Salt of the Earth

Elaborate salt formations are seen in the Dead Sea near Ein Bogek, Israel, on Nov. 9. The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea is one of 28 finalists in the online campaign to determine the new seven wonders of the natural world. The list includes other geographical splendors such as Switzerland’s Matterhorn mountain, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and Venezuela’s Angel Falls.

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Full article and photo: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,797079,00.html

Coming Face to Face with the Animal Kingdom

In the search to find this year’s European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the German Society of Wildlife Photographers has compiled a collection of the most spellbinding moments caught on camera in the natural world.

A hummingbird stares into the eyes of a snake. A hunting kingfisher dives into a school of fish. A lonely hyena is silhoetted against a watering hole reflecting the dawn sky. These are just some of this year’s captivating moments caught on camera by the finalists in the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

This year’s top prize went to German-born photographer Britta Jaschinski for her image of a startled cheetah against the bleak, ash-grey backdrop of the aftermath of a bush fire in Ndutu, Tanzania. Normally, a bush fire like that would be a blessing for a cheetah because it would make it easier for him to hunt for confused and frightened potential prey.

“But this cheetah looks unsettled, strange and lost — almost ghostly,” says Jaschinksi. “I took the photo and then watched as he disappeared into the scorched surroundings.”

Judges awared prizes in nine further categories including birds, mammals, plants and funghi, landscapes, underwater and man and nature. British photographer Paul Hobson received first prize in the man and nature category for his photo of a bird nesting in a set of traffic lights.

The German Society of Wildlife Photographers awarded the European Wildlife Photographer of the Year title for the tenth time this week.

Ghostly Cheetah: This is the photo that won Britta Jaschinski the title “European Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010”. The picture was taken in Tanzania.

A Mute swan (Cygnus color) floats over a school of chub (Squalius cephalus). This image won Swiss photographer Michel Roggo second prize in the birds category. The picture was taken in January 2010 in the Rhine in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Puffins in the snow: This photo by Werner Bollmann made it into the final round in the the bird category.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). This photo won French photographers David Allemand and Christophe Sidamon-Pesson the Public Choice Award.

Hyena at sunrise. Grégoire Bouguereau watched a herd of hyenas for days at this water hole in the Serengeti National Park before getting this picture early one morning. It won him second place in the mammals category.

Red deer between cranes: This photo taken by Polish photographer Marek Kosinski at Milicz Fishponds in western Poland reached the finalist stage of the mammal category.

A rodent devours a frog: Sven Zacek received a special mention in the mammals category for his photo “Dinner on the Steamy River.”

A snail in a sunbeam. This photo won Csaba Gönye of Hungary first place in the other animals category.

A starfish in the surf. Spanish photographer Asier Castro de la Fuente aptly called his photo “The Comet”.

Hummingbird and snake: “Eye to Eye.” Bence Máté’s photo was shortlisted in the other animals category.

Seaweed in the sand: this photo won Gabi Reichert first prize in the plants and fungi category.

Veliki Prstvaci waterfalls. Maurizio Biancarelli took this early morning atmospheric photo of the Upper Lakes in Plitvice, Croatia.

Ice floes in the Arctic Ocean. Swiss photographer Olivier Seydoux named his photo “The End,” refering to the increasing threat to the polar regions from climate change.

A kingfisher hunting underwater. Manfred Delpho captured an amazing split second with his camera. This photo made it onto the short list in the marine life category.

Life in the City Center: British photographer Paul Hobson won first prize in the man and nature category with his picture of a mistle thrush nesting in a traffic light.

An imprint of a young spotted woodpecker which flew into a window. The feathers can be clearly seen on the impression left behind on the freshly cleaned glass. Josef Vorholt’s picture came second in the man and nature category.

A  polar bear at the zoo: Andrea Ballhause called her picture “Ich bin dann mal weg” – “I’m off then.”

“Wood Visions.” A photo by the Finnish photographer Tommy Vikars.

Icebound: Imprisoned between ice and snow. This striking image won Polish photographer Michal Budzynski the Fritz Pölking Junior Award 2010.

A floating olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea): The animals are very curious and like to probe any objects that resemble food — even the photographer’s equipment. Unfortunately, they also swallow large amounts of plastic waste which can often be fatal for the animals. This image won Solvin Zankl the Fritz Pölking Award 2010.

A young olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) seen from below. The German photographer Solvin Zankl observed the animals for a long time on the coast of Costa Rica.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,728303,00.html

Photos Show Beauty Lurking Under the Microscope

Far from your typical photography competition, Nikon Small World reveals the hidden beauty of tiny things. The annual shortlist zooms in on the complexities of life under a powerful lens. This year’s collection includes close-up shots of a mosquito heart, a wasp nest and even soy sauce.

The rules of the game are simple: Any adult with a light microscope and a camera can send in microscopic photographs. That is the basis of the Small World Competition, a long-running event on the scientific calendar, organized by the camera-maker Nikon.

The entrants’ work often resembles science-fiction artwork more than the plants, objects or creatures lying on the microscope slide. This year’s crop of winners reveals a quirky beauty usually hidden from the naked eye.

Among the subjects under scrutiny by the winners are a wasps’ nest, cancer cells and even soy sauce, as photographed by a Chinese scientist.

Mosquito’s Heart

The top prize this year was taken by a close-up shot of a mosquito’s heart, glowing in radiant blues and greens. It was taken by Jonas King, of the biological sciences department of Vanderbilt University, in Nashville, Tennessee.

For fans of microscopic photography, two Berlin-based exhibitions currently represent the artistic-scientific niche: They can be seen at the Photography Museum and the Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation until early January 2011.

Dr. John Hart of Colorado University won 20th place with this shot of crystallized, melted acetanilide and sulfur.

In 19th place comes a close-up shot of a rat retina taken by Cameron Johnson of the University of Auckland, New Zealand.

In 18th place is this shot by Gerd Guenther of Düsseldorf. The lunaresque image is in fact a film of soap, enlarged 150 times.

In 17th place: Charles Krebs from Washington focused on a wasp’s compound eye and antenna base.

In 16th place comes a pollen-coated flower stigma, taken by Dr. Robert Markus of the Hungarian Academy of Science.

In 15th place comes this geometric shot of divaricatic acid from lichen, the work of Dr. Ralf Wagner from Düsseldorf.

In 14th place is this image of spiral vessels from a banana plant stem, snapped by Dr. Stephen Lowry from the University of Ulster.

In 13th place is this close-up of live mushroom coral taken by James Nicholson of the Coral Culture and Collaborative Research Facility, South Carolina.

In 12th place: This shot was taken by Gregory Rouse from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California. He photographed a juvenile bivalve mollusc using a technique which helps capture objects lacking in contrast, without using artificial dyes.

In 11th place is this shot of cancer cells taken by Dr. Paul D. Andrews of the University of Dundee in Scotland.

In 10th place is crystallized soy sauce, taken by Yanping Wang of the Beijing Planetarium.

In 9th place is Dr. Duane Harland’s close-up of a flea.

In 8th place is Honorio Cocera-La Parra’s shot of the mineral cacoxenite. He works for the University of Valencia.

In 7th place is this photo of an endothelial cell (from the interior of blood vessels), taken by Yongli Shan at the University of Texas.

In 6th place are the mosaic-like patterns hidden inside live red seaweed, as photographed by Dr. John Huisman of Murdoch University in Western Australia.

In 5th place is this shot of the seed of the bird of paradise plant, taken by Viktor Sykora from the Charles University, Prague.

In 4th place comes Riccardo Taiariol from Italy with his shot of a wasps’ nest, looking more like cobwebs.

In 3rd place is the Canadian zebra fish taken by Oliver Braubach of Dalhousie University in Canada.

In 2nd place is a magnified head of a five-day-old zebra fish, taken by Dr. Hideo Otsuna from the University of Utah Medical Center.

And the top prize went to this photo of a mosquito heart, magnified 100x, by Jonas King of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,725857,00.html

Nazi Degenerate Art Rediscovered in Berlin

Buried in a Bombed-Out Cellar

The works were thought to have been lost forever. Eleven sculptures, all of them shunned by the Nazis for being un-German, have been found during subway construction work in the heart of Berlin. But how did they get there?

Digging new subway lines in Europe is no easy task. It’s not the excavating itself that is so problematic; modern machinery can bore through the earth with surprising speed these days. Rather, in places that have been inhabited for centuries, if not millennia, no one really knows what one will find. The delays for archeological research can be significant.

In Berlin, that hasn’t often been a problem. Aside from significant numbers of unexploded bombs dropped on the city during World War II and a few long-forgotten building foundations, construction tends to be relatively straightforward. The city, after all, spent the vast majority of its 770 year history as a regional backwater.

This autumn, however, an extension to Berlin’s U-5 subway line means the city can gloat over a world-class delay of its own. Workers in the initial phases of building a subway stop in front of the Berlin city hall stumbled across remains of the city’s original city hall, built in 1290. Archeologists were ecstatic.

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The works were thought to have been lost forever. During construction work on a new subway line through the heart of Berlin, archeologists discovered 11 sculptures that were once part of the Nazis’ Degenerate Art exhibition, pieces that the regime found too “un-German.” This piece, “The Dancer” by Marg Moll from 1930, was among them. The face and arm have been polished to show its original condition.

The pieces are thought to have been in an apartment in a building on Königstrasse (King Street) when it was bombed in the late summer of 1944. All the works show fire damage. This piece is called “A Likeness of the Actress Anni Mewes” by Edwin Scharff.

Just how the pieces got to the Königstrasse building remain unclear. Historians think they may have been purchased by a tenant in the building named Erhard Oewerdieck, a government official who was honored after World War II for helping Jews escape the Holocaust. The taller piece in the foreground has not yet been identified. Behind it stands a piece by Gustaf Heinrich Wolff. The smaller sculpture on the right is “Female Bust,” by Naum Slutzky.

