drift them to a safer place.

    This plan didn’t work out either and the crew decided to use the lifeboats of the shipwreck to make their way to Elephant Island. Shackleton’s concern for his men was such that he even gave away his mittens to a photographer who had lost his during the expedition. As a result, Shackleton suffered frostbitten fingers.

    Elephant Island was an inhospitable place, far from any shipping routes. Shackleton decided to risk an open-boat journey to the South Georgia whaling stations. He chose five members of his crew and they made various improvements on the biggest lifeboat, christened «James Caird», including raising the sides, strengthening the keel, building a makeshift deck of wood and canvas, and sealing the work with oil paint and seal blood. Shackleton refused to pack supplies for more than four weeks, knowing that if they did not reach South Georgia within that time, the boat and its crew would be lost.

    A little bit more than two weeks after its launch, the ship came near to cliffs of South Georgia but hurricane-force winds prevented the possibility of landing. The crew would later learn that the same

    hurricane had sunk a giant steamer. The day after, the crew could finally land on the unoccupied southern shore.

    Shackleton then chose two members of his crew to travel more than fifty kilometers over mountainous terrain to reach the closest whaling station. Shackleton made it to that station and was able to organize the rescue of his entire crew with a British whaler and a tug of the Chilean government.

    After many more months, the crew finally made it back to civilization when it arrived in Valparaiso in Chile in June 1916.


    Task 1: Describe one significant event that explains how much Sir Ernest Shackleton cared for his crew.


    Task 2: Describe how the surviving crew members transformed the lifeboat to send it on its crucial open-boat journey to South Georgia.


    Task 3: Explain the danger of the hurricane-force winds during the lifeboat journey.



    Andes flight disaster in 1972

    Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 was a chartered flight carrying forty-five people on board, including a rugby team, their associates, families and friends. The Old Christians Club rugby union team from the capital Montevideo was scheduled to play a game in Santiago de Chile. After declining weather conditions, the plane had to make an unexpected overnight stop in Mendoza, Argentina. When the plane continued its journey and was already about to cross the Andes and land in the city of Curico, strong headwinds pushed the plane on an unnamed peak. The plane clipped the peak at 4,200 metres, severing the right wing, which was thrown back with such force that it cut off the vertical stabilizer, leaving a gaping hole in the rear of the fuselage. The plane then clipped a second peak which severed the left wing and left the plane as just a fuselage flying through the air. One of the propellers sliced through the fuselage as the wing it was attached to was severed. The fuselage hit the ground and slid down a steep mountain slope before finally coming to rest in a snow bank.

    Twelve people died immediately during the crash. Another five injured passengers deceased the morning after the crash. The remaining twenty-seven survivors didn’t have cold-weather clothing or footwear, mountaineering goggles to prevent snow blindness or equipment to climb the mountain down. They didn’t have any material to give signs to crossing planes over the mountains. There were no batteries in the cockpit to restart the system and call for help. The survivors only had a small amount of food including chocolate bars, assorted snacks and several bottles of wine. They could make some snow melt but there wasn’t any other food on the mountain.

    Search parties from three different countries were looking for the plane. It was hard to find because its white color blended with the snow, making it nearly invisible from the sky. The surviving members had tried to write a big “S.O.S.” with the help of lipsticks on the plane but that didn’t help either. After eight days of search, the rescue missions were cancelled. The survivors listened to that news on a small transistor radio that they had found in the collapsed plane.

    The survivors were almost starving to death at that moment. They decided to eat the flesh from the bodies of their dead comrades. This decision was not taken lightly because most people on the plane knew each other. Some were classmates or even good friends.

    Around two weeks after the crash, an avalanche cascaded down on the group and killed eight more people in their sleep. The other survivors were buried under several feet of snow in the plane. One survivor was able to poke a hole in the snow to provide ventilation. The group was finally able to make its way through the snow.

    Several brief expeditions were made in the immediate vicinity of the plane in the first few weeks after the crash, but the survivors found that a combination of altitude sickness, dehydration, snow blindness, malnourishment and the extreme cold of the nights made climbing any significant distance an impossible task.

    They waited several weeks to prepare for a final mission through the mountains. They wanted to launch their mission in summer time when it would be easier to climb off the mountain. A small group got the most rations of food, the warmest clothes and spared any daily labor in order to build their strength. The group finally went on its crucial mission and found the broken tail of the plane in a valley. The group found batteries inside that part of the plane and decided to go back to the group and power up the radio in the cockpit. The plan didn’t work out because the plane’s electrical system used alternating current while the batteries only produced direct current.

