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SCHOOL STAMPEDE
SCHOOL STAMPEDE: Thousands of young people desperate to study—and their parents—pushed their way to the gates of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa Tuesday, where some 11,000 people were expected to vie for as few as 800 spots. One woman died in the crush. (Adrian de Kock/Associated Press)

WARMING UP A VEHICLE
WARMING UP A VEHICLE: A stranded driver burned a fire under his truck to keep parts of the vehicle warm while he waited for the Srinagar-Jammu highway to reopen in Qazigund, India, Tuesday. The mountainous highway had been closed because of heavy snow. (Fayaz Kabli/Reuters)

STUNNED
STUNNED: A man injured in a bomb blast put on his shoe before being taken to a hospital. A bomb targeting a militia opposed to the Pakistani Taliban exploded in a market close to the Afghan border Tuesday, killing 25 people in Pakistan’s Khyber region. (Qazi Rauf/Associated Press)

IN MEMORIAM
IN MEMORIAM: Flowers lay on the desk of state Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce in Trenton, N.J., Tuesday. The 75-year-old collapsed and died as the 214th legislative session came to an end Monday night. Gov. Chris Christie delayed his State of the State speech to eulogize the lawmaker. (Mel Evans/Associated Press)

BENT BACK
BENT BACK: The Netherlands’ Epke Zonderland competed at the Visa International Gymnastics competition in London Tuesday. The competition is the final chance for gymnasts to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, being held this summer in London. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)

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According to the latest jobs numbers, issued by the Labor Department on January 6, the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5 percent, down from 10 percent in 2009. The Great Recession has claimed more than 8.5 million jobs since 2007, and even though the current trajectory of the U.S. appears to be toward recovery, Americans are still struggling to find work. Nine of the photographs below appear in The Atlantic's January/February 2012 print issue, and I've added 25 more here to round out a collection of images from these years of uncertainty -- of men and women both at work and out of work in the United States. [34 photos]

A workman steams a U.S. flag in preparation for a planned visit by President Barack Obama, on April 6, 2011, at wind turbine manufacture Gamesa Technology Corporation in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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2011 was a year of global tumult, marked by widespread social and political uprisings, economic crises, and a great deal more. We saw the fall of multiple dictators, welcomed a new country (South Sudan), witnessed our planet's population grow to 7 billion, and watched in horror as Japan was struck by a devastating earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear disaster. From the Arab Spring to Los Indignados to Occupy Wall Street, citizens around the world took to the streets in massive numbers, protesting against governments and financial institutions, risking arrest, injury, and in some cases their lives. Collected here is Part 1 of a three-part photo summary of the last year, covering 2011's first several months. Be sure to also see Part 2, and Part 3 of the series - totaling 120 images in all. [40 photos + 1 more]

A wave approaches Miyako City from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the area March 11, 2011. The earthquake, the most powerful ever known to have hit Japan, combined with the massive tsunami, claimed more than 15,800 lives, devastated many eastern coastline communities, and triggered a nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station. (Reuters/Mainichi Shimbun)

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As the war in Afghanistan passes the 10-year mark, the security outlook still looks bleak. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has just asked the Pentagon for initial recommendations for the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan in 2014 -- the first step in planning the final U.S. withdrawal. According to the Associated Press, as of yesterday, November 1, 2011, at least 1,704 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan. U.S. diplomats are now asking Afghanistan's neighbors to sign on to an ambitious plan for the future of Central Asia -- ambitiously being called the "New Silk Road" -- that would link the infrastructure of surrounding countries from Kazakhstan to India. Gathered here are images from there over the past month, part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [41 photos]

A severely wounded US Marine hit by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is carried by his comrades to a medevac helicopter of U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-171 Aviation Regiment to be airlifted in Helmand province, on October 31, 2011. The Marine was hit by an IED, lost both his legs and fights for his life. (Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images)

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Billy Stinson (L) comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood August 28, 2011 in Nags Head, North Carolina. The cottage, built in 1903 and destroyed yesterday by Hurricane Irene, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Albemarle Sound in Nags Head. Stinson has owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963. “We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset,” said Erin afterward.

Hurricane Irene moved along the east coast causing heavy flooding damage as far north as Vermont and shutting down the entire New York mass transit system.

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Hurricane Irene wound up by most estimates as one of the top ten most destructive and deadly hurricanes to hit the United States since 1980. While ultimately not as powerful as many had predicted, the storm still killed at least 27 people along its path from the Caribbean to the eastern seaboard. Transportation was shut down all along the east coast, stranding residents and tourists in shelters, airports, and train stations. More than 5.8 million customers lost electricity, thousands of flights were cancelled, flooding washed out roads and destroyed homes, and evacuation orders were issued for hundreds of thousands. Gathered here are pictures from the Hurricane's path. -- Lane Turner (44 photos total)
Billy Stinson comforts his daughter Erin Stinson as they sit on the steps where their cottage once stood on August 28, 2011 in Nags Head, N.C. The cottage, built in 1903 and destroyed by Hurricane Irene, was one of the first vacation cottages built on Albemarle Sound in Nags Head. Stinson has owned the home, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, since 1963. "We were pretending, just for a moment, that the cottage was still behind us and we were just sitting there watching the sunset," said Erin afterward. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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