Degenerate Art was the term the Nazis applied to most early 20th century art that was considered to be too “Jewish” or “un-German.” Many of the works thus branded were included in a travelling exhibition in 1937. The pieces were displayed in cramped, poorly lit rooms and were surrounded by insulting graffiti.

“Pregnant Woman” (1918) by Emy Roeders. While the pieces have been largely cleaned up, most have been left unpolished to indicate the damage done by the fire that destroyed the building on Königstrasse where they were found. “One can see the fate they have lived through and the dignity which they still have,” said archeologist Wemhoff on Monday.

All of the newly discovered sculptures can be seen in the New Museum as of Tuesday. Here, a piece which has not yet been identified.

“Head,” made in 1925 by Otto Freundlich. The lower part of the face was intact when it was found, but some fragments have since been replaced.

“Standing Girl” by Otto Braun. Many of the works of art on the Nazis’ list of degenerate art have never been found.

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On Monday, however, Berlin’s Mayor Klaus Wowereit announced a new series of finds that has generated even greater enthusiasm. In digs carried out throughout this year, archeologists have unearthed 11 sculptures thought to have been lost forever — valuable works of art that disappeared during World War II after having been included on the Nazis’ list of degenerate art. Most of them have now been identified and have been put on display in Berlin’s Neues Museum.

‘A Minor Miracle’

“We hadn’t expected this confrontation with this period of time, with these samples of degenerate art — it is a minor miracle,” Wowereit said at a press conference on Monday. “It is unique.”

The finds were made among the ruins of Königstrasse (King Street), a formerly bustling street in the heart of prewar Berlin. Allied bombs decimated the quarter, however, and much of the rubble was simply buried after the war to make room for reconstruction. Much of the archeological work currently under way consists of sifting through the rubble that remains in the intact cellars of the structures that once lined the street.

In early January, workers discovered a small bronze bust in the shovel of a front loader that was cleaning out one of those cellars.

“We thought it was a one-off,” said Matthias Wemhoff, director of the Museum of Prehistory and Early History in Berlin and a member of the archeology team looking into the finds. “It wasn’t immediately clear that it was linked to degenerate art.”

Soon, however, more artworks were discovered — all sculptures, all from early 20th century artists and all bearing clear indications of having been fire-damaged. Only at the end of September did it become clear that all of the art pieces — by such artists as Otto Freundlich, Naom Slutzky and Marg Moll, among others — were on the list of artworks branded as undesirable by the Nazis. All were thought to have been lost forever.

Simply Destroyed

The list of works shunned by the Nazis for being “Jewish” or “un-German” is long, and encompasses primarily early 20th century modern art including pieces by such luminaries as Emil Nolde, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, Pablo Picasso and many others. Some 20,000 such works were confiscated by the party and those that weren’t sold for hard currency or stolen by cynical party officials were simply destroyed. In 1937, a travelling exhibition of such “degenerate art,” as it was called, made its way through Germany.

Many of the works now discovered in Berlin were part of that travelling show. Historians working on identifying the provenance of the pieces now unearthed have found documents indicating that some of them were returned to the Nazi Propaganda Ministry in 1941. After that, though, the paper trail goes cold.

Wemhoff believes that the works may have been purchased by a resident of Königstrasse 50, beneath which the finds were made, to save them from destruction. Initial speculation has centered around Erhard Oewerdieck, a government official who was awarded the title “Righteous among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel for helping Jews escape the Holocaust during World War II. He rented several office rooms on the fourth floor of the building in 1941. He is also considered to the be only one in the building by then — all of the Jewish tenants had been evicted and many deported by then — to have had the wherewithal to collect the works.

Other Works?

Archeologists said on Monday that any pieces of art he might have kept in his offices would have ended up in a pile of rubble following the bombing run which destroyed the building in the late summer of 1944. City officials have initiated contact with Oewerdieck’s family in an effort to learn if he did in fact seek to protect some degenerate artworks from destruction.

They are also interested in learning what other works he might have held. Archeologists have found some bits of wood and other indications that more destructible pieces might also have been present. “It is possible that there were wood sculptures or even oil paintings,” said Wemhoff.

But if there were, they would have been completely incinerated.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,727971,00.html

Swan Lake

Hamburg’s “Alster swans,” named after the city’s most famous lake, where they live, are known across the country. Each year, they are removed from the lake before the winter cold arrives and taken to another, warmer body of water where they reside as the Alster freezes over. On Monday, “Swan father” Olaf Niess and his colleagues collected the birds and took them to their winter quarters in boats that have been lined with straw for the trip. The swans have been present at the lake since the 11th century; and the job of “Swan father,” which dates back to 1674, is the city’s oldest known job. The swans are considered to be a Hamburg emblem.

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Full article and photo: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,728912,00.html

Endangered Species

There are only around 3,200 tigers still living in the wild. The South China tiger is one of the most endangered and in fact, may even have become extinct.

The insect, Chlorocypha centripunctata, also known as the “Giant Jewel” which lives in Nigeria and Cameroon. It is classified as ‘vulnerable’ in some areas because of increasing deforestation.

Polar bears are also categorized as ‘vulnerable’ to extinction. A loss of natural habitat, due to shrinking sea ice, pollutants in their food chain, environmental degradation and hunting are the causes.

The Javan rhinocerous, also known as the lesser one-horned rhinocerous, is critically endangered. It is thought to be the rarest, large mammal on the globe.

There used to be at least 17,000 Kihansi spray toads living at the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania. They are now extinct in the wild.

The lynx was listed as ‘near threantened’ in 2002 but has since climbed back up into the ‘stable’ category. Lynx have been released in several areas of Europe in an effort to reintroduce them, including in Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany and France.

 The Elbe Beaver has been helped out by renaturation projects that seek to protect biodiversity and rejuvinate natural waterways. In 2002, it was considered ‘near threatened’. In 2010 it is in the ‘least concern’ category.

The Amur or Manchurian leopard is one of the rarest felines on earth. There are only an estimated 30 to 35 creatures still in the wild.

The Panay monitor lizard is listed as ‘endangered’ because it’s habitat, in forestland on Panay Island in the Phillipines, is declining and because it is hunted.

Rabbs fringe-limbed treefrog is listed as ‘critically endangered’. Experts believe a rapid decline in population is due to the frogs catching an infectious disease, chytridiomycosis, which affects amphibians.

A tiny Mauritius fody. The birds have been making a comeback over the past few years due to relocation into a different, more protected habitat on an island off the Mauritian mainland.

A rare Brazilian Lear’s macaw. The birds are endangered due to animal smuggling, which is a big business in Brazil and also due to encroachments on their natural forest habitat. This species is now steadily increasing in numbers owing to intensive conservation action.


The peacock-eye stingray lives in freshwater in South America and is a favorite in aquariums. Many stingrays are not endangered but several species are on the endangered or vulnerable list. Others, like this one, are not classified because there is insufficient data on numbers.

A rare Cat Ba leopard gecko. It is one of some 163 species discovered in the biologically rich Greater Mekong River region in 2008, which are now at risk of extinction due to climate change.

An exotic variety of banana plant, another one of the 163 species discovered in the Greater Mekong River region in 2008 and now at risk of extinction due to climate change.

The tiger-striped pitviper was discovered accidentally in the Greater Mekong River region in 2008 when a scientist put his hand on a rock and noticed the viper. It is thought to be endemic to Hon Son, a small island off the coast of Vietnam.

Corals on the Great Barrier Reef. In general, the major threat to corals is global climate change, in particular temperature extremes leading to bleaching and causing corals to have an increased susceptibility to disease. Storms, and ocean acidification are also problems.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/fotostrecke-60606.html

Escape to the Sun

Cranes fly past the setting sun near Linum, Germany. The cranes spend the summer in Scandinavia, where they breed. Every fall they migrate south to spend the winter in warmer climes in southern France and Spain. En route the birds take a four to six week break in the German wetlands. Cranes are omnivorous, living on berries, roots, leaves as well as insects and smaller birds and mammals. The marshland near Linum becomes host to up to 80,000 cranes every year.

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Full article and  photo: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,721443,00.html

Predatory Cats Return to the Harz Mountains

For the past decade, conservationists have been releasing zoo-bred Eurasian lynx in Germany’s Harz mountains, with the goal of returning them to their natural habitat. The lynx, once targeted by hunters because they threatened farm animals and local game, disappeared from the region nearly 200 years ago.

On Easter Sunday, 2009, officials at Germany’s Harz National Park opened the gates to their wooded enclosure and let out two young lynx. The brother and sister, who had been found orphaned by the roadside a few months before, were once again on their own in the wild. And, witnesses said, they didn’t look back.

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Eurasian lynx are known for the whisker-like fur on their faces and the tufts of hair that sprout like paintbrushes from their ears.

Pamina is a hand-raised lynx who lives in an enclosure the public can visit in Bad Harzburg. She is too friendly with humans to be successful in the wild.

The goal of the Harz Lynx Project is for the population to grow enough that the cats spread out to find their own territory and eventually join with other populations in Bavaria and the Czech Republic.

Unlike wolves, who have to learn hunting behavior, “even a domesticated cat can catch a mouse,” Anders said.

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After spending some time in the Harz, a low mountain range in northern Germany, the male, dubbed “M2,” continued on the move. He traveled southwest some 110 kilometers (68 miles) to Kassel, tracked with a GPS collar, and covered wide swaths of land. He crossed the Werra River, and even made it over the autobahn, using one of a number of “green bridges” in Germany built exclusively for wildlife.

M2’s journey was followed closely by conservationists with the Harz Lynx Project, a program that began reintroducing zoo-born lynx into the wild in this part of Germany in 2000. So far, they have released 24 lynx — nine males and 15 females — who came from zoos and wildlife preserves in Germany and Scandinavia. The program is sponsored by the Harz National Park, the states of Lower Saxony, Saxony Anhalt and Thuringia and other organizations.

