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Archive for November 2008

November 28, 2008 Permalink

Mumbai under attack

Late Wednesday night, Mumbai, India found itself the target of a ferocious terrorist attack, and the situation remains unresolved even now, three days later. According to reports, upwards of 60 young men entered Mumbai in small inflatable boats on Wednesday night, carrying bags filled with weapons and ammunition, and spread out to nine locations to begin their attacks. Lobbing grenades and firing their weapons, they entered hotels, a railway station and several other buildings, killing scores and wounding even more. As of this moment, the identity of the attackers has yet to be definitively determined, though there are reports indicating some of the gunmen were Pakistani - at least nine of them have been killed, nine more arrested. As of this writing, there were a reported 151 people killed from 11 different countries - though nearly 100 were Indian. More than 300 injuries have also been reported - those numbers may yet rise as several hostage situations still exist in the city. (35 photos total)

A reporter talks on her phone as smoke is seen coming from Taj Hotel in Mumbai November 27, 2008. Large plumes of smoke were seen rising from the top of the landmark Taj Hotel in Mumbai on Thursday and heavy firing could be heard, a Reuters witness said. (REUTERS/Arko Datta)
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November 26, 2008 Permalink

Sichuan's earthquake, six months later

Six months ago, China suffered its worst earthquake in a generation. The magnitude 8.0 Sichuan Earthquake erased many mountain towns and villages from the face of the map, with destruction radiating outward leaving millions homeless, over 300,000 injured, nearly 70,000 dead, and over 18,000 people still listed as missing. Now, as winter approaches, reconstruction is well under way, with priority placed on building houses for survivors still living in temporary tents. China's government has pledged nearly $150 billion over three years toward the reconstruction effort - including new schools which will be built to the highest standards, after government officials admitted some blame for the shodddy construction of hundreds of schools that collapsed in last May's quake, killing up to 10,000 children. [Previously on The Big Picture: Earthquake Damage in Beichuan County, After the Quake] (32 photos total)

Li Mingcui, 61, wearing Qiang minority costumes, holds a red scarf as a sign of respect to the rescuers during the May earthquake at Beichuan County, Sichuan province November 11, 2008. Li was dug out by rescuers from the rubble of a collapsed market about 164 hours after the earthquake on May 12, 2008, local media reported. (REUTERS/Bo Bor)
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November 24, 2008 Permalink

The International Space Station turns 10

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the first launched module of the International Space Station (ISS). The module Zarya was lifted into orbit on November 20th, 1998 by a Russian Proton rocket lifting off from Baikonur, Kazhakstan. In the decade since, 44 manned flights and 34 unmanned flights have carried further modules, solar arrays, support equipment, supplies and a total of 167 human beings from 15 countries to the ISS, and it still has a ways to go until it is done. Originally planned to be complete in 2003, the target date for completion is now 2011. Aside from time spent on construction, ISS crew members work on a good deal of research involving biology and physics in conditions of microgravity. If humans are ever to leave the Earth for extended periods, the ISS is designed to be the place where we will discover the best materials, procedures and safety measures to make it a reality. (32 photos total)

In December 1998, the crew of Space Shuttle Mission STS-88 began construction of the International Space Station - Astronaut James Newman is seen here making final connections the U.S.-built Unity node to the Russian-built Zarya module. The crew carried a large-format IMAX camera from which this picture was taken. (NASA)
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November 21, 2008 Permalink

Congo's crisis worsens

Eighteen days ago, I published an entry titled "Conflict in Congo, refugees on the move", which showed some of the initial chaos resulting from the war erupting once again in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo). In the days since, the civilian population has endured more continued fighting amongst multiple factions, cholera outbreaks, separation from family members, hunger, and further losses (of life, property, safety and trust) as both rebel forces and government soldiers have committed many acts of theft, rape and murder while thinly-stretched UN forces have been unable to provide much help. The organization Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) has recently launched their own multimedia initiative to "bring global attention to the humanitarian consequences of the intensifying war in eastern DR Congo", called Condition:Critical, please take the time to visit and hear the voices that reflect what is seen in the photos below. (39 photos total)