    The group then decided to build a giant sleeping bag made of insulating cloth to face the cold nights in the ice and snow outside the shelter of the plane wreck. Three men hiked for several days to find help. When they were running out of rations, one of the men was sent back to the plane wreck. After nine days, the remaining two men finally met some horsemen who were able to save them one day later. The horsemen also contacted the police and the military.

    With the help of two helicopters, the survivors at the crash site were finally saved but that rescue took two more days because the helicopters were too small and the weather conditions too bad. After two months and a half, sixteen out of forty-five people had survived.

    Task 4: Describe at least two different rescue attempts of the group before they were finally saved.



    Task 5: Explain how and why the survivors decided to eat their dead comrades and become cannibals.


    Task 6: Describe why the survivors weren’t able to climb off that mountain in the beginning and why they decided to wait many weeks to send out a team of three hikers.




    Ghinsberg’s Amazon Travel in 1981

    Yossi Ghinsberg was an Israeli adventurer and author who lived in Australia. After his service in Israeli navy, he decided to travel to South America when he was twenty-two years old.

    When he was in LaPaz, Bolivia, he met Karl Rurechter, an Austrian who claimed to be a geologist. Karl told Ghinsberg that he was planning an expedition into the uncharted Amazon of Bolivia in search for gold in a very remote Indian village. Ghinsberg and two of his new friends he had met in South America decided to join the expedition. Ghinsberg was looking for some kind of naïve romance while his two friends were looking for new challenges and thrills. These two friends were an American photographer called Kevin and a Swiss traveller called Marcus. However, they later learned that Karl was lying about the gold and the Indian village and just looking for an adventure.

    After traveling through the rainforest for a month, the group realized that they were ill-equipped and lost. They decided to go back to civilization. The four men built a raft to evacuate on a river. However, the group had disagreements, which led to them breaking up. Kevin and Ghinsberg decided to take the raft down the river while Karl and Marcus decided to walk upriver. Karl and Marcus were never heard from again.

    Ghinsberg and Kevin lost control of the raft as it neared a waterfall and hit a rock. Kevin made it to shore but Ghinsberg floated downstream and over the waterfall. Ghinsberg spent the next nineteen days without supplies and equipment in an unchartered part of Amazon in a brutal environment. He had to fight venomous snakes, starvation and extreme pain.

    Ghinsberg survived a late-night encounter with a jaguar by improvising a flame thrower when he set light to an insect-repellent spray. He ate fruits and raw eggs scavenged from jungle-chicken nests. He faced a terrible flood where he nearly sunk in a bug. His feet hurt so bad that Ghinsberg shook a tree of fire ants just to have some other pain to distract him from his constantly aching feet. In the last few days, he even invented the presence of a girl that would go through the rainforest with him.

    Meanwhile, Kevin was found by a tribe and asked the indigenous people to try and find Ghinsberg. After several hours on the river, the rescue mission had already given up when they were forced upstream to land the boat in order to turn around and get back to the village. By pure coincidence, they landed the boat in a place where Ghinsberg had finally collapsed unconscious. Nineteen days after their separation and after three days of search, Kevin and two indigenous people were finally able to save Yossi Ghinsberg. The two men were brought back to civilization and are some of the very few adventurers who had survived their suicidal expedition into the depths of the rainforest.

    Task 7: Describe the four members of the ill-fated expedition and their intentions.



    Task 8: Create a list of all the different dangers Ghinsberg had to face when he was all alone in the rainforest for nineteen days.


    Task 9: Explain how Kevin tried and finally succeeded to save his friend Yossi Ghinsberg.




    Task 10: If you were forced to pick one of these three situations and go through all these reported and very dangerous events, which one would you choose and why?


    Stay tuned for more diversified updates on my blog!

    Sincerely yours,


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  • January 16, 2014 in Top Lists

    Here comes my list of my favorite metal albums of the year 2013, plus a short list of highly anticipated records for 2014!


    12. Turisas – Turisas2013

    The Finnish power folk metal act delivers its most experimental and controversial record, and that’s what makes this album so entertaining, unique, and unpredictable.

    Saltatio Mortis IXI

    11. Saltatio Mortis – Das Schwarze Einmaleins

    The German medieval rock band delivers one of its best records ever, filled with a balanced mixture of joyful and vivid hymns, as well as some dark and intellectual lyrics.