The goal of the project is for cats like M2 to be able to reach other lynx populations in forests in Bavaria or the Czech Republic, and to reestablish a wild lynx population in the region.

“Another 100 kilometers, and he would have reached another population,” Ole Anders, head of the Lynx Project, says. “I am quite optimistic.”

Hunted to Near Extinction

The Eurasian lynx once freely roamed the forests of central Europe, but by 1900 they faced extinction after centuries of being targeted by hunters, who reviled them for killing their local game and livestock, and who prized their fur.

Their cousin, the smaller Iberian lynx, is the most endangered cat species in the world, and is the focus of conservation efforts in Spain. Most of the 7,000 to 8,000 Eurasian lynx now living in Europe are found in the Nordic countries, with scattered populations in western and central Europe.

Prior to the project’s efforts, the last lynx living in the Harz forest was killed in 1818 by a group of 17 hunters. A monument was built on that spot near Lautenthal, commemorating the death of the predatory cat.

And while some attitudes have changed in the last 200 years, the plan to reintroduce the lynx was still met with initial resistance by some individual hunters who were afraid that they would kill the local roe deer population, and farmers who feared their livestock would become easy prey.

“Hunters are not, in general, positive towards the introduction of animals by man into an area, because normally that causes more problems than it solves,” said Torsten Reinwald, of the German Hunting Federation.

‘Good for Biological Diversity’

But in the case of lynx, the hunters’ associations made an exception, believing that there was adequate scientific evidence that the surroundings could support the lynx again.

“Most hunting associations — over 90 percent — are registered as environmental conservation organizations,” Reinwald said. “This predator coming back into Germany, this is a really good thing for biological diversity.”

The hunters’ association in Lower Saxony, home to the Harz forest, supported the program from the outset. Florian Röfling, a spokesman for the group, said that they no longer worry that the roe deer population will decline.

Still, Reinwald said, some hunters believe that the roe deer behave differently and are harder to find when lynx populations are present.

Farmers can receive compensation from the federal government if they think one of their animals has been attacked by a lynx, but instances have been rare. For example, a €6,000 fund established in Bavaria in the late 1990s for such incidents hasn’t been exhausted, Reinwald said.

The Lynx As A Tourist Attraction

Locals in the Harz forest are now celebrating the cats’ return, and are cashing in on their appeal to tourists. Lynx likenesses peer out from storefronts and restaurant windows in Bad Harzburg, where three lynx, who are too tame to live in the wild, are housed in a public enclosure. More than 8,500 tourists came last year to view the public feedings of the animals.

Seeing a lynx in the wild is extremely difficult, although numerous sightings are reported within the Harz mountains each year, and can be tricky even at the wooded enclosure in the Harz.

But one of giant cats is not camera shy. Pamina, a hand-raised lynx who seeks out human companionship, is a local favorite. On one recent afternoon, she nuzzled against the leg of a caretaker. She stood as tall as the caretaker’s hip, and had the mannerisms of a housecat. But those looks deceive — Pamina also has the strength to attack a deer her size and pin it down until it dies.

With a beard of whiskers and the tufts of hair sprouting from her ears like paintbrushes, Pamina charmed the crowd as she sauntered around the enclosure.

Anders is hesitant to give estimates on the current population of the animals — who are loners in the wild — until more data can be collected. Andreas Kinser, a forestry expert with the German Wildlife Federation, said that the lynx population in the Harz mountains is likely between 50 to 60 animals. In Bavaria, the estimates run from 50 to 100, according to officials with the Bavarian National Park.

Risks Include Poachers And Highways

Some scientists have questioned whether or not reintroducing the lynx will be successful. The authors of a 2005 study published in the scientific journal Conservation Biology, argue that a population in the Harz Mountains would only be viable if mortality rates remain low. Modern highways and the threat of poachers make that all the more difficult. Even in protected areas in Poland poaching accounts for more than 70 percent of lynx deaths, the study stated.

Anders points out that the 2005 study was based on a model and not in lynx in the wild, and he thinks the actual situation is better than the model suggested. It is impossible to tell what the actual mortaility rate is since dead lynx are rarely found, he said.

If the lynx from the Harz can connect with other populations in the Bohemian and Bavarian forests scientists will worry less about inbreeding, which is now a concern. It will also prove that the Harz population is sufficiently established, since lynx have to spread out to find their own territory. M2’s odyssey already provides a good example that this actually could happen.

“It is our challenge to do the best job we can, give the lynx a good start and find out if they are able to survive — not in computer models but in the real world,” Anders said. “If they make it, we will score a win for another big threatened mammal species. If not, we would have to face the fact that in Germany, the age of the lynx and its habitat is definitely over.”

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,719988,00.html

Treehouse Hotels Bring Visitors Back to Childhood

Sleeping Among the Birds

Giant orange eyeballs, airplanes you can sleep in, and multidimensional birds’ nests. Those who want to relive their childhood fantasies of sleeping in a treehouse have their choice of rustic wooden models or the ultra chic. SPIEGEL ONLINE takes a look at hotels for tree climbers.

Perched crookedly among the branches, more garish than sublime, the rooms all offer guests the sounds of the breeze rustling through the leaves and birds chirping — all 10 meters (32 feet) above ground. Welcome to the first treehouse hotel in Germany.

“We built it like children would have: filled with nooks and crannies, colorful, and with lots of imagination,” says the hotel’s owner Jürgen Bergmann. But it’s not only families with children who frequent the Kulturinsel Einsiedel near Görlitz, a city in eastern Germany that shares its border with Poland. A night in the treetops has also become a favorite 40th or 50th birthday present.

Bergmann is sure of the hotel’s appeal to men. “It’s a lifelong male fantasy to be in a treehouse,” he says.

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A night nestled in the trees. Germany’s first treehouse hotel, Kulturinsel Einsiedel, opened near Görlitz in Saxony in 2005. The wooden rooms, with names like Modelpfutzen’s Treetop Summit, are connected by narrow walkways.

Guests, both young and old, share outhouses and cold water outdoor showers. Still, the rooms are booked to capacity, says the owner, Jürgen Bergmann.

Many treehouse hotels have eccentric designs. The Free Spirit Spheres hang on Canada’s Vancouver Island. The owner, Tom Chudleigh, says the idea came to him from “the spirit realm.”

Chudleigh hopes one day to expand his offering from three to 40 round rooms, all interconnected. He dreams of a resort in the trees.

No simple plane wreck. In Costa Rica one can spend the night in an old Boeing placed high in the trees.

The terrace features rocking chairs and a view of the sea. The special suite attracts families and pilots alike.

At the new treehouse hotel in Sweden, called the Treehotel, all of the rooms are designed by different architects. This one is the mirrored cube.

A square sushi roll: “The Cabin” hangs among the birch trees near the Swedish village of Harads. In all, 24 rooms are planned.

The third completed room, called the “Bird’s Nest.” Just like with the other two rooms, the owners of the hotel took precautions that none of the trees would be injured during its construction.

Storybook treehouse: Also in Sweden is the Woodpecker Hotel, high among the branches of an old oak tree in a park in Västerås. Not for those with a fear of heights: one can only reach the room, some 13 meters high, with a ladder. Fortunately, a toilet is inside.

Somewhat easier to reach, but higher still is the Canopy Tree House in the middle of the Peruvian rain forest. Guests at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Lodge sleep some 27 meters above ground.

Luxury treehouses: Those who want to stay at the Tsala Treetop Lounge in South Africa don’t have to worry about outhouses or cold water showers. They relax with room service and private pools.

At the Post Ranch Inn in California’s Big Sur, high among the cliffs of the Pacific coast …

… guests have well-appointed rooms surrounded by green trees.

The bed and breakfast Vertical Horizons Treehouse Paradise in the US state of Oregon doesn’t offer a pool or fireplace, but owner Phil and his wife Jodie make the guests breakfast. The couple built the three treehouses themselves, and each has its own theme.

Another treetop hotel in Oregon is the Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort, where owner and treehouse expert Michael Garnier created 16 different rooms. Guests wanting more of a thrill can fly along the hotel’s zip line

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These days it’s easier than ever to fulfill one’s dream of sleeping among the branches. More and more hotels are offering the experience, not only in Germany, but also in the jungles of South America, in Africa, Australia and even in the polar regions. And lately it hasn’t only been ramshackle shacks that are hanging between the branches. Some of the treehouses offer real luxury, such as fireplaces and hot tubs. Others are treehouses in name only.

In Bergmann’s hotel, which opened in 2005, things are still on the rustic end. The toilets are truly outhouses, and the outdoor shower, which naturally only has cold water, is not for everyone. But that hasn’t scared off visitors. Bergmann says the rooms are filled to capacity.

What attracts his visitors, Bergmann says, is simply the thrill of being in a treehouse itself. “We take them on a trip back into their childhoods,” says the 54-year-old with the long white braid. “It’s a place for the soul: cozy, romantic. One feels very at home.”

Treehouse Purists and Gigantic Eyeballs

He might have crooked cottages with unusual names, but Bergmann is a purist when it comes to building treehouses. Others have different interpretations. On Vancouver Island in Canada, some four meters (13 feet) off the ground, are three orange-colored balls, about the size of small campers. With round windows on the sides, they look like giant eyeballs.

Tom Chudleigh is the founder and builder of the three Free Spirit Spheres, made out of wood and fiberglass. He confides that the idea for the unusual hotel rooms came to him from the “spirit realm.”

“Architecture can shape your surroundings,” he says. “The spheres give off, with their shapes, a feeling of being at one with the environment. They hover in the air between the trees and make this magical world accessible.”

Chudleigh wants his guests to feel a connection to nature when they spend the night with him. The balls hang on ropes from the trees and sway back and forth in the breeze. The concept has been well-received. Eve, Eryn and Melody, as he has named them, have been booked almost all year.

Interest in his hotel has gained rapidly in the last few years, Chudleigh says. He built everything from the frames down to the furniture, leaving only the plastic wrapping and the windows for others to do. His dream is to have 40 balls connected together — a whole resort in the treetops.

