Thursday, May 5, 2011

Find the Cat...?


16 Amazing Events In Pictures - April 2011

ANGRY IN ISTANBUL: A man marched before a banner of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party during a protest Tuesday in Istanbul against a Turkish election board decision to ban 12 independent candidates from the coming parliamentary elections because of terror-related convictions. (Osman Orsal/Reuters)

A NEW NORMAL: Schoolchildren attended lessons Tuesday in temporary classrooms in a gymnasium in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan. About 200 students displaced by the country's quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster have been studying in the temporary classrooms for about a week. (Kyodo/Reuters)

TAPPING THE SAP: Plastic bags swelled with birch sap in a field near the village of Belitsa, Belarus, outside Minsk, Tuesday. Only state organizations are allowed to collect birch sap to be sold and processed. (Sergei Grits/Associated Press)

IN PROTEST: Yemeni antigovernment demonstrators raised their hands to call for the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San'a Tuesday. (Yahya Arhab/European Pressphoto Agency)

CINDERS: Residents of a section of 900 homes in Makati, Manila, Philippines, sifted through ashes for salvageable belongings after a fire Tuesday. More than 2,000 families were left homeless, police said. (Erik de Castro/Reuters)

SAVED: A rescuer dangling from a harness carried a 13-year-old girl to safety Monday after she attempted to commit suicide by jumping out of a fourth-floor window. (Reuters)

WILDFIRE: Texas State Trooper Corey Brasher gave directions to a motorist at a roadblock in Graford, Texas, late Monday, as a plume of smoke covered the western sky. Wildfires prevented motorists from heading west from Graford. (Sonya N. Hebert/The Dallas Morning News/Associated Press)

ON DUTY: Afghanistan Border Policeman Muhammad Wali posed Tuesday for a photo near a U.S.-Afghan-manned checkpoint adjacent to Patrol Base Torbert in Banadar corridor, Garmsher district, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Bay Ismoyo/AFP/Getty Images)

COMING UP EMPTY: A child played in a pond in Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, while waiting for devotees of Goddess Tudaldevi. The faithful believe that the goddess lost ornaments while bathing in the pond, and each year during the Gahana Khojne Jatra festival, they look for them. (Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters)

UNDER GUARD: A policeman stood guard Tuesday in the back of a truck carrying slabs of marijuana seized during an operation against drug dealers in the Rocinha slum in Rio de Janeiro. About three tons of marijuana were seized and seven people arrested during the operation, according to local news reports. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

BURNING IN YEMEN: People rode a motorbike past burning tires during a demonstration in the southern city of Taiz Tuesday demanding the ouster of Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

SHORT LINE: A young family waited for ice cream on the beach in Ainsdale, England, Tuesday. Weather in the region is expected to be fair for the Easter weekend. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

JUST PRACTICE: Soldiers from the 'Invisible Commandos,' loyal to warlord Ibrahim 'IB' Coulibaly, who had thrown his forces against former president and strongman Laurent Gbagbo, practiced Tuesday with pieces of wood in a neighborhood of Abidjan, Ivory Coast's capital. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

HOLED UP: Libyan orphans sat Tuesday in a makeshift orphanage in a disused school in the besieged city of Misrata. Rebels have been defending the city against the forces of Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi for more than 50 days, and the humanitarian situation in the city is reported as dire. (Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images)

SAD SONG: Bagpiper Kevin Donnelly led a procession at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on Tuesday, the 16th anniversary of the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in which 168 people died. (John Clanton/Associated Press)

TULIP MANIA: A tourist snapped a photo of a color field of tulips in Lisse, the Netherlands, Tuesday. (Robin Utrecht/European Pressphoto Agency)

Chaos in Misrata - libya

Getty Images photographer Chris Hondros, 41, was reported to have been seriously injured after he and other journalists were hit by mortar fire Wednesday in Misrata, Libya. See the photos he sent earlier in the day from the besieged city.

Rebel fighters moved carefully into a building on Tripoli Street where government loyalist troops were believed to have been trapped.

A stairwell window cast light down on the rebels as they crept up a flight of stairs in the building.

Rounding a corner, a fighter fired on people believed to be trapped government troops.

The rebels discussed the best way to oust the troops, loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi, from a neighboring room.

A rebel dashed up a stairwell past a fire, in search of government troops believed to be firing on the rebels from an upstairs room.

The rebels rolled a burning tire into a room that they believed government troops were using as a hideout.

Outside on Tripoli Street, rebels lined up and fired upon troops loyal to Col. Gadhafi.

When a fellow fighter was wounded, they carried him away from the street to safety.

A rebel celebrated as his fellow fighters fired upon a building, right, that they believed was filled with government troops.

All photographs by Chris Hondros / Getty Images.

Mount Taranaki of New Zealand - Really Unique

Afghanistan's Goat Grabbing Game...

The ancient sport of goat grabbing,' known as buzkashi, which involves riding on a horse to capture a goat carcass, is Afghanistan's national sport and has turned into a big business in the northern part of the country.

