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the Big Picture

Archive for February 2009

February 27, 2009 Permalink

Portraits from the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), fighting continues among various rebel armies, tribes, the Congolese army and U.N. forces. The dire situation has prompted the government of DR Congo to ask for help, and invite the armies of neighboring South Sudan, Rwanda and Uganda to enter their territory on several joint operations, to hunt down and pacify or dismantle at least two major rebel armies operating in the lawless border region. Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda was captured in January by Rwandan forces, but his army is still active - and Ugandan troops are seeking out the rebel Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army, which has taken refuge in eastern DR Congo. Once more, caught in all of this are the local civilians, terrorized by fleeing and advancing troops of all kinds. Reuters photographer Finbarr O'Reilly has been traveling through the area, capturing some amazing photographs of the people involved. (38 photos total)

Ano Mboligikpelani, 12, holds her sister, Honrine Ngbadulezele, 2, in the village of Bangadi in northeastern Congo, February 19, 2009. Thousands of Congolese have fled their villages since December as Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army rebels roaming the bush carry out massacres that have killed some 900 civilians in northeastern Congo during the past two months. (REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)
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February 25, 2009 Permalink

Dokdo or Takeshima

Isolated, tiny and desolate, The Liancourt Rocks are the center of an international dispute that dates back to the 15th century. Koreans claim sovereignty over what they call "Dokdo", while the Japanese maintain that the islets are theirs, calling them "Takeshima". South Korea currently administers this collection of 90 islands and reefs in the Sea of Japan (East Sea), centered about halfway between South Korea and Japan - with only 2 permanent residents and 40 government workers stationed there (police, lighthouse keepers, Fishery Ministry personnel). Although the dispute is centuries old, it has heated up recently due to several incidents: increased efforts in Japan to call attention to the dispute itself, a flip-flop last year by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names where they briefly labeled the rocks as having "Undesignated Sovereignty" (undone by executive order within days), and the public observations in Japan of "Takeshima Day" on February 22nd. South Korean citizens have staged numerous protests against Japan over the past few years, some with extreme demonstrations, including a woman and her son who cut off a finger each, and one man who attempted to set himself on fire. (14 photos total)

A group of desolate volcanic islets known by North and South Koreans as Dokdo and by Japanese as Takeshima, is seen in this aerial view photo taken July 14, 2008. South Korea last year briefly recalled its ambassador from Tokyo in protest after Japan said it would write about the longstanding dispute about the islands in school textbooks. (REUTERS/Korea Pool/Newsis)
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February 23, 2009 Permalink


It is Carnival Season in many countries around the world with a Roman Catholic heritage. Celebrations and parades put on just prior to the observance of Lent. Tomorrow will be the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, but the past couple of weeks have seen parades and celebrations throughout Europe, the Caribbean and South America - notably Venice, Italy and Brazil. Collected here are just a glimpse of some of the elaborate celebrations of this Carnival season. (40 photos total)

A queen of the drums of the Vai-Vai samba school parades at the Sambadrome as part of Carnival celebrations in Sao Paulo, Brazil, early on February 22, 2009. (MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Images)
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February 20, 2009 Permalink

At work

When the economy makes big news, many photographs of people at work come across the wires, usually to help illustrate a particular story or event. By collecting these disparate photos over the past few months, I found that a global portrait emerged of we humans producing things. People assembling, generating, and building items small and large, mundane and expensive, trivial and important. I hope you enjoy this look into some people's work lives around the world. (45 photos total)

Electric Time Co. employee Walter Rodriguez cleans the face of an 84-inch Wegman clock at the plant in Medfield, Mass. Thursday, Oct. 30, 2008. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
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February 18, 2009 Permalink