Many of the treehouse hoteliers tend to have a vision, and often it is an outlandish one.

Allan Templeton just positioned a whole airplane between the trees. Along the cliffs of the Pacific coast in Costa Rica, the silver and red monstrosity juts out of the tropical forest and looks like it just made an emergency landing.

But a look inside the suite of the Hotel Costa Verde proves that it is not dangerous. Inside, the room is outfitted with local teak, and over the wings is a terrace with rocking chairs and a breathtaking view of the ocean.

Sushi in the Trees

It’s a form of recycling,” Templeton says. He found the discarded old Boeing from the 1960s at the airport in Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, and remembered an article he once read about airplanes that had been converted into homes. Templeton, an American and the son of a B-17 bomber pilot, decided he wanted something just like that for his hotel.

After extensive renovations and a risky maneuver involving a 90-ton crane, the Boeing finally landed among the trees. The suite has been open since the end of 2008, and the guests have included families and several pilots.

“Maybe they come here with especially romantic ideas,” Templeton says, laughing.

The newest member of the treehouse family is also no wooden shack. Hanging in the woods near the Swedish village of Harads are the new rooms of the Treehotel, opened in July by the Lindvall family. There is a mirrored cube, a multidimensional bird’s nest and a square-shaped sushi roll. All of the planned 24 rooms have been designed by Swedish architects.

Like Tom Chudleigh and his spheres, the owners of the hotel want to offer rooms that are in harmony with their environment. “Respect for nature is very important for us,” says Sofia Lindvall, who runs the hotel with her parents. “We haven’t damaged a single tree with a screw. The rooms are either hanging or are on stilts.”

The interest in the treehouses has been so strong that the Lindvall family holds tours every day for those who can’t get a free room.

“Many people only first notice once they are here how high up 10 meters is from the ground,” Lindvall says. “Many get quite scared.”

One can’t be afraid of heights and stay in a treehouse, no matter what the design.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,716603,00.html

Heaven and Hell

The sun sets against ash from the Eyjafjällajökull volcano in Iceland this week. The volcano has been sending up new plumes of ash, disrupting air traffic in Ireland and forcing some trans-Atlantic flights to detour. The new cloud is currently tracking towards the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Last month, ash from Eyjafjällajökull was responsible for closing much of the airspace over Europe and causing international air-traffic chaos.

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Full article and photo: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,693682,00.html

‘You Don’t Have to Risk Your Life to Tell a Good Story’

Italian freelance photographer Pietro Masturzo, 30, won the prestigious World Press Photo prize for his picture of women taking part in night-time protests on a Tehran rooftop. He talks to SPIEGEL ONLINE about the risks of the job and defends himself against accusations that he was a coward for not photographing the street demonstrations.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: After the Iranian elections in June 2009, there were demonstrations and riots almost daily on the streets of Tehran. Why did you photograph the rooftops rather than the action on the street?

Pietro Masturzo: There were no other options. Three days before the election I was arrested, along with another Italian colleague. After I was released it became clear to me that it was extremely dangerous to report further from the streets of Tehran.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why? What had happened?

Masturzo: I traveled to Iran — a country that had fascinated me since I was a student — as a tourist. Arriving there one week before the elections, I knew I had to be careful because it could be dangerous to be on the streets taking pictures without a journalist’s visa. But as a photographer I am happy to forget about those sorts of dangers.

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World Press Photo, a non-profit organization based in Amsterdam, has chosen the best news pictures of 2009. The first prize in the category Spot News Singles went to Adam Ferguson, a freelance photographer from Australia, for this picture of an Afghan woman being rushed from the scene of a suicide bombing in Kabul on Dec. 15, 2009.

Marco Vernaschi, a Pulitzer Center photographer based in Italy, won the first prize in the General News Stories category for this picture taken in Guinea-Bissau.

Kent Klich, a photographer based in Sweden, won the first prize in the General News Singles category for a series entitled “Gaza Photo Album: Tuzzah”, taken in the Gaza Strip, March 3, 2009.

Walter Astrada, an Agence France-Presse photographer based in Argentina, won the first prize in the Spot News Stories category for this picture titled “Bloodbath in Madagascar”, taken on Feb. 12, 2009.

Mohammed Salem, a Reuters photographer based in the Gaza Strip, won the second prize in the Spot News Singles category with this picture of smoke rising during Israel’s invasion of Gaza on Jan. 8, 2009.

Joe Petersburger, a National Geographic photographer based in Hungary, won the first prize in the Nature Singles category for this picture of a kingfisher.

Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer based in Canada, won first prize in the Nature Stories category for this picture taken in South Georgia, Antarctica.

Laura Pannack, a magazine photographer based in Britain, won first prize in the Portraits Singles category for this picture of Graham, an anorexic teenager.

The first prize in the Contemporary Issues Stories category went to American photographer Eugene Richards, for this photo series entitled “War Is Personal, USA.”

Elizabeth Kreutz, a photographer based in the US, won the first prize in the Sports Features Stories category for this series about Lance Armstrong’s return to cycling competition.

Robert Gauthier, a Los Angeles Times Magazine photographer based in the US, won first prize in the Sports Features Singles category for this picture of Yankee fans trying to distract a member of a rival team at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 25, 2009.

The first prize in the Sports Action Stories category went to American photographer Donald Miralle Jr. for his photographs of the 2009 Ironman World Championships in Hawaii.

Gareth Copley, a photographer based in Britain, won the first prize in the Sports Action Singles category for this picture of England’s Jonathan Trott during the fifth Ashes test match in August 2009.

Malick Sidibé, a New York Times Magazine photographer based in Mali, won first prize in the Arts and Entertainment Singles category for this picture, taken in Mali, titled “Fashion Portfolio: Prints and the Revolution.

Pietro Masturzo, an Italian freelance photographer, won the World Press Photo of the Year 2009 award with this picture of women shouting in protest from a rooftop in Tehran on June 24, 2009.

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SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened when you were arrested?

Masturzo: One evening before the elections I was with some colleagues on Valiasr Street. We were taking pictures of supporters of (opposition leader Mir Hossein) Mousavi in front of a large poster of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Suddenly a number of Basij, the state-controlled volunteer militia, roared up to us on motorbikes. These men asked us what we were doing and why we were taking pictures, then took us to the police station. There they checked out our equipment and confiscated our digital memory cards. They questioned me non-stop: Who was I? Why was I making propaganda against the Islamic Republic? I tried to convince them that I was a tourist and that I was traveling on to (the popular tourist destination of) Persepolis the next day.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You said you were held by the authorities for three days. Did you have to sleep in a cell?

Masturzo: At that point my colleague and I were staying in a hotel. The Basij brought us back to the hotel every night, then picked us up again at seven in the morning to take us to various police stations. After three days we were freed, without charge.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What happened later, on the rooftops of Tehran?

Masturzo: During the days before the election I had got to know a lot of people on the streets of Tehran, from different parts of the city and from all levels of society. A few invited me to spend the night with them, something that is not unusual in Iran. After I was freed, I started to spend every night with a different family. That first night after the election, I began to hear the call of “Allahu akbar” (“God is great”). With this nightly call, the people were protesting against the fraudulent election results and against the brutal tactics used by the state security forces.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did you know immediately that this form of protest would make a good subject for photography?

Masturzo: Yes, even that first night I was certain of that. The family I was staying with spent half the night talking about the highly symbolic meaning of that call. They talked about the Islamic revolution 30 years previously and how, back then, the call of “Allahu akbar” was a form of civil disobedience against the regime. I decided to make a series of pictures about that topic.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did the people you were photographing know you were taking pictures of them?

Masturzo: Often they didn’t. The ones who did know I was taking their pictures asked me to make sure they wouldn’t be recognizable in the pictures.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What were the circumstances around the photo that won you the prize?

Masturzo: It happened on one of the first evenings after the elections, when the pressure on the streets was almost unbearable. I was staying with a family in a very conservative working class neighborhood of Tehran. As I did every evening, I went onto the rooftop to look for photo opportunities and on the roof opposite, I saw these three women in very traditional dress. They were calling on God in protest against the results. I found a good position, where I could keep the camera stable and took the picture using a long exposure.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Were you able to speak to the women?

Masturzo: No, I never found out who they were. I don’t know if I could even find my way back to the roof from which I took the picture.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In Iran the decision to award you the prize for World Press Photo of the Year has been controversial. Why?

Masturzo: There has been a lot of criticism on various Web sites that I got the prize for taking a picture on the rooftops while other people were risking their lives to show the riots on the streets. A lot of young Iranians who photographed the riots on the streets under conditions of great danger objected to this. For instance, one young photographer sent me an email suggesting that I only got the prize because I am a Westerner.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does this upset you?

Masturzo: Photography can be debated and there should be no limits on that debate. Iranian colleagues certainly risked more than I did; they put their lives at risk. But when you’re telling a story, you also need to use your wits. I believe you don’t have to risk your life to tell a good story. I just had a good idea, that’s all. During the demonstrations in Tehran I saw a lot of people with cameras. But when I looked at their photos later on the Internet or on television, there were none of the rooftops. Anyway, I also got a lot of support — a lot of people thanked me for showing a different side of Iran.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Will your life change now that you have won this prestigious prize?

Masturzo: Up until now it’s been hard to make a living as a freelance photographer. I am hoping that it will get a little easier.

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Full article and photo: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,679739,00.html

Nicicle

Winter just won’t let go. A cold snap has once again descended over large parts of Europe, with snow fall widespread across much of the Continent. Even the French Riviera got hit with the white stuff on Thursday, with Nice on the Mediterranean coast covered with a blanket of snow.

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Full article and  photo:

European Car Designers Pimp Santa’s Ride

No Reindeer Required

The next time Santa sets off for his around-the-world journey on Christmas Eve, he may have slick new ride. The design chiefs of six top automobile manufacturers have come up with their take on the sleigh of the future.

