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Last week, after a decade of U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, President Obama announced a plan to begin withdrawing thousands of U.S. troops from the country this year. The war has been expensive -- a Brown University research project released Wednesday estimates the total cost of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at nearly $4 trillion (a figure that includes the ongoing cost of veterans' care). The human cost is more difficult to quantify, as more than 2,500 coalition troops (1,644 of them American) have now been killed, and civilian casualties are estimated at well over 100,000. Canadian combat operations in Afghanistan will end in July, as troops withdraw from the southern region and hand control over to U.S. forces. Just yesterday, a group of nine Taliban suicide attackers stormed a major hotel in Kabul that was popular with foreigners, killing 21 and raising fears of what may come as foreign troops depart the country. Some of the losing candidates in the September 2010 Afghanistan election, gather for a meeting organized for the disaffected losing contestants who have now been declared winners following a special investigative tribunal investigating alleged voting irregularities, in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday June 26, 2011. There are 62 members of parliament who are alleged to have committed voting irregularities and fraud but who now refuse to leave parliament, creating an impasse for these candidates who are now unable to take their seat in the parliament. Foreign soldiers leave the Intercontinental Hotel at the end of a military operation against Taliban militants who had stormed the hotel in Kabul, on June 29, 2011. Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul sparking a five-hour battle with Afghan commandos backed by a NATO helicopter gunship in an assault that left at least 10 people dead. Amy Balduf, of Richmond, Tennessee, is comforted by a Marine at the graveside of her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin Balduf, who was killed serving in Afghanistan, at Arlington National Cemetery, on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, in Arlington, Virginia.

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view Afghanistan: June 2011 as presented by: The Atlantic


Frustration with the international community has been running particularly high in Afghanistan in recent weeks, following the publicity around a trial of U.S. soldiers charged with murdering Afghan civilians for sport and the burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor. The Quran burning sparked countrywide demonstrations, including a protest in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, in which gunmen stormed a U.N. compound, killing three staffers and four Nepalese guards. In Kabul, a team of suicide bombers tried to breach the front gate at Camp Phoenix, an American military base, said Mohammed Zahir, chief of the criminal investigation division of the Kabul police. One detonated his explosives at the gate of the camp, another managed to get about five yards inside the gate before setting off his device, and the other two were shot and killed by guards before they could enter, he said. Agence France-Presse photographer Peter Parks has been with the soldiers of Camp Phoenix in recent weeks. U.S. Marine Lt. Matthew Minor from Regimental Combat Team 8 shows a photograph on the screen of a digital camera to a young Afghan boy in the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province on April 9, 2011. U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion 2nd Marine Regimental Combat Team 8 return to Camp Phoenix from a patrol near the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on April 11, 2011. Afghanistan said recently its forces would take over security in areas including the Helmand capital from NATO this summer, launching a transition as foreign troops plan an exit by the end of 2014. Young Afghan children stand on a dirt road outside the town of Musa Qala in Helmand province.

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view Camp Phoenix, Helmand Province, Afghanistan as presented by: Sacramento Bee


A passenger jet was engulfed in flames after crash landing at San Francisco International airport, leaving two dead and dozens injured, many critically. Witnesses described how Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Seoul, South Korea belly flopped or pancaked as it touched down, and then cartwheeled down the runway. At least two people who were found outside the wreckage died in the crash, while another 182 people were taken to hospitals, many with minor injuries, authorities said. Forty-nine people were reported to be in critical condition, San Francisco International Airport spokesman Doug Yakel said. Local investigators said they could not yet offer an explanation for the crash of Flight 214, which had 307 people - 291 passengers and 16 crew - on board when it left Seoul. But images appeared to suggest the aircraft struck a rocky area at the water's edge short of the runway at the airport - a major international hub, especially for flights to and from Asia.

