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The Battle for Kobani

For weeks now, ISIS militants in northern Syria have been attacking the Kurdish city of Ayn al-Arab, also known as Kobani, attempting to seize the city and solidify control of the territory. In the past few days, U.S.-led airstrikes on ISIS have included many targets around Kobani, and appear to have at least slowed their advance for the moment. Kobani is situated on a hillside right on the Syria-Turkey border, a border crossed by tens of thousands of Kurds fleeing their besieged city. Now, some of these refugees and fellow Kurds from southern Turkey have gathered on the border to watch the battles in Kobani through binoculars and cameras. Some Kurdish forces remain in the city, defending against invading militants, supported by Western aircraft and missiles, while ISIS continues to attack with artillery, mortars, suicide bombings, and small arms. CNN reports that senior U.S. administration officials conceded that Kobani will likely soon fall to ISIS, but downplayed the importance of the loss. [32 photos]


Wrapped in Plastic: Preparing for Ebola

As several African nations struggle to contain outbreaks of the deadly Ebola virus, and other countries ready themselves for any possible spread, images of healthcare workers wrapped in colorful personal protective equipment have become symbolic of the fight against the disease. In Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, local health providers and international volunteers protect themselves as best as they can, while caring for the sick and dying and disposing of infected belongings. In other countries, health professionals are making plans, preparing to handle any possible Ebola cases, and demonstrating their methods and protective gear for the press and government officials. [32 photos]


Northern Lights in the Skies Above Norway

Visible displays of the Northern Lights have been spectacular recently, for those in the far north, away from city lights. Reuters photographer Yannis Behrakis recently took a trip to northern Norway, joining others making the journey to admire and try to capture the phenomenon of the Aurora Borealis in photographs. Below is a collection of these images, looking to the skies above Troms County, Norway, last week. [18 photos]


Photos of the Week: October 2014. Part 1

This week we have images of the Hong Kong protests, 35,000 walruses gathered in Alaska, a surf dog contest in California, the annual Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca, Paris Fashion Week, Parkour in Gaza City, a tattoo of Morgan Freeman, and much more. [35 photos]


2014 National Geographic Photo Contest

National Geographic Magazine has opened its annual photo contest, with the deadline for submissions coming up on October 31, 2014. The Grand Prize Winner will receive $10,000 and a trip to National Geographic headquarters to participate in its annual photography seminar. The kind folks at National Geographic were once again kind enough to let us choose among its entries so far for display here. Captions written by the individual photographers. [32 photos]


The Eruption of Japan's Mount Ontake

On Saturday, Japan's Mount Ontake volcano erupted without warning, surprising several hundred nearby hikers. Plumes of volcanic gas and ash overtook the fleeing hikers and buried nearby lodges and outbuildings. Though most of the people on Mount Ontake that day were able to escape. 40 suffered significant injuries and at least 36 bodies have been found so far, according to Japanese authorities. More than 24 bodies remain at the summit, and recovery crews have been unable to return, wary of more activity from Ontake as tremors continue to shake the region. [19 photos]


Photos of the Week: September 2014. Part 4

This week, images of a storm cloud over Sydney, synchronized swimmers at the Asian Games, multiple scenes from in and around Syria, a city in Sierra Leone locked down to fight ebola, effigies of demon king Ravana in India, and much more. [35 photos]


The Alberta Tar Sands

Buried just beneath a layer of muskeg and forest in northern Alberta, Canada, lies a 50,000 square mile reservoir of heavy crude oil, possibly holding 2 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. These bitumen deposits require a lot of effort to extract, recover, and pre-process before the oil can be sent to conventional refineries. Most of the current extraction process takes place in open-pit mines, with massive machinery scraping up the tarry sandstone and moving it to facilities for processing. As the name "tar sands", or oil sands, implies, the heavy crude is found mixed in with sand, clay, and water, which must be removed, then the heavy crude must be "upgraded" to reduce viscosity and improve quality. Environmental activists have expressed concerns about the mining for years, citing destructive impacts on the land, the heavy carbon footprint of the laborious extraction and upgrade process, massive amounts of toxic byproducts, and studies that show oil sands crude emits more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil. Oil companies continue to make efforts to reduce carbon emissions, manage toxic byproducts, and reclaim mined land, while ramping up production. The Alberta tar sands are currently producing around two million barrels of oil per day, with plans to increase that to nearly four million barrels per day by 2022. Reuters photographer Todd Korol recently traveled to Alberta to photograph some of the mines, facilities, and surrounding landscape. [26 photos]


Fall Is in the Air

It's my favorite time of year once again - yesterday was the autumnal equinox, marking the end of summer and the start of fall across the Northern Hemisphere. And 2014 appears to be the year we reach peak pumpkin spice. Autumn is the season of harvests, festivals, migrations, winter preparations, and of course, spectacular foliage. Across the north, people are beginning to feel a crisp chill in the evening air, leaves are splashing mountainsides with bright color, apples and pumpkins are being gathered, and animals are on the move. Collected here are some early images from this year's autumn - more will come later as the season unfolds. [28 photos]


Opening Weekend of Oktoberfest 2014

One million steins of beer were consumed over the weekend, organizers say, as tourists and locals kicked off the 181st Oktoberfest. The Bavarian beer festival, held on Munich's Theresienwiese, lasts 16 days and will welcome more than six million visitors from around the world. This year, the average price of a mug of beer at any of the tents this year comes to €10.67 ($13.70 U.S.). Gathered here are some of the scenes from the opening weekend of Oktoberfest 2014. [25 photos]


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