Usually car designers are required to consider a myriad of fairly everyday expectations as well as less ordinary desires. Which probably made this case clearer than almost any other: SPIEGEL ONLINE asked top car creatives from a handful of leading automobile manufacturers to come up with an exclusive design for a new sleigh for Santa.

The results don’t have a lot in common with the classic reindeer and sleigh set up. Where once the plucky reindeer pulled the sleigh along, now they have become passengers — or, sadly for quadruped fans, as in the case of the Mazda design, they have been left at home with the workshop elves.

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Mini-sleigh: BMW decided the most suitable ride for Saint Nick would be in a convertible Mini, a brand they have produced since 2001. After all, the old guy is used to open topped transport.

A racey Christmas sleigh by Porsche. From the company’s headquarters in Zuffenhausen, in Stuttgart, comes a variation on the new Panamera luxury sedan.

A bright red Mercedes should get Santa lots of the right kind of attention from the ladies. This car is a variation on the new Mercedes E-Class, T-Model. It is a ritzy stationwagon which has been previously described as a “rolling cupboard.” Perfect for all those presents — or maybe for racing around, red-nosed at New Year’s.

Several cars might be required if Santa goes for the smaller, more economical Ford option. This would be in keeping with Ford’s bet that consumers in both the US and Europe will want more smaller vehicles in the future. The reindeers could always drive them anyway.

Meanwhile Mazda’s version of Santa’s new sleigh verges on science-fiction.

Opel has had a tough year, having been in the media almost non-stop due to financial woes and ownership issues. That didn’t stop the designers from developing this fancy Christmas sleigh.

The contribution from VW is not only slick but also environmentally conscious — the car looks a lot like VW’s new one liter car, or “1L”, the second edition of which was introduced at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. The diesel hybrid is built of such light weight materials and is so streamlined that it can apparently travel 100 kilometers on just one liter of diesel (about 235 miles per gallon).

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The designers from Porsche and Ford had slightly more conventional visions to impart. From Porsche headquarters in Zuffenhausen, in Stuttgart, comes a variation on the new Panamera luxury sedan and the auto designers from Ford Europe headquarters in Cologne came up with a modified C-Max, a compact family car, that seemed suitable for Santa and his helpers.

So Eco-Freindly There is No Room for Gifts

The contribution from VW is not only slick but also environmentally conscious — the car looks a lot like VW’s new one liter car, or “1L” (for fuel efficiency) the second edition of which was introduced at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show. The diesel hybrid is built of such light weight materials and is streamlined that it can apparently travel 100 kilometers on just one liter of diesel (about 235 miles per gallon). And the environmental aspect of this sci-fi sleigh is even better than that — the “1L” is a two person vehicle, so if Santa wants to take his reindeer for a ride, or even a cute elf, than there will be virtually no room for gifts. Take that, rampant Christmas consumerism!

Meanwhile Mercedes and Opel are taking a different approach and thinking bigger to come up with luxury vehicles complete with futuristic sleigh runners.

Still fans of a good old fashioned, traditional Christmas who may find all this talk of Santa’s Mercedes upsetting, need not fear. For the time being these automotive options only exist on the drawing board. And no doubt a wooden sleigh and a red nosed reindeer or two will always be a more romantic, not to mention timelessly classic, way for a legend like Santa to go.

 

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,668859,00.html

Animal pictures

Deer in the snow in Knole park, Sevenoaks, Kent

Two brown bears engage in a bit of “bear knuckle” fighting in front of a spectacular, snow-topped mountain range. The duel was captured on camera in Hallow Bay, part of the Katmai National Park, Alaska

A bobcat sits on a saguaro cactus in Tucson, Arizona. The bobcat came halfway down the cactus only to be chased back up by another bobcat

This bird could be nature’s real-life answer to the famous chopstick fly-grabbing Mr Miyagi. Caught on camera in Kenya, the bird grabs a fly straight from the air

A veined octopus crawls along the ocean floor holding one half of a coconut shell. Australian scientists have filmed the octopus collecting coconut shells for shelter. Researchers believe this is the first evidence of tool use in an invertebrate animal

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Full article and photos: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/6840710/Animal-pictures-of-the-week-18-December-2009.html

Animal pictures

A jaguar named Antonia looks after her baby called Bonita at the zoo in Saarbruecken, Germany.

Cheetah mother, Msichanga with her young at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel.

Goldilocks the polar bear.

Baby Elephant Rani having fun at the Hagenbeck Zoo in Hamburg, Germany.

Whoopie stuck closely to her mother Maggie in the first weeks of her life but now she jumps and climbs around the enclosure on her own.

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Full article and photos: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/6729230/Animal-pictures-of-the-week-4-December-2009.html?image=1

The Hunters of Greenland

In the most remote regions of Greenland, Inuit hunters spend up to two months out on the ice, seeking narwhals, seals and polar bears. Living in a harsh environment where temperatures can drop to minus 40, they’ve relied on hunting to survive for the past 4,000 years. Left, icebergs dwarf a dog sled on the Inglefield Fjord.

Hjelmar Heimeken waits for a seal to peer through an ice hole off Scoresbysund in eastern Greenland.

Ole Neylsen of Qaanaaq with a freshly harpooned narwhal.

Hunters use axes and knives to divide their catch in Thule, in northwestern Greenland.

Mikide Kristiansen untangles his dog team.

Storms make pack ice crack and pile up.

Anda Kuitse prepares his drum for a dance performance at his home in Kulusuk. He has performed all over the world.

The Northern Lights glow above Tinnittaqilaq village. The Inuit, whose cultural and spiritual beliefs are deeply intertwined with nature, believe the lights are souls waiting to be reborn.

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Full article and photos:
http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2009/12/07/travel/20091207-greenland-slideshow_index.html?8dpc

Animal pictures

Baby Rothschild giraffe Sara and her mother Juji play in their enclosure at the zoo in Hanover, Germany.

Red or Lesser Pandas at Wenling Zoo, China.

This huge Griffon Vulture was feeding on a carcass when the aggressive fox attacked.

A male peacock spider shows off a stunning array of colours as it performs an impressive mating ritual in front of a watching female.  Male peacock spiders keep their “tails”, which are flap-like extensions of their abdomen, folded down by their side until they spot a brown coloured female.

Bulan was born on September 20, 2009 and is the fifth baby born to Bini.

A dormouse hibernates in its nest.

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Full article and photos (1) to (5): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/6671062/Animal-pictures-of-the-week-27-November-2009.html?image=1

Photo (6): http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/charlottehigginsblog/2009/nov/30/charlotte-higgins-is-away

Walking Into the Earth’s Heart: The Grand Canyon

“I HAVE heard rumors of visitors who were disappointed,” J. B. Priestley once said of the Grand Canyon. “The same people will be disappointed at the Day of Judgment.”

I have to confess I was disappointed on my first visit to the canyon more than a decade ago. One July, on our way to Los Angeles, my family and I swung off the highway and made the 60-mile detour to the South Rim, and found ourselves caught in a long traffic jam. When we eventually managed to park, and walked to the rim, the scale of the sight off the edge was so great it was hard to muster a response. It was so vast, and so familiar from innumerable pictures, it might just as well have been a picture. What impressed me most was the Babel of languages audible among the files of visitors pouring off the tour buses. It sounded like Times Square on a Saturday night, with every continent represented in the hubbub.

At this magnitude, scale is deceptive. Pedro de Castañeda, a Spaniard on the Coronado expedition of 1540, whose members were among the first Europeans ever to see the canyon, reported that a group of them scrambled some way down, and found that boulders they’d seen from the rim were not as they’d thought, the height of a man, but “taller than the great tower in Seville” (presumably the Giralda Tower, more than 300 feet high).

We only stayed an hour or two. But before we left, from the rim I saw a trail, pale as chalk, winding down a huge slope beneath a cliff. There’s something about a trail seen from far away. That thread snaking over the landscape — where does it go, who uses it, why does it seem so intimate with the land? And why does it arouse such an intense longing to follow it? An unknown path seems almost necessarily a metaphor. We like to conceive of life as a thread, after all, a path crossing unexpected terrain on its journey to another element. When the trail winds across empty desert, up and down huge hillsides — as in the Grand Canyon — it’s all the more insistently allegorical.

There wasn’t time to follow it, and I left with a nagging sense of opportunity lost, and that pale thread of a path still pulling at me.

IT wasn’t until last winter that I got to answer that pull. And the first thing I learned is that for the Grand Canyon, winter is the time to go. As the chief district ranger John Evans told me, “You’ll more or less have the place to yourself.” Although the canyon is a desert, it’s a kind of oasis in winter — a place of peace, sequestered from the rest of the world. In three days of hiking I saw only two or three mule trains, each carrying baggage not riders, and maybe two dozen hikers in all.

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Although the Grand Canyon is a desert, it’s a kind of oasis in winter — a place of peace, free of summer’s crowds and traffic jams. Left, hikers coming up out of the canyon on the South Kaibab trail, headed for the South Rim.

An elk on the South Rim.

The Colorado River cuts through the mile-deep canyon. The scientist John Strong Newberry, part of an 1857 expedition into the canyon, said that “nowhere on the earth’s surface, so far as we know, are the secrets of its structure revealed as here.”

Hike to Ribbon Falls from the North Kaibab trailhead.

The Grand Canyon in late afternoon light from the South Rim.

Phantom Ranch is a collection of stone cabins and lodges in the bottom of the canyon.

There are cliffs of blue, pink, orange, mauve, and deep purple bands of rock — the banners of God, as an early explorer said.

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Winter is cool, and cool is good for hiking. To sweat actually uses energy. It’s true there’s snow on the trails, and long-molded tongues of ice pounded into enamel-like smoothness by the mules that go up and down with supplies, but that’s only on the highest reaches. Drop 2,000 feet from the rim and you’ll most likely be free of it. Sunlight becomes a blessing instead of a 120-degree curse, when you step out of chill shade into some welcome warmth.

