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On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez had just entered Alaska's Prince William Sound, after departing the Valdez Marine Terminal full of crude oil. At 12:04 am, the ship struck a reef, tearing open the hull and releasing 11 million gallons of oil into the environment. Initial responses by Exxon and the Alyeska Pipeline Company were insufficient to contain much of the spill, and a storm blew in soon after, spreading the oil widely. Eventually, more than 1,000 miles of coastline were fouled, and hundreds of thousands of animals perished. Exxon ended up paying billions in cleanup costs and fines, and remains tied up in court cases to this day. The captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was acquitted of being intoxicated while at the helm, but convicted on a misdemeanor charge of negligent discharge of oil, fined $50,000, and sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service. Though the oil has mostly disappeared from view, many Alaskan beaches remain polluted to this day, crude oil buried just inches below the surface.

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view The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill: 25 Years Ago Today as presented by: The Atlantic


Starting about 2 p.m. on Wednesday, a wind-whipped wildfire named the Silver Fire started near a back-country road about 90 miles (145 km) outside Los Angeles in Riverside County, and within hours had blackened more than 5,000 acres. Nearly 1,500 firefighters are now battling the blaze, gaining some ground and declaring the fire 25 percent contained -- but only after several people were burned and dozens of homes were lost. Although the fire continues to advance, hopes for containment are high as favorable weather conditions have been forecast for the weekend. A home burns as it is consumed by the Silver Fire near Banning, California, on August 7, 2013. The wildfire raged out of control in the high desert east of Los Angeles on Wednesday, injuring two firefighters and one civilian and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents of three small communities. A helicopter drops water over a wildfire in Cabazon, California, on August 8, 2013. About 1,500 people have fled and three were injured as a wildfire in the Southern California mountains quickly spread. Fire spreads up the north side of the San Jacinto Mountains, near wind turbines at the Silver Fire, near Banning.

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view California's Silver Fire as presented by: The Atlantic


According to the Associated Press, two and a half years into Syria's civil war, the once highly-centralized authoritarian state has effectively split into three distinct parts, each boasting its own flags, security agencies and judicial system. The regime of President Bashar Al Assad retains control of a corridor running from north to south along the Mediterranean shore, while large sections of Syria's interior and southwest remain in rebel hands, and Syrian Kurds control the northeast. The dividing lines remain very fluid, as regime and rebel forces have traded advances and attacks for months now. While foreign aid to both rebels and Assad's forces is on the rise, and diplomatic efforts toward peace start and stop, the U.N. now estimates that more than 100,000 Syrians have died in the conflict, with millions more forced to flee to neighboring states. A Syrian government forces tank, outside Khaled bin Walid mosque in the Khalidiyah district of Syria's central city of Homs, on July 31, 2013. The Syrian government announced on July 29, the capture of Khaldiyeh, a key rebel district in Homs, Syria's third city and a symbol of the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. A female member of the Ahbab Al-Mustafa Battalion stands on a pick-up truck mounted with an anti-aircraft weapon as she undergoes military training in Aleppo's Salaheddine district. A rebel fighter passes through an access hole broken in the perimeter of a football pitch, close to the front line, where clashes between the rebels and pro-government troops have been taking place on the outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo, on July 4, 2013.

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view War-torn Syria Split into Three Regions as presented by: The Atlantic


Day 5 of Documerica Week on In Focus, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. In our final photo essay, we visit the northwestern states of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, during a heightened energy crisis that left gas pumps empty and frustrated businesses and residents. Construction of the massive Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline was about to take place, and Spokane, Washington was preparing for its debut on the world stage, building the site of Expo '74, the first environmentally themed world's fair. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. The gas shortage in the Pacific Northwest during December 1973 had even suited businessmen hitch-hiking in places like Beaverton, Oregon. Children play in the yard of a Ruston, Washington home, while a Tacoma Smelter stack showers the area with arsenic and lead residue, August, 1972. Looking east along Alaska's Glen Highway, toward Mount Drum (Elevation 12,002 Feet) at the intersection of the highway and the under-construction Trans-Alaska Pipeline in August 1974. The 48-inch diameter pipeline will cross the roadway between the two vehicles. The exact point is marked by a pair of wooden stakes along the right shoulder at Mile 673.

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view America in the 1970s: The Pacific Northwest as presented by: The Atlantic


Day 4 of Documerica Week on In Focus, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. Today we visit the state of Texas, where photographers captured images of industrialized waterfronts, small town daily life, impoverished neighborhoods, ranch workers, fun at the beach, and more. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. Come back tomorrow for part 5 of Documerica Week, when we head northwest.

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view America in the 1970s: Texas as presented by: The Atlantic


Day 3 of Documerica Week on In Focus -- a new photo essay each day, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. Today's subject is Chicago's African-American community, primarily the South Side, documented by photographer John H. White, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982. White landed a job with the Chicago Sun Times in 1978, and continued to work there until May of 2013, when the newspaper laid off its entire photojournalism department. His portraits of everyday life stand the test of time, inviting the viewer to travel back a few decades, and see just how we lived. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. Stay tuned for part 4 of Documerica Week tomorrow, when we travel to the Lone Star State.

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view America in the 1970s: Chicago's African-American Community as presented by: The Atlantic


Welcome to Day 2 of Documerica Week on In Focus -- a new photo essay each day, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. Today's subject is the American Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and California. The photos depict some of the challenges facing residents at the time: scarce resources, mining operations, growing cities and towns, as well as glimpses of people at work and play in the deserts, mountains and ocean shores. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. Stay tuned for part 3 of Documerica Week tomorrow, when we travel to the Windy City.

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view America in the 1970s: The Southwest as presented by: The Atlantic


Today marks the start of Documerica Week on In Focus -- a new photo essay each day, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. Today's subject is New York City, an area covered by many photographers, showing some of the urban decay and congestion that helped prompt environmental legislation, as well as glimpses of New Yorkers at work and play. Stay tuned for part 2 of Documerica Week tomorrow, when we travel southwest.

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view America in the 1970s: New York City as presented by: The Atlantic

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