Hours after violent clashes between masses of protesters and police, Egyptians swarmed the polls early this week for the beginning rounds of parliamentary elections. They are the first elections since a prodemocracy uprising ousted longtime president Hosni Mubarak from office earlier this year. The poll stations have been remarkably peaceful, despite the simmering anger over the militarys extended role in running the government. In contrast, the Democratic Republic of Congo's presidential and legislative elections this week were beset by fraud, some observers say. In one town, rebel fighters attacked a polling place, killing at least five people and burning ballots. The voting was Congo's second since the end of the country's last war and the first organized by the government rather than the international community.
Last Wednesday, November 23, a train carrying 11 tubular containers of highly radioactive nuclear waste departed Normandy, France. The nuclear waste, which originated in German reactors years ago and was processed for storage by a French firm, is now bound for a temporary storage facility in a former salt mine near Gorleben, Germany. The 750-mile trip has taken far longer than anticipated, due to thousands of protesters causing disruptions along the way. Staging sit-ins, chaining themselves to the rails, and even sabotaging the railway, demonstrators are denouncing the transportation of dangerous material through populated areas. This is the last of 12 contractually obligated shipments of nuclear waste from France. Germany recently pledged a complete phase-out of nuclear power within a decade and has already shut down 8 of its 17 reactors. Hundreds of demonstrators were removed from railroads and streets by an estimated 20,000 police deployed along the German portion of the route, and the shipment is now near its final destination.
The Christian religious holiday may not arrive until December 25, but secular and commercial festivities have been in full swing for almost a month already. Increasingly the non-religious aspects of the holiday are celebrated even in countries without a strong Christian tradition. Gathered here are images of preparations from around the world as it begins to look a lot like Christmas.
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has been part of the New York City Thanksgiving diet for at least 85 years. You take it away, you might as well replace the turkey with chicken wings.
This week’s coolest pix feature the new protests in Tahrir Square, plenty of sports images and a beautiful picture of the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft just after it landed. Which is your favorite?
If all goes well, tomorrow morning at approximately 10:02 a.m. Eastern time (GMT-5), NASA will launch its newest rover named Curiosity from Florida's Cape Canaveral, headed on a nine-month trip to the planet Mars. The $2.3 billion mission will send a capsule into the Martian sky in August of 2012. After decelerating in the atmosphere, a series of entry events will quickly take place, ending with a rocket-powered sky crane lowering the rover gently to the surface. Curiosity is a beast of a rover, weighing one ton, measuring ten feet long by seven feet tall (at the top of the mast), and powered by a plutonium-238 fueled electrical generator. The rover carries ten instruments, including several high-resolution cameras, and a laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy instrument called ChemCam that can vaporize tiny amounts of minerals and analyze their components. If all goes according to plan, Curiosity is scheduled for a stay on Mars of about 668 Martian sols, or nearly two Earth years, starting in Gale crater. Researchers hope to use the tools on Curiosity to study whether the area in Gale crater has had environmental conditions favorable for supporting microbial life and for preserving clues about whether life existed. I will update this entry with more photos later, after the launch takes place.
The Tibetan Buddhist monks are world famous, but did you know there is also a group of Tibetan Buddhist nuns? We do now after this gruesome video of a Buddhist nun setting herself on fire (WARNING) in protest against Chinese religious controls over Tibet.
Thousands of protesters in major Egyptian cities are now entering the fifth day of public demonstrations calling for the military leadership to step down. The streets of Cairo around Tahrir Square have been flooded with tear gas, as riot police and members of Egypt's military clash with protesters. The two sides have advanced and retreated, hurling stones, tear gas canisters, and other debris at each other, and security forces reportedly continue to fire rubber bullets and some live rounds into the crowds. The international community has stepped up criticism of Egypt's military leaders, and has expressed anger at the violence used against the protesters. Human rights groups have now raised the estimated death toll to at least 38. The recent unrest has led to the resignation of the interim civilian government, but other concessions from Egypt's Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi have not satisfied the crowds who remain in the streets fighting what they see as an unfinished revolution.
It's been just over a month since the capture and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy, ending his 42-year reign. Since then, the rebels have declared that the nation is liberated, installed a transitional government, and started the process of writing a constitution. Still, substantial problems remain. Pockets of fighting have erupted among rival tribes and some rebels have refused to give up their cache of weapons. Doctors continue to struggle to treat the wounded and sick, with a few of the most severely injured being sent to rehabilitation centers in Boston and elsewhere. Last weekend, Khadafys son, Seif, was captured and could face war crimes for his part in the conflict. -- Lloyd Young (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Friday, November 25, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.)
With one month left until American troops are scheduled to completely withdraw from Iraq, the draw-down process is in full gear, but the future for a still-recovering, still-violent Iraq remains uncertain. Since coalition forces first invaded Iraq in March 2003, more than 4,400 Americans have lost their lives and some 32,000 have been wounded. Estimates of violent civilian deaths -- caused by warfare, insurgent attacks, inter-tribal conflict and more -- range into the hundreds of thousands. As the new Iraqi government still struggles to meet the needs of its citizens, it now faces the challenge of defending its borders in a very volatile region. Although all American troops are scheduled to leave by the end of 2011, the U.S. military will continue limited counterterrorism training with Iraqi forces beyond the end of the year, and about 16,000 U.S. embassy personnel will remain in Iraq -- many of them civilian contractors handling security. Collected here are recent images of Iraq -- its people, the U.S. draw-down, and some of the continuing aftermath of the war.