To experience the canyon, you have to leave the rim. The frustration aroused by the bigness, the grandness, on a rim-only visit becomes a liberation once you drop down. The modern world falls away. It’s not just a trip out of the human realm, but into the deep geology of the earth. Layer upon layer of the planet’s crust is revealed, stratum by stratum: the Toroweap limestone, the Coconino sandstone, the Redwall limestone, the Tonto Group; the Vishnu schist deep down, close to two billion years old, nearly half the total age of the planet — the stuff that is under our very feet as we go about our lives is laid bare here. And in the silence and stillness, in the solitude of the canyon in winter, it’s all the more impressive.

Teddy Roosevelt said that all Americans should try to see it. He also declared, “We have gotten past the stage, my fellow-citizens, when we are to be pardoned if we treat any part of our country as something to be skinned.” Alas, he had no idea what was coming. But the Grand Canyon has not yet been skinned. Though not for want of trying.

As I prepared to go, and talked to friends about the coming trip, I was amazed how many people knew the inner canyon well. One acquaintance told me that he had spent 300 nights below the rim, falling just short of a lifetime’s ambition of a full year. In a grocery store in Santa Fe, where I live, I got talking with a Grand Canyon-crazy runner who hikes from rim to rim in a single day several times a year. A woman in a coffee shop line told me about the time a 10-pound falling rock nearly knocked her off a trail. I began to get the feeling the Grand Canyon is truly a national monument, analogous to the Lake District in England in its centrality to the nation’s psyche. “Each man sees himself in the Grand Canyon,” Carl Sandburg said. It’s something all Americans share, and can take pride in.

This was all very well, but the canyon is one mile deep, and the trail itself about 10 miles long, and that translates to a very arduous walk, especially for an 8-year-old. By some arcane family algebra, it was Saul, our younger son, who was due a trip with me.

After an impossibly smooth two-hour ride in the vintage coaches of the Grand Canyon Railway from the town of Williams, Ariz., the nearest major settlement south of the canyon, we checked in at Bright Angel Lodge near the canyon rim, to reconfirm our bookings for Phantom Ranch, down in the bottom. The woman behind the desk glanced at my young son and said: “I hope you’re planning to leave immediately, if not sooner.”

It was already 1 o’clock, and most hikers set off in the morning.

My heart dropped. Saul is strong, fit as an Olympic athlete, indomitable as a Gaul, but still only 8. Was it crazy and cruel to ask him to walk down then up a whole mile of elevation? What if having got him down he hurt himself, or his feisty spirit gave out? And then there was my own bipedal apparatus. What if my own legs failed me?

The fear only amplified over the first spectacular mile of trail, where we had to pick our way precariously over ice. But then we were out on the spine of a ridge, the aptly nicknamed Ooh-Aah Point, that dropped precipitately to either side, and the ice was all melted away. Here, it wasn’t so much about looking at a view as being in the midst of one.

As we were gazing around us, two condors came gliding right over, so close we could hear the wind ruffling their feathers.

“Keep in the middle,” I implored Saul, as he took to scampering along the parapet of rocks. Kids apparently can’t resist a parapet, no matter the drop beyond it.

I wouldn’t want a creationist to misinterpret this, but I always find geology more or less unbelievable. Were these hundreds of square miles of limestone hundreds of feet deep truly made by trillions of marine creatures dying? Could a river really carve out a gash this deep? But before the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam, in a single day the Colorado River used to carry away 380,000 tons or more of silt, enough to fill a train 25 miles long. Each day. A river this size is indeed an efficient grinding tool.

Below us, sweeping brown plateaus bulge as if they were soft upholstery. There are cliffs of blue, pink, orange, mauve, and deep purple bands of rock — the banners of God, as an early explorer said. True enough, the stark minerality of the desert always seems to rouse the inner mystic.

The scientist John Strong Newberry, part of an 1857 expedition into the canyon, said that “nowhere on the earth’s surface, so far as we know, are the secrets of its structure revealed as here.” After the cliffs of pale Coconino limestone, we descend the Redwall limestone, into a deep tub of crimson stone. Finally at Skeleton Point we catch the first glimpse of the river, thousands of feet below us, announced by a distant roar. A vast sweep of shadow is coming off the rim above, spreading over the Tonto plateau. We plunge in and out of the shade on the switchbacks. So far, we have seen just four people.

Then just after Tipoff Point, the path brings us to another dizzying corner, overlooking an ancient rusty amphitheater of Tonto Group rock one way, while to the other, the air drops away to another sight of the Colorado River far, far below, clay-red, rippling, bloated. One of the two suspension bridges down there is visible too. It all looks like a telephoto shot, the unfamiliar vertical distance baffling the eye.

Around 4 p.m., when we’ve descended some 4,000 feet, deep in the echoing inner canyon, amid runnels and gullies of deep shadow, beneath shoulders of shale and scree, Saul gets a kind of oxygen narcosis, skipping around, giggling, singing “Blue-blue-blue-blue” from “Austin Powers,” while my left knee goes supersonic, screeching at me to just please take one pace up instead of down. Enough with the down. Then Saul discovers the echo deep in the billion-year-old rock. “Go away, echo!” he shouts vainly, again and again.

Endless new levels, new shears, shelves and tables to descend. Then all of a sudden, there the bridge is again. This time, we can see its individual railings, and as we approach, through a tunnel hewn straight through the rock, the thick, deep air beside the rushing river is like a balm. Whether it’s the late afternoon light, the fatigue, the pain in my knee, or the relief of getting down, I find myself wallowing in a wonderful endorphin bath. The world goes glassy. The canyon cliffs and trapezoids and pinnacles of rock all become resonant. I watch myself walk, as if the real me were a deep witness to my life, rather than the one who apparently lives it.

Down here, with the enormous Colorado River beside us, encased in the immense walls of the inner gorge, we pass the old settlement of Anasazi Indians who lived here 1,000 years ago. They planted corn and squash, and used nothing that didn’t come from their immediate surroundings. It occurs to me that today it takes a whole afternoon on vertiginous trails to accomplish the reverse: to enter an environment without human imports. This is surely the kind of immersion a hiker seeks; this is why it feels like a pilgrimage to come here. It’s good to reflect that if America has a heart, this just might be it.

By the time we reach Phantom Ranch, its own side canyon, Bright Angel Creek, is deep in chilly shade. To reach the quiet huddle of stone and timber cabins under their grove of silvery cottonwoods, the trees tattered with old dry leaves, with a bunk waiting, and hot showers in the bathhouse, and the creek plashing by — relief floods in. But even though we’ve descended to 2,000 feet above sea level, it’s still freezing.

When the ranch bell rings for dinner, some two dozen guests troop from the cabins through the frigid dusk to the main lodge, where we quietly feast on stew, corn bread and salad. We’re from all over, all walks of life: a student from Quebec, a trucker from Kentucky, a fisherman from Alaska, a college student from New York, a woman in insurance, from Pennsylvania. All these trappings of people’s lives seem to fade in the context of this deep retreat from the world. We’re just people, making the pilgrimage from cradle to grave.

At 8 p.m. the dining room turns into a kind of mess hall. People sit around playing cards, or Trivial Pursuit, drinking wine or beer, and the counter opens for the sale of odds and ends. On a shelf sits the box for river mail, where letters wait for rafters coming downstream.

IT is 2 a.m. when a cry pierces the peace in our cabin: “I feel sick, Daddy.” No sooner have I sprung from my bunk to fetch the trash bin than Saul is hunched over it, retching. By 6 he is hot with fever. It has happened: stuck at the apex of a mile-high inverse mountain in winter, with a sick child.

At first light Bright Angel Creek is chalky, vague. Then distant bluffs of red stone get picked out by the sun, and more and more bright geometries emerge. While I’m wondering what to do, rows of Easter Islandesque monoliths along the top of a cliff turn bright, and when the early sun strikes the high outcrops, I can see how they got their Egyptian and Hindi names. They do indeed look like sphinxes and Oriental temples.

At 8 a.m. I go to the lodge and ask if they have a thermometer. They radio down to the nearby ranger station, and 10 minutes later Eston Littleboy Jones, a tall ranger equipped with a holstered automatic pistol and a Taser gun, tends to my son.

Saul’s eyes light up at the sight of the guns. A quick checkup, and he’s bouncing back. By 10 he’s once again climbing from bunk to bunk, urging me to join in, and by 11 he’s insisting we walk the Overlook Trail mentioned by Eston, one and a half miles up to an outcrop overhanging the creek, then the River Loop Trail. Apparently, it was a swift-moving stomach bug.

My legs are stiff as stilts. It’s as if never having been near a Stairmaster, I decided to spend all of yesterday on one. But homeopathically, hiking seems to ease them.

From one of the two suspension bridges we stare down at the river. “It looks like they’re fighting a war,” Saul says of the white waves. “Fighting to get up the river.” The frothing eddies do seem to be struggling with the current. Two plumes of ripples curve into one central stream like trails of smoke sucked into a flue. The canyon walls create a constantly changing concertina effect with volume. There’s a great bow of a pebble beach, except the pebbles are the size of cars. It’s a landscape from “Lord of the Rings,” with a perilous cliff path to match. Any minute our way will be blocked by an orc.

The next day we make the climb back up the Bright Angel Trail. Like the Kaibab Trail, this was also built for mules, having first been a Native American trail to the creek at Indian Gardens, halfway up. Mule trails are good for hikers. The beasts won’t put up with anything too steep. The trail makes its way up cliffs in endless switchbacks.

Rows of flying buttresses, a soaring ship’s prow throwing a huge flag of shadow across a cliff, a forbidding wall of masonry half a mile above us: the views never stop coming. Way above, on the whitish cliffs just under the rim, something is winking. Could it be the windows of El Tovar, the old hotel where we’ll be spending the night? Along the climb at Devil’s Corkscrew, a chain of little waterfalls has carved out smooth dark basins in the rock. Again and again it strikes me how perfect the temperature is for hiking. Through a grove of willow the brilliant stream flashes by, icy cold.