    In Extremo - Kunstraub

    10. In Extremo – Kunstraub

    In Extremo is still the best German medieval rock band around, and delivers a record filled with tearjerking folk ballads, modern industrial bangers, and joyous anthems for the crowd.

    Ewigheim - Nachruf

    9. Ewigheim – Nachruf

    The German gothic metal band delivers a record filled with numerous catchy anthems thanks to simple but effective instrumentation, dark but passionate lyrics, and charismatic vocals.


    8. Ivory Twilight – Seven

    This symphonic power metal act from Bulgaria convinces with a diversified, experimental, and open-minded debut record featuring more fresh ideas than any other genre band in recent memory, as well as a stunning mixture of three very different vocalists.


    7. Activator – Defender Of Life

    The Russian heavy/power metal project released two records in one year, with the first one being by far the best and freshest metal opera release that easily beats out Avantasia, Ayreon, or Timo Tolkki’s Avalon this year.


    6. Tyr – Valkyrja

    The legends from the Faroe Islands are back with one of their finest efforts ever, featuring atmospheric ballads, authentic folk-driven tracks, progressive heavy metal epics, energizing Viking metal hymns, and even two fantastic cover songs.


    5. Voivod – Target Earth

    The French-Canadian progressive thrash metal band is back with a bang, and even though this record goes back to the band’s legendary outputs Killing TechnologyDimension Hatröss, and Nothingface, the new release sounds fresh, motivated, and open-minded.


    4. Atrocity – Okkult

    This German metal band has always been a hit or miss thing, and has covered pretty much everything from brutal death metal over gothic rock to ethereal folk rock, but their newest output is probably their best, as it features many atmospheric extreme metal, as well as some experimentation in a highly consistent and coherent album.

    Stratovarius Nemesis

    3. Stratovarius – Nemesis

    I have always been a fan of earlier Stratovarius records such as the atmospheric Twilight Time, the progressive masterpiece Dreamspace, and the open-minded power metal milestone Visions, but the last few years had been rather chaotic and disappointing apart from the more interesting Elysium. The highly diverse, emotionally passionate, and absolutely energizing hit record Nemesis is more than just a return to form, but a career milestone that is only beaten out for me by Dreamspace.


    2. Amorphis – Circle

    Amorphis is my favorite metal band ever, and their most recent effort is one of their best, featuring one of my favorite songs ever, “Hopeless Days”, as well as many other greats like “Narrow Path” or the courageous black metal-driven highlight “Nightbird’s Song”.

    Orphaned Land 2013

    1. Orphaned Land – All Is One

    Israel’s dynamic folk, progressive, and symphonic metal band Orphaned Land put out its very finest effort this year. My best album of the year combines epic symphonic metal with exotic middle eastern folk songs and open-minded lyrics with a relevant and true message. This here is by far the best text passage in any song of the year: “Evil falls on each of us, there’s nothing new; who cares if you’re a Muslim or a Jew; the awakened ones are nothing but a few; and the one to make the difference now is YOU.”

    Honorable mentions:

    13. Bader Nana – Anthology (Kuwait) // 14. Dagoba – Post Mortem Nihil Est (France) // 15. Ai Weiwei – The Divine Comedy (China) // 16. Tang Dynasty – Thorn (China) // 17. Black Sabbath – 13 (United Kingdom) // 18. Anvil – Hope In Hell (Canada) // 19. The Maintenance – Under Construction (Japan) // 20. Keldian – Outbound (Norway) // 21. Helloween – Straight Out Of Hell (Germany) // 22. The Vision Bleak – Witching Hour (Germany) // 23. Avantasia – The Mystery Of Time (Germany) // 24. Anarchadia – Let Us All Unite (Syria) // 25. Chthonic – Bu-Tik (Taiwan)

    Most anticipated releases for 2014:

    Black Infinity – The Illuminati Of Love And Death I & II (Vietnam) // Crematory – Antiserum (Germany) // Gamma Ray – Empire Of The Undead (Germany) // Sabaton – Heroes (Sweden) // Sonata Arctica – Pariah’s Child (Finland) // Tengger Cavalry – Ancient Call (China) / Within Temptation – Hydra (Netherlands) // Xandria – Sacrificium (Germany)

