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There's no single culprit responsible for deforestation: around the world, forest cover is lost because of fires, disease, logging, clear-cutting, and myriad other factors. And the environmental consequences threaten to be severe, especially given that deforestation causes an estimated 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

And before experts can effectively mitigate the problem, they need to know where it's happening — and to what extent. Now, a collaborative effort led by the University of Maryland (and including both Google and NASA) has created the first-ever high-resolution map that tracks forest gains and losses over time. Described this week in the journal Science, the map's creation depended on more than a decade of satellite imagery provided by Landsat — a satellite program operated by the US Geological Survey to capture and store images of Earth — combined with the processing prowess of Google Earth Engine.

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Simple and efficient, rail travel nonetheless inspires a sense of romance. By train, subway, and a seemingly endless variety of trams, trolleys, and coal shaft cars, we've moved on rails for hundreds of years. Industry too relies on the billions of tons of freight moved annually by rolling stock. Gathered here are images of rails in our lives, the third post in an occasional series on transport, following Automobiles and Pedal power. -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)
An employee adjusts a CRH380B high-speed Harmony bullet train as it stops for an examination during a test run at a bullet train exam and repair center in Shenyang, China on October 23, 2012. (Stringer/Reuters)     

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As usual in this kind of international photo competition, there's a couple of winning shots about Palestine, some portraits of magnificently coiffed people, plenty of violent deaths, prisoners living in dire conditions and almost half of these talented photographers are Italian. I'm very impressed by the Afrometals series, btw continue

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It is 6 p.m., and darkness has just fallen on the Lacandon jungle, a dense patch of rainforest in Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas. A cry rings out: “Food circle!” At this signal, hundreds of people emerge from the forest and gather in a clearing, forming a circle, holding hands. They start to chant, softly, “Om … Om …” while lifting their joined hands toward the sky. The chanting stops as suddenly as it began, and a vegan dinner is served from huge steaming pots.

These men and women, who travelled to this spot in the vicinity of Palenque’s pre-Colombian ruins from dozens of different countries around the globe, are here with one aim in mind: to witness the end of the world on December 21, 2012, a date that marks the end of the Mayan calendar. They are part of the “rainbow movement,” a post-hippie collective that emerged in Oregon in 1970 around the teachings of writer Barry Adams and gemstone specialist Garrick Beck. Its members gather annually across the U.S. on July 4th.

Most expect they won’t be around for next summer’s gathering.

There are no leaders in the movement. “All decisions are taken 100 percent consensually by talking circles,” explains Bolivia, a 32-year-old Briton. The camp functions without money: food is prepared by a group of volunteers and handed out for free. Other necessities can be bartered. Trading currencies include sweets, crystals or Snicker bars. Alcohol, meat and loudspeakers are forbidden.

Rainbow Gathering attendees, who call themselves The Family, spend their days bathing naked in the river, doing improvisational theater, juggling or practicing yoga. Twice a day they gather for the food circle. Most live in the manner they do in hopes of showing the rest of the world that an alternative way of life — “without wars, guns or money,” as Bolivia puts it — is possible. Among Family members there is a lot of talk of chakras, inverted pyramids and “portals” that will open on December 21st.

The end of the Mayan world, meanwhile, is a much more down-to-earth affair. It is taking place roughly 100 miles from where the Family is gathered, in a small village called Lacanja Chansayab that houses the last descendants of a civilization that dominated Mesoamerica from roughly 250 to 900 AD. There are fewer than a thousand Maya left. They speak a language, Hach T’ana, that closely resembles that of their ancestors. They wear their hair long, don white tunics, hunt with bows and arrows and revere their gods by burning rubber dolls in ceremonies that symbolize human sacrifice.

Or, at least, they did until recently. The Lacandon Indians emigrated from the Yucatan peninsula in the 18th century to flee the conquistadors, and remained there almost untouched until the middle of the 20th century, when loggers and archeologists started to arrive in the area. The erosion of their culture accelerated in 1998, with the opening of the road from Palenque. Electricity followed shortly after, in 2000.