On that day we pass five hikers in all. Once again, it’s just us and the canyon. And the circling condors high overhead.

On the last two miles, stalactites of milky ice hang beside the trail. Then solid gray snow is underfoot, like lacquer, impregnated with dust, slowing us right down. As we stand still waiting to see if we can catch the sound of wind in the feathers of a condor gliding by, we hear from up above the deep gurgle of the first motorbike. Three days away from carbon culture, the modern world seems like Thunderdome now.

Finally we slump into El Tovar, the oldest Grand Canyon hotel, with its fireplaces of stone blocks and masses of dark timber, a perfect hiker’s rest.

The truth is, when I pulled briefly into the Grand Canyon years before, I didn’t even truly comprehend that it was a canyon. It was such a vast landscape it seemed it might go on in pinnacles and gulfs for hundreds of miles. But once you’ve been down into it, you know what it is. You understand. At least a little. And the mere thought of being disappointed by it? I’m positively looking forward to Judgment Day.

HENRY SHUKMAN, a frequent contributor to the Travel section, last wrote about the Ridgeway trail in England.

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Full article and photos: http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/11/29/travel/29canyon.html

Europe’s Wild Boar Population Exploding

Climate Change’s Clear Winners

Europe is waging war on the boar, whose numbers have been surging as a result of global warming and the large-scale cultivation of maize and rapeseed for biofuel. While violent confrontations with humans are on the rise, the animal is respected for its intelligence — and remains dear to German hearts.

Barely a week goes by in Germany without a news story about a human encounter with wild boars — joggers getting chased up trees, boars smashing their way into living rooms and tearing up the furniture, even whole hordes of the shaggy beasts rampaging through village streets. Last year, two police officers were so scared of a marauding boar that they leapt onto a low balcony and opened fire on it with their service revolvers. They missed.

It’s not the boars’ fault. The species of pig may look fearsome with their big heads, short legs and tusks that can grow to 20 centimeters (eight inches). But they are naturally shy animals and only become aggressive when they feel trapped or threatened. Confrontations with humans have become commonplace because the wild boar population is exploding across Europe as a result of human activity — global warming and radical changes in agricultural land use.

In Germany, hunters shot a record 450,000 boars in the 2008/2009 season, which runs year-round beginning on April 1, according to figures from the German Hunting Federation (DJV). That was up by a third from the previous season and gives the best available indication of the population. The total number of boars roaming the forests, suburbs and maize fields of Germany is now estimated at between 2 million and 2.5 million.

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Germany alone has between two million and 2.5 million wild boars, and the population has been increasing across Europe. The species of pig may look fearsome with its big heads short legs and tusks that can grow to 20cm. But it’s a naturally shy animals and only becomes aggressive when it feels trapped or threatened.

German pensioner Günter Kuhla from Spremberg in Brandenburg feeding his unlikely pet, a 160 kilogram wild boar. It wandered onto his farm when it was a piglet and had lost its mother. In Germany, hunters shot a record 450,000 boars in the 2008/2009 season which runs from April 1 to March 31, according to figures from the German Hunting Federation (DJV). That was up by a third from the previous season.

Barely a week goes by in Europe without news stories about a human confrontation with wild boars — joggers getting chased up trees, boars smashing their way into living rooms and tearing up the furniture. But not all encounters are violent. Here, young tourists feed wil boar in Vierhouten in the Netherlands.

The French revere the wild boar almost as much as the Germans. Here, thousands of people turned out in the northeastern town of Bogny-sur-Meuse last year to watch a monumental wild boar sculpture, destined to be erected along a nearby highway as the symbol of the Ardennes region.

Two German symbols — the Dachshund and a very young wild boar, getting on remarkably well. The adaptability and intelligence of wild boars inspire a degree of awe, but above all it’s their close association with the German forest — so deeply rooted in the Teutonic psyche — that gives them a special status here.

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It’s the same story in France, where 500,000 boars were shot last year. In Poland, it was 200,000, and their numbers have also been increasing in Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the whole of eastern Europe, Torsten Reinwald, a biologist and expert on wild boars at the DJV, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. And boars are also thriving in Asia and the Americas.

“Wild boars are the clear winners of climate change and of the change in nature caused by humans,” said Reinwald. “But it’s wrong to say there’s a plague of them. We have 4 million hares in Germany, and they’re still on the endangered species list.”

Gorging on Maize and Acorns

Warmer winters in recent years have reduced the death rate of older boars and of young ones born late in the year, and the rise in carbon dioxide levels has intensified the sunlight and led trees to produce more acorns and chestnuts — a high-energy delicacy for boars, whose reproduction naturally increases with the amount of available food.

“A sow can produce a litter of up to eight piglets per year,” Reinwald said. “And because their reproduction depends on weight rather than age, we’re seeing boars of just nine months — mere teenagers — producing young.”

Boars also have a penchant for maize and rapeseed, now being grown in vast quantities for biofuel. In Germany, the switch from traditional small fields with varied crops to gigantic swaths of agricultural land devoted just to one crop has provided wild boars with veritable hypermarkets in which they can gorge themselves after the winter, Reinwald said.

In the eastern state of Brandenburg, there are maize fields eight square kilometers (almost 2,000 acres) in size. “You can’t spot wild boars in there,” Reinwald said. “They have shelter, water and food.”

A total of 27 percent of Germany’s surface area is devoted to cultivating just three crops — wheat, rapeseed and maize. Add to that all the woodland, which covers more than a fifth of the country, and you have a vast area in which boars can frolic and flourish.

Adaptable, Intelligent, Disciplined

They roam in close-knit, well-organized groups, also known as sounders, of around 20, and they are led by sows. Boars have been known to grow to a weight in excess of 200 kilograms (440 pounds), although the average adult weight is between 50 and 90 kilograms.

It’s not surprising that they are doing so well. They eat anything from discarded pizzas and doner kebabs to maize and acorns, and they’re highly adaptable. Despite their weight, they are agile and can reach speeds of up to 50 kilometers per hour (31 mph) over short distances. They are also excellent swimmers and are renowned among hunters for their intelligence.

One sign of their brainpower is the tactic they adopt when devouring maize. When they enter the fields, they leave the outer edges of the field intact, presumably to hide what they’re doing, hunters say.

Their ability to learn also shows how clever they are. “They have a well-organized social structure, and if the lead sow senses danger, they all follow her. They know the routes used by hunters, and when they hear the sound of car doors slamming, they immediately retreat to the edges of the hunting area and hide in reeds until the danger has passed,” said Reinwald. “They know, ‘if we go there, we’re safe.'”

It’s not that they can read the signs. But they have a keen instinct and they learn from observation.

Boared Yet?

Roaming boars cause some 25,000 traffic accidents in Germany per year, but that’s just a fraction of the 200,000 crashes involving deer, Reinwald adds. The damage to crops and the danger they pose to herds of domestic pigs — such as transmitting swine fever — are bigger problems.

The invasion of cities is also causing concern. Berlin has a wild boar population estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000. They are frequently spotted digging up gardens or trotting along train tracks and quiet streets. “People make it worse by feeding them,” Reinwald said. “In Berlin, buses avoid some stops because boars hang around there begging, just because someone decided to put out maize for them.”

When cornered, they show fierce courage, especially if they’re protecting their young. In fact, boars have been known to smash their way through electric fences in a blaze of sparks. “That may also be due to short-sightedness, though,” Reinwald admitted.

In Texas, which has similar problems, officials plan to use poisons and chemicals against them. But Reinwald says hunting is the only effective way to reduce their numbers: “Poisons and contraceptives will only do more damage to the environment, and they don’t work.”

Dear to the German Heart

Germany’s 350,000 registered hunters have their hands — and gun magazines — full trying to cull the boar population. Group hunts with beaters and dogs and 30 or 40 hunters are most effective, but it still takes an average of 16-18 man-hours to kill one wild boar.

Moonlit, snowy nights are best, when the dark outlines of the beasts are easily visible against the bright ground and bare trees. Machine guns would probably reduce the man-hours involved, but they are banned from German forests.

Besides, despite all the marauding and hunting, wild boars are dear to the nation’s heart. Their adaptability and intelligence inspire a great degree of awe; but, above all, it’s their close association with the German forest — so deeply rooted in the Teutonic psyche — that gives them a special status here. “Wild boars belong here; it’s a symbolic animal for Germany,” Reinwald said.

And, of course, they make good sausages, too — another thing dear to the German heart. “Their meat is considered a delicacy,” Reinwald said. “But with the increase in hunting, the price of wild boar meat has dropped. In eastern Germany, you can get a kilo for less than a euro ($1.50).”

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/0,1518,663411,00.html

Animal Pictures

Three month old hyena Kai with mum Ngozi from the Denver Zoo.

A trio of male Australian big-bellied seahorses vie for the attention of a female seahorse at Living Coasts, Torquay, Devon. In a move that gives hope to overweight men everywhere, the female seahorse picks the male with the biggest belly.

A hungry praying mantis carefully edges its way up a twig before pouncing on a tree frog. Fortunately (for the frog) the mantis stayed hungry.

A Sambar, an Asian deer, is chased by a tiger at the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger reserve near Nagpur in the Indian State of Maharashtra. The battle went on for 24 hours, with the deer escaping three times before finally falling prey to the tiger.

This is the first outing for Perth Zoo’s latest arrival: a baby Sumatran Orangutan born to 39-year-old mother, Puteri.The infant weighed just under two kilograms at birth.

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Full article and photos: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthpicturegalleries/6617101/Animal-pictures-of-the-week-20-November-2009.html

Defining Press Photos from this Decade – 5

From Headbutts to Hanging Chads

A US flag flying in the rubble of the World Trade Center. A scruffy and worn-looking Saddam Hussein. A headbutt from one of the world’s greatest football players. Reuters has released its best press photos of the decade. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents a selection.

