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Much of Iraq is now in chaos, and fighters from the the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), are fueling the instability, attacking towns at will and making large gains in territory. Last week, ISIS militants swarmed into several minority villages in northern Iraq, prompting tens of thousands of Yazidis and Christians to flee for their lives during their push toward the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil. Iraq's human rights minister told Reuters that IS militants have killed at least 500 members of Iraq's Yazidi ethnic minority during their offensive. U.S. warplanes bombed ISIS fighters and weapons on Friday after President Barack Obama said Washington must act to prevent "genocide." At least 20,000 civilians who had been besieged by jihadists on Sinjar mountain have safely escaped to Syria and been escorted by Kurdish forces back into Iraq, officials said. Thousands more are still feared to be trapped in the region, forced to choose between starvation and dehydration, or a descent down the mountains toward armed militants.

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view Desperate Iraqi Minorities Flee ISIS Attacks as presented by: The Atlantic


The King Fire started about five days ago, in a California canyon 60 miles east of Sacramento, and has since burned an estimated 70,000 acres of steep forested terrain. The wildfire is one of nearly a dozen major blazes being fought across the state right now, driven in part by the ongoing severe drought conditions. The King Fire continues to grow (as of now, it is only 5 percent contained) and has prompted the evacuation of 2,000 residents so far. Firefighters plan to strengthen their control lines and protect as many of the 1,600 nearby homes as they can over the coming days.

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


As the summer of 2014 winds down and the evenings bring a bit of chilly air, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at time spent in mid-air during recent warmer months. This recent collection shows people, animals, and machines jumping, soaring, leaping, diving, falling, and flying, momentarily free from their connection to the Earth. A Palestinian man plays with his baby on a beach in Gaza city on September 7, 2014. Lotus F1 team driver Pastor Maldonado goes off the track after colliding with Sauber driver Esteban Guitiererrez during the British Grand Prix at the Silverstone Race Circuit, England, on July 6, 2014. Maikel Melero of Spain warms up prior to the fifth stage of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour in the South African savanna of Pretoria on August 20, 2014.

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view Up in the Air as presented by: The Atlantic


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

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