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Leon Panetta

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Last week, Leon Panetta stoked some fears and drew bloggy jeers when he warned of an incoming “cyber Pearl Harbor.” The gloomy song and dance, which we’ve heard played out so many a time now, made a chorus of hackers’ alleged ability to disrupt transit lines and shut down the power grid. As Motherboard’s Mr. Estes pointed out, the faux-somber debacle was mostly designed to scare folks into supporting the Obama administration’s drive for internet security legislation.

And it might work. After all, we’re innately terrified of a world without electricity at this point; so much so that we’ve created an entire subgenere of fiction, the unplugged dystopia, to imagine its terrors. There’s been a steady drumbeat of forceful warnings of cyber attacks that could “cripple” the US grid: from Obama himself, from the NSA general who said over the summer that the probability of a crisis is mounting, and from the military, who says that Anonymous, the hacker group, would soon be capable of shutting down the entire U.S. electrical grid.

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Events celebrating and protesting LGBT rights took place in many parts of the world in the last several months. Pride parades were met with violence or intimidation in Russia, Georgia, and Albania while other places saw wild street parties. Three million people celebrated on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, often considered the biggest Pride event in the world. Activists in Uganda and Chile sought to change laws, while in the United States Barack Obama became the first American president to endorse same-sex marriage. Gathered here are pictures from events related to gay rights issues, LGBT Pride celebrations, and the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. -- Lane Turner (39 photos total)
Mark Wilson carries a rainbow flag during San Francisco's 42nd annual gay pride parade on June 24, 2012. Organizers said more than 200 floats, vehicles and groups of marchers took part in the parade. (Noah Berger/Associated Press)

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In early April, in an attempt to accelerate the transition of military responsibility to the Afghan government, the US agreed to hand control of special operations missions to Afghan forces, including night raids, relegating American troops to a supporting role. This deal cleared the way for the two countries to move ahead with an agreement that would establish the shape of American support to Afghanistan after the 2014 troop withdrawal deadline. Domestic support for the war (in the US) has dropped sharply. We look back at March in the troubled country. -- Paula Nelson (37 photos total)
Young Afghan women use an umbrella to shield themselves from the sun in Kabul, April 5, 2012. The position of women in Afghanistan has improved dramatically since the fall of the Taliban, with the number of girls in education soaring. But as the Americans and the Afghan government have pursued peace efforts with the Taliban, women are increasingly concerned that gains in their rights may be compromised in a bid to end the costly and deadly war. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)

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Earlier this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta indicated that American forces in Afghanistan would be accelerating their withdrawal. "Hopefully by the mid-to-latter part of 2013," Panetta said, "we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advice, and assist role." This announcement came shortly after the Taliban declared its plans to open a political office in Qatar, allowing for direct peace negotiations. At the moment, the U.S. still has 90,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, with 22,000 scheduled to return home later this year. Gathered here are images of the people and places involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [42 photos]

Men of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, during an operation near the end of their third deployment in three years in Afghanistan. They were securing route 611, which runs Kajaki Sofla, an area that had long been a safe haven for insurgent sub-commanders and for arms and drug trafficking. (Cpl. James Clark/USMC)

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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. -- Paula Nelson -- Please see part 1 and part 2 from earlier. (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Monday, December 26, due to the Christmas Holiday ) (51 photos total)
A defaced portrait of fugitive Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi in Tripoli on Sept. 1, 2011 as the fallen strongman vowed again not to surrender in a message broadcast on the 42nd anniversary of the coup which brought him to power. (Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty Images)

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An Occupy Oakland protester spraypaints the side of a building during a march on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, in Oakland, Calif. Except for a couple incidents of graffiti and minor confrontations with police officers, the protesters, who numbered about 1000, remained lawful. Relatives of an earthquake victim are led away from ruins by a Policeman, [...]

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TAKE A LEAP
TAKE A LEAP: A worker leapt over stacked sacks of grain at a wholesale market in Chandigarh, India, Thursday. India’s food-price index rose 9.32% since October 2010, according to newly released government data. (Ajay Verma/Reuters)

AGAINST A WALL
AGAINST A WALL: Capitol police arrested a protester who disrupted a hearing at which Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey were speaking in Washington Thursday. The hearing focused on the future of national defense. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

FUEL FIRE
FUEL FIRE: A boy looked at smoke rising from an Afghanistan-bound NATO fuel truck that was attacked by gunmen near Shikarpur, Pakistan, Thursday. The attackers set several fuel trucks on fire. (Nadeem Soomro/Reuters)

THE CAT’S MEOW
THE CAT’S MEOW: Ben Kiff, 20 years old, wore a cat suit as he waited in line Thursday to purchase an iPhone 4S at an Apple store on London’s Regent Street. The Apple fan said he planned to come to every launch dressed as a different animal. (National News/Zuma Press)

ARRESTED
ARRESTED: Police arrested Scott Dekraai, 42, about a half-mile from the scene where he allegedly opened fire at the hair salon where his ex-wife worked, killing eight people in Seal Beach, Calif., Wednesday. Mr. Dekraai and his ex-wife were engaged in a custody dispute. (Rose Palmisano/The Orange County Register/Zuma Press)

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BLOODIED BLOODIED: A man covered in blood fled after a group of protesters accused him of being a fascist and attacked him in Athens Wednesday. Police fired tear gas as tens of thousands of stone-throwing protesters rallied in Athens, including in Syntagma Square. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

DRESSED AS DEITIES DRESSED AS DEITIES: Hindus dressed as the Hindu god Hanuman rode in the back of a vehicle for the Dussehra Festival in Amritsar, India, Wednesday. Dussehra celebrates the victory of good over evil in Hindu mythology. (Narinder Nanu/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

HAPPY COUPLE HAPPY COUPLE: Duchess of Alba Maria del Rosario Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart, 85 years old, danced as her husband, Alfonso Diez, 60 years old, left, clapped after they wed in a chapel at her 15th-century palace in Seville, Spain, Wednesday. (Julio Munoz/European Pressphoto Agency)

CANVASSING CANVASSING: Police interviewed a resident as they searched for a gunman in Cupertino, Calif., Wednesday. A disgruntled employee allegedly opened fire at a limestone quarry, killing three people and wounding six before he possibly wounded another woman in an attempted carjacking. (Paul Sakuma/Associated Press)

BOWLING FOR DEMOCRACY BOWLING FOR DEMOCRACY: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, enjoyed an impromptu round of bowling at a Cairo hotel Tuesday. They discussed Egypt’s plan for elections and a transition to a civilian-led government. (Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey/AFLO/Zuma Press)

BUFF BODIES BUFF BODIES: Bodybuilding contestants flexed their muscles on stage during the Asian and World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships in Bangkok Wednesday. (Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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