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Archive for June 2008

June 30, 2008 Permalink

Records Fall at U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials

Two world records were set yesterday in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Michael Phelps broke his own world record in the men's 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:05.25, and Katie Hoff qualified for her second Olympics with her own world record in the women’s 400-meter individual medley with a time of 4:31.12. The trials will continue through July 6th. (13 photos total)

Michael Phelps swims to victory in the men's 400-meter individual medley finals at the US Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Nebraska, Sunday, June 29, 2008. Phelps set a new world record of 4:05.25 in the event. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
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June 27, 2008 Permalink

Xenophobia in South Africa

Last month, during two weeks in May, 2008, a series of attacks took place all over South Africa. In a clash between the poorest of the poor, gangs of local black South Africans descended on informal settlements and shanty towns, armed with clubs, machetes and torches, and attacked immigrants from Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabawe. Locals accused these immigrants of taking jobs away from them, among other grievances. Over the course of those two weeks, over 60 foreigners were killed, several hundred injured, and many thousands of immigrants are now displaced, or are returning to their home countries. Dealing with the aftermath of the attacks has become a large problem for South Africa - prosecuting attackers, accommodating refugees, dealing with a labor shortage, political damage control, seeking to address root causes, and some soul-searching are all taking place. (15 photos total)

A human smuggler cuts a border fence while illegally bringing Zimbabwaen refugees across the border into South Africa May 27, 2008 near Musina, South Africa. Facing economic strife and political oppression at home, Zimbabwaens continue to flood accross the border, despite recent violent attacks against foreign immigrants in South Africa. A human rights group recently reported that up to 49,000 Zimbabwaens are illegally crossing into South Africa each month, adding to the 3-5 million Zimbabwaen refugees already residing in South Africa. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
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June 25, 2008 Permalink

USA Olympic Diving Trials

Indiana University recently hosted the 2008 USA Diving Olympic Team Trials, and the process of selecting the diving team to represent the United States is underway. (10 photos total)

Troy Dumais twist in midair as he competes in the senior 3M springboard semifinal during the 2008 USA Diving Olympic Team Trials on June 20, 2008 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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June 23, 2008 Permalink

Ethiopia in Food Crisis Once More

Recent crop failures, drought conditions and the current high price of food have plunged Ethiopia into another food crisis, reminiscent of the famines of 1984-85 which killed over 1 million. People have become so desperate for food that they are eating seeds that were meant for their next harvest. 4.5 million Ethiopians are in need right now.

News like this feels familiar, yet distant. Words like famine and crisis describe the situation broadly, but it can be hard to personalize, to put faces to such things. Reuters photographer Radu Sigheti takes us on a brief, painful and intimate visit with the Mohamed family, as they experienced the loss of their young daughter Michu, due to malnutrition, earlier this month.
(8 photos total)


Amina Nanessa Mohamed cries outside the intensive care unit of Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders after her four-year-old daughter Michu died of malnutrition near Sheshemene, southern Ethiopia, June 8, 2008. Some 4.5 million Ethiopians need emergency food aid due to failed rains and high food prices, reviving grim memories of the country's 1984-1985 famine. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti)

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June 20, 2008 Permalink

Martian Skies

Yesterday's announcement by NASA of the discovery of water ice on Mars by its Phoenix Lander probe made big news everywhere. The discovery involved the observation of water ice sublimating into the air - that is, the water went from solid to vapor state without reaching the liquid stage. The Martian atmosphere has perfect conditions for sublimation - extremely thin, dry and cold. How cold? Well, you can check the Live Martian Weather Report, with data from a station on board the Phoenix Lander. Today will see a high temperature of a toasty -26 degrees F.

What more do we know about Mars' atmosphere? It's hundreds of times thinner than Earth's atmosphere and is made of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon, and contains traces of oxygen, water, and methane. We also know, from observations that it can support dust storms, dust devils, clouds and gusty winds. With an amazing number of six current live probes exploring Mars (two rovers, a lander, and three orbiters), there are many thousands of images available. Only a few, however show atmospheric phenomena. Presented here are some of the best images of Martian atmosphere (and beyond) in action. (17 photos total)


High, wispy clouds cover a large portion of Mars, seen in this, the first true-colour image of Mars generated with the OSIRIS orange (red), green and blue color filters. The image was acquired by an instrument on the ESA's Rosetta probe on Feb. 24, 2007 from a distance of about 240,000 km. Image resolution is about 5 km/pixel. (Credits: ESA © 2007 MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)

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June 20, 2008 Permalink

Another Quick Note

Hi there, another short note from the author, just a few things.