Scenes from Pakistan

The government of Pakistan announced on Monday that it would accept Islamic Sharia Law to be implemented in its Swat Valley region, as part of a truce with local Taliban leaders. Militants had been demanding Sharia law, attacking opponents, burning scores of girls' schools and banning many forms of entertainment. Gun battles between Pakistani security forces and militants have killed hundreds, while up to a third of the valley's 1.5 million people have fled. A nuclear power with a growing economy, Pakistan's government is still struggling for control of the country, coping with internal clashes and terrorism, that can bleed over and involve neighbors and allies, including militant attacks in India, and excursions into Afghanistan - inviting U.S. military operations that follow the attackers back into Pakistan. Collected here are 40 recent photos from Pakistan, with a special acknowledgement to the artistry of AP Photographer Emilio Morenatti. (40 photos total)

Imran Zargul, 71, from the Pakistani tribal region of Bajur waits for donated food during a distribution at the Jalozai refugee camp near Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, Feb. 13, 2009. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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February 16, 2009 Permalink

Progress on NASA's Constellation

NASA's Constellation program, established in 2005, continues its work toward the building the future of manned space exploration in the U.S. The first test flight of the Ares I-X rocket - a functional mockup of the actual Ares I rocket, similar in shape and mass - is scheduled for July, 2009. The stimulus bill just passed by the U.S. Congress will be sending an additional $1 billion to NASA, $400 million of which is for its manned space program. Engineers are now busy refitting old facilities, running tests, building the infrastructure and working towards a planned first launch of a crew to the International Space Station in 2014. Collected here are photographs of various parts of the Constellation program coming together, including parts of the Orion crew vehicle, the Ares I and Ares V rockets, and supporting systems. (31 photos total)

This schlieren photo from October 28th, 2008 depicts a wind tunnel test demonstrating air flow over the 0.34 percent scale model of the Ares V heavy cargo launch vehicle at Mach 4.5. Schlieren imaging is a diagnostic method used to visualize air flows with varying densities, widely used in aeronautical engineering to photograph the flow of air around objects. (NASA/MSFC)
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February 13, 2009 Permalink

Tibet's Great Prayer Festival

Tibetans recently observed Monlam, or The Great Prayer Festival, with prayers, ritual dances, traditional foods and giant tapestry-like paintings. Ethnic Tibetans are maintaining their traditional culture while change slowly comes their way. Chinese officials have prohibited the festival in the past, and still discourage participation, and more change will be arriving soon by rail as the Qinghai-Tibet railway between China proper and Tibet is scheduled for completion three years from now. Chinese government officials are now preparing for possible trouble in March, on the 50th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, when the Dalai Lama fled into exile, and tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed. Foreign travelers have now been banned from large parts of western Tibet until late March. Several portraits in today's entry come courtesy of photographer Hugo Teixeira. (33 photos total)

Footprints carved in wood, which locals believe were made by a worshipper who prayed at the same spot for decades, are seen at a monastery near Tongren, Qinghai province February 5, 2009. Local Tibetan monks and pilgrims gather to celebrate Monlam, or Great Prayer Festival, one of the most important festivals in Tibetan Buddhism. (REUTERS/Reinhard Krause)
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February 11, 2009 Permalink

China's Lantern Festival, and an unfortunate ending

Marking the end of the Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival takes place on the 15th day of the year - during the first full moon. People across Mainland China and Taiwan celebrate the festival in many colorful ways, from fiery folk traditions to firework displays and laser shows. Unfortunately, this year's festival ended on a somewhat sour note as an unauthorized fireworks show set an unoccupied skyscraper on fire in downtown Beijing, and one firefighter lost his life fighting the blaze. Collected here are 27 photos of the festival, and a handful from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel fire in Beijing. (27 photos total)

A performer dressed in traditional costume sings during the celebrations for the lantern festival in the city of Tianjin, located 100 km (62 miles) east of Beijing February 9, 2009. The lantern festival marks the last day of the two-week Chinese lunar new year celebrations. (REUTERS/David Gray)
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February 9, 2009 Permalink