    Possible new Anthrax record (United States of America) // possible new Apoptygma Berzerk record (Norway) // possible new Edguy record (Germany) // possible new Elvenking record (Italy) // possible new Eluveitie record (Switzerland) // possible new In Flames record (Sweden) // possible new Overkill record (United States of America) // possible new Screaming Savior record (China) // possible new Sexto Sonar record (Venezuela) // possible new Sigh record (Japan) // possible new Therion record (Sweden) // possible new Unisonic record (Germany) // possible new X Japan record (Japan) // and many more

    Please visit:



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  • January:

    In India, authorities filed murder charges against five young men accused of the gang-rape of a 23-year-old university student abroad a New Delhi bus in 2012. This violent crime had shocked the whole world and started discussions about the female condition in that country. In fact, the brutal attack became a symbol of the widespread mistreatment of women in developing countries.

    In Canada and the United States of America, the National Hockey League and its players association agreed to a tentative 10-year deal to end a 113-day lockout. This deal finally enabled the league to salvage the season with a truncated 48-game schedule.

    After years of insisting he was innocent despite several solid accusations against him, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong admitted in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey in the United States of America that he took indeed performance-enhancing drugs in each of his seven Tour de France wins. He has now officially lost those seven titles.


    In Canada, the Royal Canadian Mint officially ended its distribution of one-cent coins to Canada’s financial institutions. Later that year, the Bank of Canada unveiled the brand new $5 and $10 polymer bills. They completed the series of new plastic banknotes.

    The Vatican announced that 85-year old German Pope Benedict XVI would resign by the end of the month. This was considered as the Pope’s most surprising and revolutionary decision. He was the first pontiff to do so since Gregory XII in 1415. The main reasons for this decision were the Pope’s age and his poor health. The month after, Pope Francis from Argentina was chosen as his successor.

    In Russia, a meteor streaked across the sky and exploded over the country’s Ural Mountains. Its sonic boom shattered countless windows and damaged many buildings and vehicles. There were no casualties but nearly 1,000 people got injured.


    In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, who declared a socialist revolution in oil-rich Venezuela and fought against influences from the United States of America, died after a nearly two-year long fight against cancer. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and vice President Nicolas Maduro became his successor after a special election.

    In the Central African Republic, the ongoing conflict between the government and a coalition of rebel groups reached a new height. President François Bozizé quit the country to become a refugee in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The rebels captured the national capital Bangui.

    The members of the European Union agreed on a €10 billion economic bailout for Cyprus. This measure was taken to avoid econocmical problems. The deal precipitated a banking crisis in the island nation. The bailout loan will be equally split between the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism, the European Financial Stability Facility, and the International Monetary Fund.


    In the United States of America, two brothers from southern Russia and Kyrgyzstan exploded two bombs at the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed and 264 got injured. One of the brothers was killed during a shootout while the other was injured and captured.

    In Bangladesh, an eight-story commercial building collapsed. 1,129 factory workers died during that accident and around 2,500 people got injured. This catastrophe led to massive demonstrations against poor working conditions and the exploitation of the population by Western companies.

    Tensions between North and South Korea reached new heights. After a satellite launch, a nuclear test, a cyber-attack, the publication of aggressive propaganda videos and the shutdown of an industrial complex where employees of both countries worked together,  the North Korean government menaced its southern neighbour to be prepared for an eventual attack. Japan took different protective measures against a possible war. The American military sent supplies to South Korea. A potential war was at hand but the North Korean government finally decided to withdraw its missiles and discuss with all other countries involved in the conflict.


    In Great Britain, a British soldier was brutally run over and hacked to death in front of a small crowd by two men in the city of London. One attacker was caught on video complaining about Western troops being involved in different conflicts in developing countries.

    In Turkey, protests contested the urban development plan for Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Similar demonstrations soon took place in the entire country and touched more essential topics such as issues of freedom of assembly, of expression, of press and the division of religion and state. Inspired by the Occupy movements, more than 3,5 million people have taken part in over 5,000 demonstrations until today. Five people were killed and more than 8000 were injured, often by police or military forces.

    In France, the Bill for same-sex marriages was declared legal by the Constitutional Council and signed into law. This decision led to nation-wide and sometimes violent demonstrations and political discussions.


    Computer specialist and former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden shocked the entire world and especially the United States of America with his top secret revelations about mass surveillance programs. He disclosed National Security Agency operations where ordinary people but also important politicians are permanently monitored when they are using their cell phones and the internet. Edward Snowden made some first revelations in China before he was granted political asylum in Russia. The United States of America still try to catch him.