The decade was still young, the world still unaware of what a perfectly executed terror attack looked like, when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York in an assault broadcast live on television.

It was a horrific crime — some 3,000 innocents died in New York that day. And in Washington D.C. And in a Pennsylvania field. They are images which the world will likely never forget, and they are included in the press photos of the decade just released by Reuters.

The attack triggered a chain of violence that has defined the decade. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, NATO launched an attack on Afghanistan and US President George W. Bush kicked off his war on terror — a war that before long included the invasion of Iraq.

Pictures from those events are powerful testimonies to the suffering of war. But conflict made for impressive images in other ways as well. Zinadine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. The too-close-to-call 2000 elections between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The plague of the locusts in Africa in 2005.

Other photos depict the death of a Pope, the melting of the Arctic ice or stars Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton. Then there’s French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s chummy photo with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as Angela Merkel smiles, or the iconic image of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin shirtless and fishing.

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Pope Benedict XVI, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was elected Pope in 2005. Here, he greets thousands of worshippers from the balcony of the St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.

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A would-be immigrant from Africa crawling on the beach, after his arrival in a makeshift boat, in Spain’s Canary Islands in 2006.

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Majid Kavousifar and his nephew Hossein Kavousifar were publically hanged in Iran, after they killed a judge, known for jailing several dissidents.

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An ultra-Orthodox Jew protesting against the construction of a highway in Israel in 2005.

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What’s he looking at? Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon looks through a pair of binoculars with the lens cap still on.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,657880,00.html

Defining Press Photos from this Decade – 4

From Headbutts to Hanging Chads

A US flag flying in the rubble of the World Trade Center. A scruffy and worn-looking Saddam Hussein. A headbutt from one of the world’s greatest football players. Reuters has released its best press photos of the decade. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents a selection.

The decade was still young, the world still unaware of what a perfectly executed terror attack looked like, when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York in an assault broadcast live on television.

It was a horrific crime — some 3,000 innocents died in New York that day. And in Washington D.C. And in a Pennsylvania field. They are images which the world will likely never forget, and they are included in the press photos of the decade just released by Reuters.

The attack triggered a chain of violence that has defined the decade. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, NATO launched an attack on Afghanistan and US President George W. Bush kicked off his war on terror — a war that before long included the invasion of Iraq.

Pictures from those events are powerful testimonies to the suffering of war. But conflict made for impressive images in other ways as well. Zinadine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. The too-close-to-call 2000 elections between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The plague of the locusts in Africa in 2005.

Other photos depict the death of a Pope, the melting of the Arctic ice or stars Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton. Then there’s French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s chummy photo with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as Angela Merkel smiles, or the iconic image of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin shirtless and fishing.

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Extreme Sunbathing: Climate activists Lesley Butler and Rob Bell sunbaths on the edge of a frozen Norwegian fjord in an attempt to raise awareness for global warming.

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Paris Hilton, heiress to a hotel fortune, takes time out of her busy day to pose for photographers at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005. At the time she was promoting her role in “National Lampoon’s Pledge This!”

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“Bad” Dad: Recently deceased King of Pop Michael Jackson dangled his baby, Prince Michael II, over a Berlin hotel balcony in 2002 to the astonishment of his adoring fans.

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In Cuddalore, nearly 200 kilometers south of Madras in India, a woman grieves for a relative, one of the more than 175,000 killed in the 2004 tsunami that devasted coastlines around the Indian Ocean.

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Wind at the Vatican is always a favorite for photographers. Here, a gust ruffles the Cardinals’ frocks, as they arrive to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II, who passed away in 2005.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,657880,00.html

Defining Press Photos from this Decade – 3

From Headbutts to Hanging Chads

A US flag flying in the rubble of the World Trade Center. A scruffy and worn-looking Saddam Hussein. A headbutt from one of the world’s greatest football players. Reuters has released its best press photos of the decade. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents a selection.

The decade was still young, the world still unaware of what a perfectly executed terror attack looked like, when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York in an assault broadcast live on television.

It was a horrific crime — some 3,000 innocents died in New York that day. And in Washington D.C. And in a Pennsylvania field. They are images which the world will likely never forget, and they are included in the press photos of the decade just released by Reuters.

The attack triggered a chain of violence that has defined the decade. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, NATO launched an attack on Afghanistan and US President George W. Bush kicked off his war on terror — a war that before long included the invasion of Iraq.

Pictures from those events are powerful testimonies to the suffering of war. But conflict made for impressive images in other ways as well. Zinadine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. The too-close-to-call 2000 elections between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The plague of the locusts in Africa in 2005.

Other photos depict the death of a Pope, the melting of the Arctic ice or stars Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton. Then there’s French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s chummy photo with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as Angela Merkel smiles, or the iconic image of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin shirtless and fishing.

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In 2008, the US spent the year watching as Obama-mania grew and grew. Here, he bumps fists with his wife Michelle at a rally in St. Paul, Minnesota. Obama fans have emulated the bump, while Fox News labeled it a “terrorist fist jab.”

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Russia too was visited by terror. Here, a police officer carries a baby from a shool that had been seized gunmen in the town of Beslan in North Ossetia, not far from Chechnya, on Sept. 2, 2004.

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Vladimir Putin has spent much of the decade at Russia’s helm, first as president and now as prime minister. Here, he is on a fishing trip in Siberia with Prince Albert II of Monaco in 2007.

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Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi getting intimate with French President Nicolas Sarkozy while German Chancellor Angela Merkel discretely looks away.

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Senegalese children run as locusts spread in the capital Dakar on Sept. 1, 2004 during the worst locust plague in 15 years.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,657880,00.html

Defining Press Photos from this Decade – 2

From Headbutts to Hanging Chads

A US flag flying in the rubble of the World Trade Center. A scruffy and worn-looking Saddam Hussein. A headbutt from one of the world’s greatest football players. Reuters has released its best press photos of the decade. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents a selection.

The decade was still young, the world still unaware of what a perfectly executed terror attack looked like, when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York in an assault broadcast live on television.

It was a horrific crime — some 3,000 innocents died in New York that day. And in Washington D.C. And in a Pennsylvania field. They are images which the world will likely never forget, and they are included in the press photos of the decade just released by Reuters.

The attack triggered a chain of violence that has defined the decade. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, NATO launched an attack on Afghanistan and US President George W. Bush kicked off his war on terror — a war that before long included the invasion of Iraq.

Pictures from those events are powerful testimonies to the suffering of war. But conflict made for impressive images in other ways as well. Zinadine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. The too-close-to-call 2000 elections between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The plague of the locusts in Africa in 2005.

Other photos depict the death of a Pope, the melting of the Arctic ice or stars Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton. Then there’s French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s chummy photo with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as Angela Merkel smiles, or the iconic image of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin shirtless and fishing.

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POD/

The US finally managed to capture the object of the Iraq invasion, dictator Saddam Hussein, in December 2003. He was eventually tried and sentenced to death-by-hanging by the Iraqi interim government. The sentence was carried out in 2006.

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The US wasn’t the only terrorist target this decade. Nearly 200 people were killed on March 11, 2004 when explosions ripped through rush-hour commuter trains in Madrid, just three days before general elections there.

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In November 2008, Mumbai was attacked by a team of terrorists. At least 167 people were killed and over 290 wounded in the attack, which lasted for 60 hours. Here, eerie red smoke rises from the Taj Hotel.

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But the decade got started with the disputed election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Here, Judge Robert Rosenberg tries to determine whether the ballot he is inspecting was adequately marked.

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Eventually, the Supreme Court stepped in and Bush landed in the White House. Here, he meets “Liberty” the turkey at Thanksgiving 2001. A better name for the bird may have been “Taking Liberty.”

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,657880,00.html

Defining Press Photos from this Decade – 1

From Headbutts to Hanging Chads

A US flag flying in the rubble of the World Trade Center. A scruffy and worn-looking Saddam Hussein. A headbutt from one of the world’s greatest football players. Reuters has released its best press photos of the decade. SPIEGEL ONLINE presents a selection.

The decade was still young, the world still unaware of what a perfectly executed terror attack looked like, when two planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers in New York in an assault broadcast live on television.

It was a horrific crime — some 3,000 innocents died in New York that day. And in Washington D.C. And in a Pennsylvania field. They are images which the world will likely never forget, and they are included in the press photos of the decade just released by Reuters.

The attack triggered a chain of violence that has defined the decade. Soon after Sept. 11, 2001, NATO launched an attack on Afghanistan and US President George W. Bush kicked off his war on terror — a war that before long included the invasion of Iraq.

Pictures from those events are powerful testimonies to the suffering of war. But conflict made for impressive images in other ways as well. Zinadine Zidane headbutting Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final. The too-close-to-call 2000 elections between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The plague of the locusts in Africa in 2005.

Other photos depict the death of a Pope, the melting of the Arctic ice or stars Michael Jackson and Paris Hilton. Then there’s French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s chummy photo with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as Angela Merkel smiles, or the iconic image of then-Russian President Vladimir Putin shirtless and fishing.

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POD/

Smoke over Manhattan: By far the most dramatic event of the decade was the al-Qaida attacks on the US on Sept. 11, 2001.

POD/

By the end of the day, all that was left of the Twin Towers was a pile of rubble. Thousands in New York and Washinton D.C. were killed in the attack in addition to the passengers on the planes that had been turned into missiles.

POD/

Rescue workers carry Father Mychal Judge, a New York City Fire Department chaplain, from one of the towers. Father Judge was fatally injured when the south tower fell, sending debris into the north tower, where Father Judge was praying for the injured and dead. He is considered the first recorded victim of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

POD/

In reply to the attacks, President George W. Bush launched an offensive against the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Here, a US soldier takes a break after a nighttime mission in the Kunar Province of Afghanistan.

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Not long later, Bush invaded Iraq. Here, US Navy Hospital Corpsman Richard Barnett holds a wounded baby in Iraq.

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Full article and photos: http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,657880,00.html