A Congolese child carries two boxes of high nutrition cookies inside the courtyard of the Mercy Corps clinic where the UNICEF and the IMC (International Medical Corps) distributed the cookies, mostly to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) living in a camp in Kibati about 10 kilometers (6.21 miles) north of the provincial capital of Goma, on November 4, 2008. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)
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November 19, 2008 Permalink

Dubai and the UAE

Tomorrow will be the grand opening of the latest addition to the skyline of Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Atlantis Palm Resort, with over 1,500 rooms, will be hosting an opening ceremony with celebrities from around the world tomorrow night. The rapid development in Dubai and across the UAE hasn't all been easy lately, as infrastructure problems (handling rising levels of waste to match massive development), and world financial struggles have slowed progress. Wealthy Dubai continues to grow though, in both land area as new islands are built, and in height as new, taller skyscrapers are planned to best the Burj Dubai, already the tallest in the world. (28 photos total)

Camels are seen early morning on a beach in the Marina area of Dubai October 16, 2008. (REUTERS/Steve Crisp)
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November 17, 2008 Permalink

California wildfires (yet again)

Several wildfires raged throughout Southern California this weekend, in the hills surrounding Los Angeles, burning some 35,000 acres (55 sq mi) and destroying around 1,000 homes as California's Fire Season extends toward becoming a year-round condition. Dry Santa Ana winds of up to 70 mph drove flames and embers across valleys and into neighborhoods, in some cases burning only a few homes, in others, wiping out entire communities. Most of the fires are contained now - the causes still under investigation. Fortunately, few injuries and no deaths have been reported, as some 50,000 evacuees begin returning to their homes to assess the damage. (35 photos total)

A firefighting helicopter flies through a smoke-filled sky over the Pacific Ocean at sunset as firefighters try to gain control of the Tea Fire on November 14, 2008 in Montecito, California. Thirteen people were injured and more than 100 homes destroyed in the first few hours as evening Sundowner Winds reached 70 mph, pushing the wildfire into multi-million dollar ocean-view homes last night. (David McNew/Getty Images)
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November 14, 2008 Permalink

Peering into the micro world

A team of University of Michigan researchers has recently created a set of electron microscope images of carbon nanotube structures depicting images of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama. John Hart, leader of the research team says it wasn't a political statement, but an attempt to draw attention to what is possible these days with nanotechnology, and imaging at the very small scale. I'll take him up on this invitation and share with you some other images of very tiny things in our world. For visualizing the scale, most measurements below are in microns - one micron is a millionth of a meter - human hair is approximately 100 microns thick. (32 photos total)

Images of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, each made with approximately 150 million tiny carbon nanotubes, are photographed using an electron microscope by University of Michigan Mechanical Engineering Department in this image released to Reuters November 10, 2008. The image, based on an original drawing by Shepard Fairey, is just wider than 500 microns and is made of approximately 150 million tiny carbon nanotubes, which is about the number of Americans who voted on November 4, according to John Hart at University of Michigan. (REUTERS/John Hart, Sameh Tawfick, Michael De Volder, and Will Walker/University of Michigan/Handout)
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November 12, 2008 Permalink

Afghanistan's Korengal Valley

Yesterday was Veteran's Day (or Armistice or Remembrance Day, depending on where you live), a day set aside to honor those who have served in the military. Today, on the day after, it seems appropriate to share some photographs of U.S. soldiers currently in the thick of war in Afghanistan. Getty Images photographer John Moore spent some time recently in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, near the Pakistani border, with Viper Company of the 1-26 Infantry, and brought back these images, documenting what he saw. The final two photographs do not involve Korengal, but are striking examples of these difficult and complex times, and the sacrifice of one American family. (31 photos total)

A 50 caliber machine gun points out towards an Afghan village October 23, 2008 at the U.S. Army combat outpost Dallas in the Kunar Province of eastern Afghanistan. OP Dallas is located in the Korengal Valley, site of some of the heaviest combat between American forces and Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan. (John Moore/Getty Images)
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November 10, 2008 Permalink