Sitting an the top his horse, buzkashi star Jahaan Geer surveys the scene at a recent goat grabbing' competition in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. The ancient sport of tussling for a goat carcass from horseback is popular in northern Afghanistan.

Like most buzkashi players, Mr. Geer comes from a farming family that could barely afford to eat meat once a week. Now, buzkashi stars earn a monthly wage, receive cars as gifts and save enough to afford a second or even third wife, the ultimate sign of prestige here.

Mazar-e-Sharif holds some of the most competitive games across the country. Every Friday, thousands of spectators gather at the city's buzkashi field, eating red-dyed hard-boiled eggs and sharing bags of opium and hashish joints.

Children with fistfuls of fifty- and hundred-dollar bills crisscross the bleachers to place bets with the bookie. Occasionally, the spectators drop everything and flee from the area as a stampede of horses goes astray, trampling onlookers while the players fight for possession of the goat.

The objective of the game is to fight through a mob of horseback rivals and drop the goat carcass into the circle of justice,' a circle drawn into the earth around a pole that acts as a goal.

During the Taliban regime, buzkashi, like most sports, was banned because it was considered immoral. After the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001, the new Afghan government proclaimed it the national sport, organizing tournaments across the country. Here, a player drags the goat carcass.

Now, the Afghan Buzkashi Federation wants the game to go global, and says it's considering applying for Olympic status. Although there are no regional games, buzkashi is played across central Asia and even in parts of India and Pakistan, much to the dismay of animal-rights activists.

After the match, whatever remains of the goat carcass will likely be cooked and eaten by poor spectators in a festive after-game meal. The wealthier fans will collect their bet winnings.

Afghans believe the game originated about 800 years ago with the invading Mongol armies of Genghis Khan, whose skilled horsemen pillaged villages, stealing sheep and other livestock at full gallop. Afghans villagers developed the same tactic to steal back their livestock.

More recently, buzkashi has been played with a dead calf because the flesh is stronger and the carcass lasts longer, players say. This recent game used a goat, though.

Today, warlords, wealthy businessmen and some Afghanistan corporations, such as national airline Kam Air, sponsor players. Here, a player collects a cash prize after winning a match.

Fans greet Mr. Geer, center, after the match. I used to practice buzkashi on donkeys, now I drive a Lexus!' the 33-year-old champion chuckled. He used to play for warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum but recently switched to play for Kam Air.

A competitor checked his horse during a break in the match. Proponents say they love their horses, despite the rough nature of the sport.

Men watched videos of matches at the Kam Air offices. Some older fans of the sport complain that the game has become too much about money, taking the passion out of the sport. It's become a game for the rich to gamble,' says Jabar, a 65-year-old buzkashi-arena cleaner.

All photographs by Bryan Denton for The Wall Street Journal.

Battle for Influence in Afghanistan...

Government officials in northern Afghanistan are building up their own ethnic-based militia groups to expand their influence and keep the Taliban at bay. But the spread of mostly Tajik and Uzbek militias is aggravating tensions with local Pashtuns.

Kala Khan, 39, a Pashtun from northern Afghanistan, walks toward the small hut he has lived in with his family since warlords kicked them off their land in 2001. Pashtuns are the country's largest ethnic group but a minority in the north.

A Pashtun rides his motorcycle in Shirikat. The residents of Shirikat were forced from the land they own that their animals graze on and now live in dire poverty. Some Pashtuns say they are being driven to turn to the Taliban, a largely Pashtun group, to defend their interests.

Private militias began appearing in northern Afghanistan over the past year, around the same time the Taliban insurgency flared up. Here, a shepherd herds his flock of sheep through Balkh district. Much of the land grabbed from Pashtun residents was prime grazing land.

Zaybiullah (standing), 25, a Pashtun farmer, tends to his father Abdul Ghafar, 59, in a hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif. Mr. Ghafar, a tribal elder, says militiamen shot him and killed his other son to seize their land.

'There's no justice for people like me. I've asked the government to arrest these men and bring them to court, but nothing's been done,' Mr. Ghafar says. Here, Rahmatullah, who goes by one name, right, a Pashtun elder from Charbolak disrict, represented Mr. Ghafar's son, Zaybiullah.

Some Pashtuns say the Taliban wouldn't be thriving in the north if the private militias didn't abuse Pashtun residents. 'When they patrol, they say they're there to fight the Taliban,' complained Tajdin Khodam, a 20-year-old blind Pashtun. 'But their very presence has created the Taliban.'

Balkh police chief Gen. Esmatullah Alizai, an ethnic Pashtun, says 'I worry that these militias abuse their power but have a close relationship with powerful people in Mazar and have protection.'

Residents of the village of Marmal wait outside the district center in Mazar-e-Sharif to air grievances with the governor of Balkh province, the Tajik former warlord Gen. Mohammed Atta Noor. Gen. Atta runs at least two militias.

The militias use their own weapons and don't receive any salaries, Gen. Atta says. Militias make up for lack of pay, some say, by the pillage of Pashtun villages. Here, a billboard of slain commander Ahmad Shah Masoud, right, and President Hamid Karzai, left, in Mazar-e-Sharif.

All photographs by Bryan Denton for The Wall Street Journal.