As we pull into the village on a sunny day in December, change is apparent everywhere. A truck is unloading a fridge, a washing machine and a TV. Music blares from the loudspeakers of the Refugio de Esperanza, the Pentecostal church that set up shop here 13 years ago.

“The hardest thing for me was learning to wear shoes,” remembers 53-year-old Chan K’in.

But modernity also brought with it more serious woes: “A lot of the kids leave the village to attend secondary school in nearby towns,” explains 26-year-old Victorino. “When they are away from their family, with no one to watch over them, they often start taking drugs.” Lacanja Chansayab lies just a few miles from the border with Guatemala, along one of the main cocaine routes.

But what really disrupted village life was the advent of money. In 2004, the Mexican tourism authority decided to sponsor ecotourism infrastructures in the village, in part to ensure Lacandon loyalty in the face of the 1994 Zapatista rebellion in neighboring communities.

“We gave 550,000 pesos (43,200 dollars) to eleven families to build three cabañas each,” says Alberto Morales Cleveland, the local tourism representative.

Other families had to manage without that help. “The head of the village shared the subsidies among his friends and the community is now split between those who received money and those who didn’t,” sighs Martin, who operates an independent eco-lodge.

“I don’t believe December 21st will be the end of the world. But for us, life as we knew it has certainly come to an end,” laments his brother, Ismael.

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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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In today’s pictures, a young passenger gets a lift at a Miami airport, ultraorthodox Jewish men transfer sins to chickens, referees make a controversial call in Seattle and more.

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ESSAY CONTAINS EXPLICIT CONTENT

Joao Pina

Shadow Of The Condor

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“Operation Condor” was a 1970s secret military plan sponsored by the United States during the Dirty War years, which aimed to eliminate the political opponents to the right wing military regimes. It took place in six countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.

It officially started in late 1975, when the secret services had a meeting in Santiago, Chile to define a strategy to use common resources and exchange information, man power and techniques to execute the plan. Thousands of people, mostly left wing workers and students, were arrested, tortured and executed, leading to 60,000 deaths, although a final number could never be confirmed because of the number of mass executions.

This project aims to show the scars and enormous impact left on the survivors and families of those who were killed. From the Amazon jungle in Brazil to the cold lands of Patagonia, thousands of victims still lay buried in unmarked graves, and the survivors struggle to cope with their memories.

Since the beginning of this investigation back in 2005, I have begun to take interviews with victims and families of those who disappeared, and have also visited sites of imprisonment, executions, and burials. I believe that by making these images I can help build a collective memory about the people behind this secretive operation who have never been held accountable.

I will return to the region and continue to build this body of work in Bolivia and Paraguay. These two countries still require much time to research and photograph. I will talk to survivors like Martin Almada, a lawyer who found the archives where thousands of documents prove the existence of “Operation Condor” in Paraguay.

No complete documentary project of this scope in all six countries has ever been completed, and none relying on photographs has been attempted. I hope to help generations of South Americans to know and understand the story of their countries.

 

Bio

Joao Pina was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in 1980, he began working as a photographer at age of 18.

His images have been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Stern, GEO, El Pais, D Magazine, Visão and others.

In 2007 he published his first book “Por teu livre pensamento” featuring 25 former Portuguese political prisoners. The book inspired an Amnesty International advertising campaign that won a Lion d’Or award, at the Cannes International Festival of Creativity 2011.

He has also been awarded the Estação Imagem grant in 2010 and a finalist for the Henri Nannen, Care award. Until 2010 he lived in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he continues to document the remnants of “Operation Condor”, a secret military operation to destroy the political opposition to the dictatorships in South America in the 1970s.

Lately he has been a privileged observer of the “Arab Spring”, traveling on several occasions to Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, while continuing his work in Latin America.

 

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