As 2011 ends, Iraqis confront their challenges with neither the presence of US troops, nor the shadow of Saddam Hussein, who was executed five years ago today. He had ruled since 1979, although he'd been a power player in the government since 1968. The American occupation ended officially on December 15, eight years after the 2003 invasion. Sectarian strife still plagues Iraq, and although the violence lessened from near-civil war levels in 2006, the pullout of American forces has seen a return of hostilities. While the number of American casualties of the occupation stands at 4,487, figures for Iraqi casualties have no such certainty. Some estimates put the figure as high as 100,000. Now conflicts new and old wait to be dealt with by a country free to decide its own fate for the first time in generations. Sectarian struggle, problems with water and electricity delivery, and war-ravaged infrastructure are just a few of the issues facing Iraqis today. Gathered here are recent images of Iraq as it looks ahead to 2012. The last four images are portraits by Reuters photographer Shannon Stapleton, who asked ordinary Iraqis for their thoughts on their future after the pullout of American forces.
North Koreans have shown extraordinary displays of grief in the days since the death of their leader Kim Jong Il on December 17th. Today marked the start of a two-day funeral ceremony, as thousands of North Koreans lined the snowy streets of Pyongyang to witness the procession of vehicles as it made its way to Kumsusan Memorial Palace. Official North Korean news sources have been declaring Kim Jong Un the "great successor," but questions about the transition and future governance of the volatile, secretive state continue to make foreign governments wary. South Korean intelligence recently indicated that North Korea has tightened security in cities, put troops on alert and won loyalty pledges from top generals after Kim's death as it consolidates power behind the anointed heir. Collected here are images -- most of them official North Korean releases -- of the public mourning in North Korea.
What does a sudden evacuation look like? After everyone is gone, what happens to the places they've abandoned? National Geographic Magazine sent Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder to the nuclear exclusion zone around Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant to find out. Evacuated shortly after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami led to a nuclear radiation crisis, the area has been largely untouched, with food rotting on store shelves and children's backpacks waiting in classrooms. The area may face the same fate as the town of Pripyat, Ukraine after the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago. This isn't the first time Guttenfelder has gotten a rare glimpse of a place few see, as The Big Picture featured his photographs of North Korea in an earlier post. Collected here are Guttenfelder's haunting images just released of a place abandoned, and of people dealing with the loss.
Christmas is only a few days away and 2012 a little over a week. Week 51 saw the US military finally leave Iraq, a new earthquaske in New Zealand, but the big news was that North Korean’s charismatic and much loved leader Kim Jong-Il passed the freedom torch to his more than capable son when he passed away.
Twenty years ago, on December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Soviet Union, declaring the office extinct and dissolving the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), a massive communist empire that had existed since 1922. The USSR had been in a long economic stagnation when Gorbachev came to power in 1985. In order to bring about change, he introduced several reforms, including perestroika (economic restructuring) and glasnost (openness). Glasnost opened the floodgates of protest and many republics made moves toward independence, threatening the continued existence of the USSR. In August of 1991, a group of Communist Party hardliners frustrated by the separatist movement attempted to stage a coup. They quickly failed due to a massive show of civil resistance -- but the already-faltering government was destabilized even further by the attempt. By December of 1991, 16 Soviet republics had declared their independence, and Gorbachev handed over power to Russian president Boris Yeltsin, ending the USSR. Collected here are photos from those tumultuous months 20 years ago.
On March 20th, 2003 George W Bush gave the order to invade the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. Eight years later Saddam is gone and so has the US Army. The last troops left Iraq in the past week. Does this mean the war is over? For the US servicemen and women it might be, but if that is the case for the Iraqi people remains to be seen.
In this post, featuring images from the last quarter of 2011, we remember a tumultuous year of change across the globe, the capture of Khadafi, the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the passing of Apple icon Steve Jobs, fire, famine, flood and protests. A memorable year, indeed. Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier.
The second collection of images from 2011 once again brought us nature at it's full force with floods, drought, wild fires, tornadoes and spectacular images of volcanic eruptions. The death of Osama bin Laden, the attack on a island in Norway by a lone gunman, continued fighting in Libya, and protests around the globe were a few of the news events dominating the headlines.
On December 16th, Tropical Storm Washi struck the Philippine island of Mindanao, bringing 10 solid hours of torrential rainfall - up to 16 inches (400mm) in some places - causing multiple flash floods and mudslides. Already-swollen rivers overflowed their banks, inundating some areas under more than 3 meters (10 ft) of muddy water in less than an hour, sweeping away vehicles and homes. The deaths of more than 1,000 residents have been confirmed, making Washi the deadliest storm of 2011. Nearly 50,000 residents remain in evacuation centers as government agencies and aid organizations are now working to recover and rebuild what they can. Collected here are recent images from storm-battered Mindanao.
After receiving more than 20,000 photo submissions from over 130 countries, the National Geographic Photo Contest 2011 concluded last month and the judging began. The winners were announced this week, with the grand prize awarded to Shikhei Goh for his capture of a dragonfly riding out a rainstorm in Indonesia. Goh was awarded $10,000 and a trip to the National Geographic Photography Seminar next year. National Geographic has shared the following winning photos (and honorable mentions) from this year's contest here. All captions and photos are by the individual photographers. [See also this earlier collection of 45 entries from this year's contest.]