    In Iran, the moderate cleric and former negotiator on nuclear issues Hassan Rouhani won the presidential election. According to himself, he stands for justice, moderation and reforms. He promised to reach out to the Western world and improve relations with the United States of America. Rouhani also encourages personal freedom and free access to information. Since the beginning of his presidency, he has also improved women’s rights by appointing female foreign ministry spokespersons.

    Several extreme floods hit different countries in the whole world. The worst events took place in the state of Uttarakhand in North India but regions in Nepal and China were also touched. More than 5,700 people vanished and are now presumed dead. Around 365 houses got destroyed, 275 houses were partially damaged, many bridges collapsed and 110,000 people got evacuated by paramilitary troops in around 4,200 villages.


    In Egypt, army chief General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi removed the country’s then-incumbent president Mohamed Morsi from power and suspended the Egyptian constitution. This was a result of more and more violent public protest against and for the president. The army declared the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court Adly Mahmoud Mansour acting president. Morsi was put under house arrest and several members of his Muslim Brotherhood were arrested. The coup d’état or revolution led to several more violent protests.

    In Canada, a tragic train derailment takes place in the town of Lac-Mégantic. An unattended 74-car freight train carrying crude oil from the Bakken formation ran away and derailed. This resulted in the fire and explosion of multiple tank cars in the town center. 42 people were confirmed dead with five more missing and presumed dead. More than 30 buildings were destroyed in a one kilometer blast radius.

    In Mexico, the ongoing Drug War between rival drug cartels, Mexican government forces and civilian groups reached new heights of violence. First of all, the Mexican Army captured the supreme leader of Los Zetos drug cartel. Later on, a clash between the Knights Templar Cartel and the federal police left 22 dead in the state of Michoacan. Since the beginning of organized intervention by the Mexican government with the launch of “Operation Michoacan” in late 2006, around 106,000 people were killed and 1.6 million people had to be displaced. The conflict is still far from being over.


    In Nigeria, the so-called Sharia Conflict that began back in 2001 reached new heights of violence. Several northern states want to introduce the Islamic law as the main source of legislation. These claims are supported by militant organizations such as Ansaru and Boko Haram. On the other side, governmental forces refuse these claims and fight these organizations. Since 2001, far over 15,000 people died in the conflict and several thousands of civilians were displaced. After an initially successful governmental offensive against the Boko Haram group, the organization fought back and launched dual attacks on two cities which killed 35 people. The governmental forces replied. They arrested and executed several commanders of the Boko Haram group. The conflict is still ongoing to this day.

    In Syria, the ongoing Civil War gets more and more violent. Government allies, the Syrian opposition, the leaders of the unrecognized breakaway state Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and the Kurdish Supreme Committee are fighting each other since March 2011 and the connected Arab Spring movements. Different international troops regularly think about intervening in the conflict but rather decided to support different belligerents by delivering weapons, help the high amount of refugees or observe the ongoing conflict in a more diplomatic and neutral way. While different rebel forces were sieging and capturing more and more cities, the government stroke back with mysterious chemical attacks last summer.

    In North-West Pakistan, tensions between the governmental forces supported by the United States of America and different insurgent groups supported by al-Qaeda and Taliban led to more violent conflicts last summer. Recent American drone strikes have been heavily criticized. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2004, more than 5,000 soldiers, around 28,000 militants and up to 49,000 civilians died. The conflict is still far from being solved up to this point.


    In Kenya, unidentified gunmen attacked the Westgate Shopping Mall in Nairobi. The attack lasted for three days and ended with a spectacular mass shooting between governmental forces and the terrorists. 72 people died including 61 civilians, 6 security guards and 5 attackers. As the mall was quite busy and popular, victims come from countries from all around the world such as Canada, People’s Republic of China, India, South Africa, United Kingdom and so on. The Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the incident, which it characterized as retribution for the Kenyan military's deployment in Somalia.

    Tensions arose the uninhabited Senkaku Islands that disputed by three different governments. China, Japan and Taiwan are claiming possession of the small islands that are close to key shipping lanes, potential oil reserves and rich fishing grounds. The islands had previously been under possession of both Imperial China and Japan before it belonged to private owners. The Japanese government bought three of the islands in September 2012 which prompted large-scale protests in China. Since then, different military actions have been taken by both countries and reached a climax in September when two Chinese ships entered territorial waters off the coast of these islands. Many experts prepared for a possible military conflict between China and Japan but the tensions calmed slowly down even though these issues aren’t resolved yet.