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view San Francisco Airport Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 Plane Crash as presented by: Telegraph Media Group



It might sound cool on the streets to say you did time, but these photographs show us life behind bars isnít a picnic, so be smart. The execution chamber at the Utah State Prison is seen after Ronnie Lee Gardner was executed by a firing squad in Draper. An Orange County sheriff's deputy stands in the doorway after loading prisoners in to jail in Fullerton, California. Los Angeles, the second-most populous U.S. city, posted its lowest crime rate in about 50 years, with violent crimes including homicide dropping nearly 11 percent from 2008 levels and property crimes down eight percent for the same period. Homicides alone in Los Angeles dropped by 18 percent. Inmates serving a jail sentence make a phone call at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in Phoenix.

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view Life Behind Bars as presented by: Totally Cool Pix


My wonderful wife Wendy works at Natural Habitat Adventures (they run incredible nature trips like this worldwide) and she went to Antarctica in 1997 - yes, she has a cool job. Due to a very fortunate set of circumstances (and her encouragement and willingness to watch our kids!), I was able to do a Falkland Islands, South Georgia, and Antarctica cruise in early 2009. I departed from Ushuaia, Argentina on Jan 23rd aboard the Ocean Nova and returned on Feb 10th and it was truly an experience of a lifetime. The amazing wildlife and spectacular scenery supplies a "target rich environment" that is a photographer's ultimate fantasy - I took almost 10,000 pictures! The several dozen images on this page below provide a chronological overview, but be sure to use the index for each day as there was just so much to see on this awesome trip.

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view Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica Cruise as presented by: Alek Komarnitsky


Three NATO troops were killed Friday in Afghanistan in a surge of attacks that raised the death toll to 17 in three days for international troops in the country. One service member died Friday in an insurgent attack in the east and another was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan, an alliance statement said. It did not give nationalities or exact locations of the attacks. On Thursday, eight NATO troops were killed in a spate of attacks, including four separate roadside bombings. It has been the deadliest year for international forces in the nine-year Afghan conflict. Troop numbers have been ramped up to turn the screws on insurgents and casualties have mounted. The escalating toll -- more than 2,020 NATO deaths since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion -- has shaken the commitment of many alliance countries, with calls growing to start drawing down forces quickly. Getty Images photographer Scott Olson is with the Marines of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment who are responsible for securing the area near the Kajaki Dam on the Helmand River. .S. Marines Pfc. Logan Harty (L) of Dixon, CA and LCpl. Jose Dehoyos from Fort Worth, TX attached to India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment fire on an enemy position during a firefight near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge on October 11, 2010 in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Marine Cpl. Jonathan Eckert of Oak Lawn, IL attached to India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment shows villagers his iPod during a patrol near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge on October 13, 2010 in Kajaki, Afghanistan. US. Marine Cpl. Sean Shea of Boston, MA gives himself a haircut at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Zeebrugge on October 12, 2010 in Kajaki, Afghanistan. Shea is part of India Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, which is responsible for securing the area around the Kajaki Dam.

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view The Marines of India Battery as presented by: Sacramento Bee


Police officers assisted an injured person after men riding on a motorcycle tossed a grenade toward officers at a police station in Pattani province, Thailand, Wednesday. The blast killed a sergeant and injured 43 officers. Secret Service members responded as Lt. Dan Choi stood handcuffed to a fence outside the White House Tuesday. Activists were protesting the ďdonít ask, donít tellĒ policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military. Opposition Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers covered the mouth of Kuomintang Party lawmaker Chao Li-yun during a legislative session Wednesday in Taipei. Lawmakers scuffled over a bill to open Taiwanese universities to students from mainland China.

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view Pictures Of The Day as presented by: Wall Street Journal


I visited Cyprus when I was a 11-year-old boy. We visited Nicosia and saw it was divided into an occupied Turkish part and a Greek part. Seems things are still the same 25 years later.

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view Abandoned International Airport In Cyprus as presented by: Totally Cool Pix



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