1) You may have noticed that there are very few advertisements on The Big Picture. We are hoping to preserve the current format, and run the blog as a sponsored feature.

2) Next week, The Big Picture will shift to 3-times a week. Daily can be fun, but it'll burn me out very fast. I know I mentioned this before, but there have been many thousands of new visitors since then (you are all awesome).

3) Links! Until I get a proper blogroll running, here's a short list of some great photojournalism sites out there:
- Reuters Photographer Blogs some awesome stories behind the photos
- Getty Images News Blog some more stories behind the images
- World Press Photo Interviews video interviews with the photographers behind last year's award winners
- A Photo Editor blog by Rob Haggart, former Director of Photography for Men's Journal and Outside Magazine
- Best Seat in the House Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar
[edit, adding one more link]
I can't believe I forgot to post this one as well - Another like-minded blog in the Boston.com family, Long Jaunt. LJ is a travelogue/blog documenting a trip around the world, put together by my friend and co-worker Thushan Amarasiriwardena, and his two partners Michael Kurtz and Brian Rogers. They started in Central America last December, and have now made it as far as Sri Lanka, give it a look. Browse entries and photos by regular blog format, or calendar dates.

June 19, 2008 Permalink

2008 NBA Champs - Celtics Rolling Rally

The Boston Celtics took their 2008 NBA trophy on a victory lap through downtown Boston today, a rolling rally in Duck Boats from the TD Banknorth Garden to Copley Square. Their 131-92 win against the L.A. Lakers on Tuesday brought home the 17th championship for the Celtics, the first since 1986. (16 photos total)

Boston Celtics parade to honor the Boston team (David L. Ryan Globe staff photo)
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June 18, 2008 Permalink

Daily Life in Sadr City, Iraq

North of downtown Baghdad, Iraq lies Sadr City and several other neighboring districts, predominantly shiite and impoverished. A recent lull in fighting between militias, and US and Iraqi armed forces has allowed security forces and aid supplies to return to the area. The truce remains tenuous, as a car bomb detonated yesterday in a crowded market, killing more than 50 Iraqis. Here are some images of daily life in and around Sadr City, Baghdad over the past several weeks. (16 photos total)

The hands of an Iraqi woman reaches for the sides of a truck in an effort to make herself noticed as Iraqi Army 42nd Brigade, 11th Division Soldiers distribute food, water, and medical supplies, in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 8, 2008, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Cohen A. Young)
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June 17, 2008 Permalink

Mississippi Floodwaters in Iowa

The rising Mississippi River has broken high-water records up and down the Iowa and Illinois shore, cresting as high as 12 feet above flood stage in some places. Estimates place the cost of the damage at over $1 billion dollars, and concerns are rising over crop damage, toxic remnants that were washed into neighborhoods, future mosquito invasions, and maintaining supplies of clean drinking water. Communities further downstream are bracing for possible flooding as well. (16 photos total)

A huge tornado funnel cloud touches down in Orchard, Iowa, Tuesday, June 10, 2008 at 9:04 p.m. The Globe Gazette and Mitchell County Press News reported that Lori Mehmen of Orchard, took the photo from outside her front door. Mehmen said the funnel cloud came near the ground and then went back up into the clouds. Besides tree and crop damage, no human injuries were reported. (AP Photo/Lori Mehmen)
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June 16, 2008 Permalink

California Fires

A number of wildfires burned across Northern California late last week, and over the weekend. Firefighters have them all under control now, with the largest, the Humboldt Fire, now 90% contained with 74 homes destroyed, and at least $11 million in damage. Residents began returning to their homes to see what survived, and what could be salvaged. (16 photos total)

Firefighters work to contain the Humboldt fire which started Wednesday, had grown to 19,000 acres and threatened more than 5,000 structures, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. More than 1,300 firefighters were trying to contain the blaze, which was only 10 percent contained late Thursday June 12, 2008 in Butte Valley, CA. (AP Photo/Jason Halley - Chico Enterprise-Record)
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June 13, 2008 Permalink