    In the United States of America, kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro who had kidnapped and frequently abused three young women and teenagers between 2002 and 2004 and kept them inside his locked-up house committed suicide in prison. The Puerto Rican even had a child with one of the women. Before the kidnappings, he had beaten his wife and abducted some of his four children with her before his wife left him in 1996. Despite these events and the disappearance of the three victims in the nearby area, Ariel Castro was never interrogated. The three missing women were discovered in May 2013 when Ariel Castro forgot to lock one door and when one of the women yelled for help and was heard by some neighbors. Ariel Castro pled guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. One month into his sentence, he hung himself with a bed sheet in his cell.


    In Italy, an overfilled boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank off the island of Lampedusa due to engine trouble. More than 360 people died while the Italian Coast Guard rescued 155 survivors. Migrants had paid at least 3,000 dollars to the Libyan, Somali and Sudanese trafficking group before making the sea crossing. Women who were unable to pay were publically raped and men who rebelled against this were tied up and tortured. A similar shipwreck case took place a few days later when 34 migrants from Syria and Palestine died on a sinking ship within the territorial waters of Malta.

    In Tunisia, secular opposition protesters took to the streets calling for the Islamist government led by the Ennahda Movement to step down which led to several clashes. When the government said it was willing to give up the government but not power, several strikes took place in the entire country. Prime Minister Ali Laarayedh eventually resigned. Independent Minister of Industry Mehdi Jomaa was named successor. Many people continued to protest against the government as they didn’t consider these actions as honest changes because the new Prime Minister had already been involved in politics of his predecessor.

    In Turkey, the opening of a new sea tunnel called “Marmaray” connecting the Asian with the European part of the country across the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul was celebrated by a large crowd. The first phase of the project went into service to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic. The underwater travel between both sides takes 19 minutes. The completion of the entire project is expected in 2015.


    In the Democratic Republic of Kongo, a group of former mutinied soldiers known as the March 23 Movement had been fighting against the government since the formal end of the Second Congo War in 2003. Supported by neighbouring countries Rwanda and Uganda, this Congolese Revolution Army had taken the provincial capital of Goma. After yearlong hostilities, the M23 finally surrendered after a significant government offensive that was partially supported by the United Nations in general and several African countries such as Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania in particular.  

    Typhoon Haiyan was the worst natural disaster of the year 2013. It went through the central Philippines and killed almost 6,000 people. More than 3.6 million people lost their belongings and had to be displaced. Infrastructures such as telecommunication lines, roads as well as water and sanitation systems got destroyed. Non-governmental organizations from all around the world helped the victims and their families.

    In Thailand, important protests against the government led to violent clashes with the police when some protesters forced their way into several government offices. 7 people died while 424 were injured with up to 400,000 protesters being involved in the movement. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decided to dissolve the House of Representatives and triggered a general election for February 2014. Despite these concessions, protesters stated that they would indefinitely occupy the country’s capital Bangkok.


    In Ukraine, massive protests in favour for the country’s access to the European Union demanding more rights and new elections shook up the country. The protesters consider the current government as being too close to Russia, too restrictive and too conservative. Up to 800,000 people joined protesters in the streets in the national capital Kiev only. This anti-governmental movement was soon called “Euromaidan” and became a series of riots or even a revolution. Protesters even made the famous Lenin monument fall. In the New Year, massive protests are still going on in Ukraine.

    In the People’s Republic of China, a new record level of smog was reported in Shanghai. It caused officials to issue the highest level health warning and delaying hundreds of flights. The country’s quick economical rise, its industrialization and its growing population have led to more and more important environmental problems. Deforestation, river exploitation, and waste increases are other reasons for these issues. 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities are in China which has a big effect on life expectancy and quality but also on tourism for example.

    In Russia, two separate suicide bombings targeted mass transportation in the city of Volgograd have killed 34 people including both perpetrators. Over the last two decades, the country has often been the victim of similar terrorist attacks. These are often motivated by radical religious or separatist movements from minorities in South-West Russia. Many experts relate these events to the upcoming Olympic Winter Games which are taking place in the nearby town of Sochi. Some experts express their worries about the possibility of terrorist attacks during the popular event that could get these radical groups immediate worldwide attention.  

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