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Mexico's Vigilantes

Over the past few years, drug-related violence in Mexico has driven local citizens to the breaking point. Fed up with the lack of security provided by the police, and with intimidation and attacks from members of various drug cartels and criminal gangs, people have started their own self-defense groups. Armed groups of ordinary citizens have set up security checkpoints, disarmed and chased away police they considered ineffective, and even organized ambitious manhunts to apprehend or kill suspected criminal bosses. While the vigilante groups have had some success, the Mexican government is now trying to reign in the lawless aspects by integrating these citizens into a new police group called the Force Rural State - formally providing them with weapons, uniforms, and training. While some of the vigilantes are cooperating, others insist they won't lay down their own guns until top leaders of The Knights Templar (Los Templarios) drug cartel are arrested. [34 photos]


Photos of the Week: 5/3-5/9

Today's collection of photos from the past seven days features wayward caribou on the Yukon River, a collection of Terracotta Daughters, unrest in Ukraine, a performance by the Lords of Lightning, earthquake damage in Thailand, and much more. [35 photos]


Truth or Consequences Spaceport

In the desert of New Mexico, about 20 miles outside the small town of Truth or Consequences, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport is preparing to host its first flights for paying customers later this year. More than 650 tickets have already been sold by Virgin Galactic at a cost of $250,000 apiece, offering passengers a trip into sub-orbital space, where they'll experience several minutes of weightlessness. Spaceport America already has several other tenants, including SpaceX, which is testing a new reusable launch vehicle. Residents of Truth or Consequences are hopeful the spaceport will become a success, and that jobs and tourists will follow. Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson recently traveled to the area, returning with these photos. [19 photos]


What the Hell Is Going On in Ukraine?

The situation in eastern Ukraine can best be described as chaotic. While it's clear there is violence occurring between pro-Russian groups and pro-Ukrainians (who desire closer ties to Europe), not much else is clear. Photos and video from the region show streets filled with a volatile mix of protesters, police, armed soldiers, civilians, and militia, wearing widely varying uniforms (or just street clothes). Many are masked, their exact motives and backers unknown as they attack their opposition, or raid government buildings, and tear down each others' flags. Some appear to be more at play than at war, but the stakes are deadly. Dozens have been killed in just the past week alone in gun battles, fires, and beatings - even a Ukrainian military helicopter was shot down yesterday. Gathered here are images of the chaos in Ukraine from the past week, as fears grow that violence will escalate even further. [40 photos]


Massive Landslide Buries Remote Afghan Village

Last Friday, in Afghanistan's mountainous northeastern province of Badakhshan, an enormous landslide took place, burying much of a small village, and killing hundreds. Officials say that at least 300 residents of Abi Barik village were killed, but are uncertain about exact numbers, cautioning that the final number could be 500 or more. Rescue teams gave up hope on Saturday of finding any survivors, focusing energy on helping the hundreds suddenly made homeless. Many of the surviving families have struggled to get aid. Some have gone to nearby villages to stay with relatives or friends, while others have slept in tents provided by aid groups. [22 photos]


Photos of the Week: 4/26-5/2

Today, a little something different: A collection of images from around the world over the past seven days, rather than a single story or theme. 35 photos covering subjects ranging from a moonrise above St. Petersburg, to a wooden Volkswagen Beetle, election violence in Iraq, a videogame discovery in a landfill, a pig rescue, and much more. [35 photos]


Upside Down Houses

Around the world, a number of groups looking to draw tourists have constructed upside-down houses, complete with inverted furnishings and decor. Collected here are photos of four recent examples of his topsy-turvy architecture in China, Russia, Germany, and Austria. [15 photos]


Massive Storm System Spawns Tornadoes Across Southeast

Over the past three days, a chain of deadly tornadoes dangerous has flattened homes and businesses in half a dozen states, forcing frightened residents to take cover and leaving tens of thousands still in the dark. At least 28 deaths have been reported so far. As the dangerous storm system rages on, authorities are warning of further severe weather across more than a dozen southern states. [28 photos]


2014 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

The 26th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is under way, and entries will be accepted for another six weeks, until June 30, 2014. First prize winner will receive an 8-day Alaskan expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the early entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. [30 photos]


Squatters in Venezuela's 45-Story 'Tower of David'

In 1990, construction began on the Centro Financiero Confinanzas, a huge high-rise office complex in Caracas, Venezuela. Construction halted in 1994, after a banking crisis and the death of the building's main investor, David Brillembourg. The 45-story tower stood vacant until 2007, when squatters began moving in, displaced by a massive housing shortage in Caracas. Authorities turned a blind eye, and the skyscraper, nicknamed the "Tower of David" (after David Brillembourg), is now home to more than 3,000 residents. The third-highest skyscraper in the country has been jury-rigged with electricity and water up to the 22nd floor. Reuters photographer Jorge Silva spent some time with tower residents earlier this year, returning with these photographs of the world's tallest slum. [26 photos]


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