Faces of Sudan

Sudan is a land in conflict. Warfare has been the norm since the start of its civil war in 1983. Ongoing hostilities in the regions of Darfur, Durfan, neighboring Chad and Eritrea, between many multiple parties have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands, and made life unbearable for millions more - Sudan has been in a state of humanitarian emergency since 2003. Just the general facts about the conflicts are overwhelming - drought, desertification, overpopulation, ethnic tensions (ethnic Arab vs. ethnic African), religious conflict (Islamic north vs. Christian south), political clashes (Islamic sharia rule vs. authoritarian government), border issues, multinational interests (Chinese economic interests, US interests) - and - the fairly recent discovery of a half-billion dollars worth of oil reserves, and there's no end to the ongoing causes of conflict.

The authoritarian government of Sudan has been actively and passively supporting Arab militias (known as the Janjaweed), using them to quell tribal disputes, and turning a blind eye to their brutal tactics. The Sudanese government now has to contend with dozens of armed rebel groups, some of which were still attacking the capital, Khartoum, as recently as May 11, 2008. The UN has stated in 2005 that the situation does not constitute genocide, because, despite the mass murders and rapes, "genocidal intent appears to be missing". Nearly 10,000 UN forces are now deployed throughout the region, with the mission of protecting civilians and humanitarian operations.

News coverage often tries to explain the causes, the groups involved, the political and military solutions. What isn't seen as often are the faces of those involved - the displaced, the antagonists, the survivors, the leaders, and the followers. These are some of the faces of Darfur and Abyei, Sudan, photographed where they are today, some very far from home. (More links and information below the photos) (18 photos total)


Kartoula, 14, a refugee from Sudan's western Darfur region, enters a distribution centre to receive monthly food rations at Djabal camp near Gos Beida in eastern Chad, June 5, 2008. (REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)

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June 12, 2008 Permalink

Soaked Swiss Soccer

Switzerland met Turkey in their second Euro 2008 Group A match on June 11th in Basel, Switzerland. The skies opened up and poured down as the game continued on, making for dramatic images. Turkey went on to win the match, 2 goals to 1. The 2008 UEFA European Football Championship, (Euro 2008) began June 7th and is scheduled to conclude June 29th. (15 photos total)

Imposing dark clouds are pictured over the stadium during the UEFA EURO 2008 Group A match between Switzerland and Turkey at St. Jakob-Park on June 11, 2008 in Basel, Switzerland. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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June 11, 2008 Permalink

Sidoarjo's Man-made Mud Volcano

On the two-year anniversary of its eruption, international scientists say they are almost certain a mud volcano that displaced tens of thousands of villagers in central Indonesia was caused by faulty drilling of a gas exploration well - not an earthquake as claimed by the gas company. "We are more certain than ever that the Lusi mud volcano is an unnatural disaster and was triggered by drilling" said Richard Davies, lead author of a study published this week in the academic journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

Two years ago now, on 28 May 2006, gas company PT Lapindo Brantas exploring for gas in Sidoarjo, in East Java, Indonesia, drilled a borehole. At 5 AM, a secondary stage of drilling began and the drill string went about 9,300 feet down, after which the first small eruption of water, steam and a small amount of gas occurred at a location just southwest of the well. Several other eruptions followed over the next few days. The flow of hot mud has not ceased since.

Fourteen people have been killed and 30,000 people have been evacuated from the area. At least a dozen villages, with more than 10,000 homes have been destroyed while schools, offices and factories have also been wiped out and a major impact on the wider marine and coastal environment is expected. (11 photos total)


A villager displaced by an ocean of mud oozing from a mud volcano which began erupting nearly two years ago salvages bricks from the ruins of a village Thursday, May 29, 2008 in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. For two years a hole in the earth has been oozing enough mud to fill 50 olympic size swimming pools every day and has covered villages and factories roof deep in mud and forced the evacuation of thousands.(AP Photo/Trisnadi)

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June 10, 2008 Permalink

Water, Water, Everywhere

Water is having a significant impact on many people's lives around the world right now. From droughts to quake lakes, floods to monsoons, people and animals are dealing with water in many ways. In these recent photos, we can see people play, wash, mourn, survive, escape, celebrate and marvel with something so basic as water. (17 photos total)