Scenes from Antarctica

Down in Antarctica, November marks the end of spring, the beginning of austral summer, and the beginning of Antarctica's cruise season. The Sun just rose for the first time in 6 months on September 22nd, and is now visible in the sky all the time. Recent studies in Antarctica have brought new insights into the origins of deep sea octopus species (a 30 million-year-old ancestor from Antarctic waters), volcanic contributions to disappearing antarctic ice, and the effects of increasing numbers of icebergs scouring the seafloor. Collected here are 32 photographs of Antarctica from the past several years. (32 photos total)

After waiting for over two weeks for his mate to return from the sea and relieve him of nest duty, this Adelie penguin's hunger helps him make the decision to abandon his egg in search of fish and krill in the sea. Photo taken December 12, 2002. Known populations of the Adelie penguin have dropped by 65% over the past 25 years. (Melanie Conner/National Science Foundation)
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November 7, 2008 Permalink

Bhutan crowns a new King

The United States was not the only country to name a new leader this week. In Bhutan, an insular nation of about 600,000 people located high in the Himalayas, a new king was crowned. 28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, an Oxford-educated bachelor, was crowned as Bhutan's fifth king - now the world's youngest reigning monarch. Bhutan also has the distinction of being the world's youngest democracy - having held parliamentary elections last March for the first time ever. The young ruler vows to maintain a stance of protection against the worst aspects of globalization, maintaining the "Gross National Happiness", a measurement of national progress that places a high value on spiritual development. Gross National Happiness is a term invented by, and proudly embraced by Bhutanese since 1972. (22 photos total)

Bhutan's fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (right) crowns his son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck as the fifth King of Bhutan, in the Throne room of the Tashichhodzong Palace during the coronation ceremony in Thimphu, Bhutan on November 6, 2008. With medieval tradition and Buddhist spirituality, a 28-year-old with an Oxford education assumed the Raven Crown of Bhutan on Thursday, to guide the world's newest democracy as it emerges into the modern world. (REUTERS/Royal Government of Bhutan/Handout)
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November 5, 2008 Permalink

The next President of the United States

In a vote of historic proportions yesterday, Senator Barack Obama became President-Elect of the United States of America with a 52% majority in the popular vote, and more than 349 electoral votes. Over two years of campaigning was resolved with a record voter turnout, as the Republican candidate John McCain conceded graciously at 11:20 pm eastern last night. With such a high level of interest and attention, there have been millions of words written and photographs taken of the candidates over the past year. Here is a collection of some of the best photos of President-Elect Barack Obama over the past several months. (35 photos total)

Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama speaks at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, October 19, 2008. (REUTERS/Jim Young)
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November 3, 2008 Permalink

Conflict in Congo, refugees on the move

In the eastern mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), a rebel army led by Laurent Nkunda - a former General of the DR Congo armed forces - recently launched attacks and captured territory after a peace treaty had failed with the government. Nkunda's forces are Tutsi rebels, fighting against the DR Congo government forces and U.N. peacekeeeping forces. The U.N. has over 17,000 troops in the Congo right now, but they are widely dispersed, and have been unable to fully protect civilians or even defend their own bases. Nkunda's rebels forced government soldiers to retreat from intense battles up to the edges of the provincial capital of Goma. The biggest losers in this conflict are the hundreds of thousands of civilians caught in the middle - forced to relocate repeatedly, many victims of looting, rape and murder by both advancing rebels and some government soldiers - looking to thinly-spread U.N. forces for help. The humanitarian crisis and threat of further regional destabilization, has made this conflict a top U.N. priority recently. (31 photos total)

A Congolese woman cries as she marches with thousands of Congolese people toward the provincial capital of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on October 29, 2008. Refugees began arriving shortly after violence started between Forces loyal to renegade Laurent Nkunda and the Congolese army. (WALTER ASTRADA/AFP/Getty Images)
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