Bushfires in Victoria, Australia

The state of Victoria in southern Australia has recently been hit with hundreds of bush fires during a record-breaking heatwave - temperatures well above 38°C (100°F). Unfortunately, these fires have proved to be the deadliest in Australian history, with at least 166 deaths reported so far. The fires mostly appear to have been started by lightning - however a few appear to have been arson, and are under investigation - entire towns being declared crime scenes. Twenty-four fires are still burning, and authorities warn that the death toll will likely rise. (36 photos total)

A fire truck moves away from out of control flames from a bushfire in the Bunyip Sate Forest near the township of Tonimbuk, 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of Melbourne, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009. Walls of flame roared across southeastern Australia, razing scores of homes, forests and farmland in the sunburned country's worst wildfire disaster in a quarter century. (AP Photo)
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February 6, 2009 Permalink

La Princesse in Liverpool

Today's entry is a collection shared by photographer Peter Carr, from an event in Liverpool, England last year. Said Peter: "As part of Liverpool's Capital of Culture year, the French group La Machine were commissioned to create a large piece of street theatre, on the scale of their earlier work, the Sultan's Elephant. Many were expecting to see something using the iconic Liverbirds, the symbol of the city but instead we got a spider. The total cost of the event was £1.8 million and caused some complaints about how the funds could better be used. It also attracted protests from arachnophobe groups about how it would terrify some people. Despite these complaints the event drew in over 200,000 people in the few days it was on and produced something wondrous that got everyone in the region talking." All photos and captions courtesy Peter Carr, who has agreed to answer questions in the comments below. (23 photos total)

On Wednesday 3rd September 2008 Liverpool awoke to find a giant spider hanging from the side of a building. A team of scientists planned to move the spider to their research post setup by Albert Docks in the morning. Here, days later, the 50-foot tall "La Princesse" climbs back onto Concourse House and is dusted by magic snow sending her to sleep for the night. (© Peter Carr)
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February 4, 2009 Permalink

Bolivia and its new constitution

On January 25th, Bolivia held a referendum to adopt a new national constitution, one that dramatically shifts the country, reversing discriminatory practices and granting many rights and self-determination to the 36 indigenous nations within Bolivia. After a lengthy count, officials announced that the referendum passed with over 60% of the vote. Much political and legal work remains to implement the changes, but soon most of the country's natural resources will be state-owned, land ownership will be capped at 12,000 acres, and Morales will be able to run for a second term. Challenges still lie ahead, as Bolivia remains South America's poorest country, and - after recently expelling all agents the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency - it has lost preferred trade status with the United States. President Evo Morales welcomed the constitutional win by saying "Here begins the new Bolivia", claiming the changes would work to "decolonize" Bolivia. (29 photos total)

A Bolivian Wiphala indigenous flag (this one representing the Qulla Suyu region of the Inca Empire) is held high during a protest march towards La Paz, Bolivia on October 20, 2008. Thousands of supporters of President Evo Morales marched toward La Paz to pressure congressmen to pass a law for a referendum vote to approve a new constitution. (REUTERS/Daniel Caballero)
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February 2, 2009 Permalink

Tough Guy Challenge 2009

Billed as "the safest most dangerous taste of physical and mental endurance pain in the world", the Tough Guy Challenge took place yesterday, February 1st, on South Perton Farm, near Wolverhampton, England. Thousands of challengers (men and women) started the endurance race, with hundreds dropping out along the way due to exhaustion or injury - broken bones, dislocations, and over 600 cases of hypothermia. Even the overall winner, James Appleton, was treated briefly for hypothermia. The course takes racers through 21 obstacles - through mud, freezing water, across ropes and burning terrain. The challenge is also a fundraiser for charity, with funds going to the Mr. Mouse Farm for Unfortunates, which looks after hundreds of retired horses and provides jobs to young offenders. Here are a handful of photos from yesterday's race. (20 photos total)

Competitors are pushed to the limits as they compete in the 2009 Tough Guy Challenge on February 1, 2009 in Wolverhampton, England. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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