Department of Water and Power workers are emptying out bales of plastic balls in the Ivanhoe reservoir in Los Angeles on Monday, June 9, 2008. Department of Water and Power released about 400,000 black plastic 4-inch balls as the first installment of approximately 3 million to form a floating cover over 7 acres of the reservoir to protect the water from sunlight. When sunlight mixes with the bromide and chlorine in Ivanhoe's water, the carcinogen bromate can form. (Irfan Khan/AP)
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June 9, 2008 Permalink

The Sky, From Above

The Space Shuttle Discovery successfully launched last week, becoming the 154th manned US space mission. It flew to the International Space Station, delivering (among other things) a Japanese module called Kibo, repair parts for a broken toilet, a Buzz Lightyear action figure, one of Lance Armstrong's yellow jerseys, and 18 sesame seed bagels - the first bagels ever to reach Earth orbit. Completion of this mission will leave only eight flights remaining in the Space Shuttle program until its end in 2010.

One of the best features of the space program has always been astronaut photography, and I will take this opportunity to share some of the best photographs of Earth's skies, taken from above - way above (over 200 miles to be more exact). (15 photos total)


The Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off from launch pad 39-A at Kennedy Space Center on May 31, 2008 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, en route to the International Space Station on a construction mission. (Eliot J. Schechter /Getty Images)

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June 6, 2008 Permalink

Olympic Preparations

People (and animals) all over China and the rest of the world are preparing in various ways for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, which begins August 8th. (18 photos total)

Minxia Wu of China takes part in the Women's 3m final on the second day of the 2nd FINA Diving World Series in Sheffield , May 25, 2008. Coming three months before the start of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the FINA event will attract the best divers in the world with competitors set to prove their worth to their national teams. (Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)
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June 5, 2008 Permalink

World Environment Day, 2008

Today, June 5th is World Environment Day, as established by the United Nations in 1972 to "stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and action" Further, from the official website: "On this World Environment Day, let us examine the state of our environment. Let us consider carefully the actions which each of us must take, and then address ourselves to our common task of preserving all life on earth in a mood of sober resolution and quiet confidence." (13 photos total)

Small fishing boats tied to the banks of the Chaohu lake, where a pollution-linked algae bloom has reappeared, in Hefei, eastern China's Anhui province on June 4, 2008. Algae blooms are common on many Chinese freshwater lakes and are chiefly caused by untreated sewage containing high concentrations of nitrogen, a main ingredient in detergents and fertilisers, as more than 70 percent of China's waterways and 90 percent of its underground water have been contaminated by pollution. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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June 5, 2008 Permalink

A Quick Note

Just a short note from the author to A) say thank you to all of those who have given such great feedback and participation, and B) set expectations.

The Big Picture is still a very new blog, and even though the posting frequency is close to daily right now, that's mostly due to the backlog of ideas I've had sitting in my head. Expect the frequency of posts to slow down in a while - my goal is 2-3 posts per week eventually. Remember, we're trying for quality, not quantity.

And thanks again for the response - it's been fantastic.

-Alan Taylor

June 4, 2008 Permalink

Chaiten Volcano Still Active

Chaiten Volcano in Chile continues to erupt, after its recent eruption on May 6th, - its first activity in over 9,000 years. (12 photos total)

A plume of ashes spewed by the Chaiten volcano as seen from the city of Chaiten, 1,200km south from Santiago, Chile on May 5, 2008. (ALVARO VIDAL/AFP/Getty Images)
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June 3, 2008 Permalink

Daily Life in Afghanistan

Snapshots of life in Afghanistan, as seen by press photographers over the past two months. (12 photos total)

An Afghan Special Forces policeman walks through a poppy field as he searches for Taliban fighters in the village of Sanjaray in Zhari district early April 26, 2008. (REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic)
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June 2, 2008 Permalink

South Korean Protests over U.S. Beef

South Korea now says it will delay resumption of U.S. beef imports, after its earlier announcement last Thursday that it was ready to resume those imports. Agriculture Ministry spokesman Kim Hyun-soo says his ministry decided to delay a final step, but did not elaborate, or make any reference to the past weekend's protests. (11 photos total)

South Korean protesters struggle with riot police as they march to the presidential house during a rally against US beef imports in Seoul on June 1, 2008. (AFP PHOTO/JUNG YEON-JE)
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