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Pro-Democracy Protesters Occupy Hong Kong's Central District

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Since the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, the semi-autonomous city has operated under a "one country, two systems" formula, allowing a limited democracy. In August, the Chinese government announced plans to vet candidates in Hong Kong's 2017 elections, virtually assuring only pro-Beijing politicians would be on the ballots. Student groups and pro-democracy supporters have taken to the streets in recent days to protest the limitations and to demand universal suffrage. Tens of thousands of demonstrators have occupied Hong Kong's Central District, bringing parts of the city to a standstill. The protests are one of the largest political challenges to Beijing since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. Chinese officials have scolded protesters and warned against any foreign interference. [30 photos]

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A protester raises his umbrellas in front of tear gas which was fired by riot police to disperse protesters blocking the main street to the Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on September 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests and baton-charged the crowd blocking a key road in the government district after Hong Kong and Chinese officials warned against illegal demonstrations. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
A protester raises his umbrellas in front of tear gas which was fired by riot police to disperse protesters blocking the main street to the Central district outside the government headquarters in Hong Kong, on September 28, 2014. Hong Kong police used tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests and baton-charged the crowd blocking a key road in the government district after Hong Kong and Chinese officials warned against illegal demonstrations. (Reuters/Tyrone Siu)
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Photos of the Week: 9/20-9/26

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This week, images of a storm cloud over Sydney, synchronized swimmers at the Asian Games, multiple scenes from in and around Syria, a city in Sierra Leone locked down to fight ebola, effigies of demon king Ravana in India, and much more. [35 photos]

Feifei, 21, undergoes breast implant surgery at a hospital in Hefei, Anhui province, China. Feifei, who is a third-year university student and a part-time model, received a free breast implant surgery which costs about 300,000 yuan ($48,881), in return for advertising for the hospital. Around 10 days after the operation, she won a prize at a local beauty contest, reported local media. (Reuters/Stringer)
Feifei, 21, undergoes breast implant surgery at a hospital in Hefei, Anhui province, China. Feifei, who is a third-year university student and a part-time model, received a free breast implant surgery which costs about 300,000 yuan ($48,881), in return for advertising for the hospital. Around 10 days after the operation, she won a prize at a local beauty contest, reported local media. (Reuters/Stringer)
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The Alberta Tar Sands

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Buried just beneath a layer of muskeg and forest in northern Alberta, Canada, lies a 50,000 square mile reservoir of heavy crude oil, possibly holding 2 trillion barrels of recoverable oil. These bitumen deposits require a lot of effort to extract, recover, and pre-process before the oil can be sent to conventional refineries. Most of the current extraction process takes place in open-pit mines, with massive machinery scraping up the tarry sandstone and moving it to facilities for processing. As the name "tar sands", or oil sands, implies, the heavy crude is found mixed in with sand, clay, and water, which must be removed, then the heavy crude must be "upgraded" to reduce viscosity and improve quality. Environmental activists have expressed concerns about the mining for years, citing destructive impacts on the land, the heavy carbon footprint of the laborious extraction and upgrade process, massive amounts of toxic byproducts, and studies that show oil sands crude emits more greenhouse gases than conventional crude oil. Oil companies continue to make efforts to reduce carbon emissions, manage toxic byproducts, and reclaim mined land, while ramping up production. The Alberta tar sands are currently producing around two million barrels of oil per day, with plans to increase that to nearly four million barrels per day by 2022. Reuters photographer Todd Korol recently traveled to Alberta to photograph some of the mines, facilities, and surrounding landscape. [26 photos]

The top layer of muskeg and earth (right), and the underlying tar sands (left) after the removal of the muskeg, at the Syncrude tar sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on September 17, 2014. (Reuters/Todd Korol)
The top layer of muskeg and earth (right), and the underlying tar sands (left) after the removal of the muskeg, at the Syncrude tar sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, on September 17, 2014. (Reuters/Todd Korol)
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Fall Is in the Air

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It's my favorite time of year once again - yesterday was the autumnal equinox, marking the end of summer and the start of fall across the Northern Hemisphere. And 2014 appears to be the year we reach peak pumpkin spice. Autumn is the season of harvests, festivals, migrations, winter preparations, and of course, spectacular foliage. Across the north, people are beginning to feel a crisp chill in the evening air, leaves are splashing mountainsides with bright color, apples and pumpkins are being gathered, and animals are on the move. Collected here are some early images from this year's autumn - more will come later as the season unfolds. Until then, you might find me out for a stroll, enjoying the season. [28 photos]

A deer bugles in the morning mist in Richmond Park in London, England, on September 23, 2014. Tuesday marked the autumn equinox where day and night are of equal lengths. (Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
A deer bugles in the morning mist in Richmond Park in London, England, on September 23, 2014. Tuesday marked the autumn equinox where day and night are of equal lengths. (Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
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Fleeing ISIS, Syrian Kurds Swarm into Turkey

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Late last week, ISIS fighters attacked a Kurdish city in northern Syria, after seizing 21 nearby villages in a major assault. The attack on the city of Ayn al-Arab, known as Kobani in Kurdish, drove hundreds of thousands of residents to flee, most heading to the nearby border with Turkey. The Associated Press is reporting that more than 150,000 Syrian Kurds have entered Turkey since the border was opened to refugees on September 19, and the United Nations warns that number could soon climb as high as 400,000. Turkey is already housing more than one million Syrians who have fled the years-long conflict between government troops, rebel soldiers, and jihadist groups. Some of the Kurdish men who escorted their families into Turkey are now trying to return home to defend Kobani, but are finding themselves blocked at the border. As the U.S. and coalition partners begin air strikes against ISIS targets inside Syria, here are images of those recently driven out by the Islamic militant group. [28 photos]

Syrian Kurds cross the border from Syria into Turkey at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 23, 2014. UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, warned that as many as 400,000 people may flee to Turkey from Syria's Kurdish region to escape attacks by ISIS militants. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border from Syria into Turkey at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 23, 2014. UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, warned that as many as 400,000 people may flee to Turkey from Syria's Kurdish region to escape attacks by ISIS militants. (Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images)
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Opening Weekend of Oktoberfest 2014

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One million steins of beer were consumed over the weekend, organizers say, as tourists and locals kicked off the 181st Oktoberfest. The Bavarian beer festival, held on Munich's Theresienwiese, lasts 16 days and will welcome more than six million visitors from around the world. This year, the average price of a mug of beer at any of the tents this year comes to €10.67 ($13.70 U.S.). Gathered here are some of the scenes from the opening weekend of Oktoberfest 2014. [25 photos]

People celebrate the opening of the 181st Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany, on September 20, 2014. The world's largest beer festival will be held from September 20 to October 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
People celebrate the opening of the 181st Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich, Germany, on September 20, 2014. The world's largest beer festival will be held from September 20 to October 5, 2014. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
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Photos of the Week: 9/13-9/19

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This week, we have a look at photographs of debutantes at the Queen Charlotte's Ball, a crumbling Soviet memorial in Bulgaria, an Estonian raccoon dog, Saqqara's pyramid of Djoser, Hurricane Odile in Mexico, and much more. [35 photos]

A pod of orca whales swim in the waters of the San Juan Islands near Friday Harbor, Washington, with Mt. Baker in the distance. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
A pod of orca whales swim in the waters of the San Juan Islands near Friday Harbor, Washington, with Mt. Baker in the distance. (AP Photo/Rachel La Corte)
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California's King Fire

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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. [25 photos]

A firefighter battling the King Fire watches as a backfire burns along Highway 50 in Fresh Pond, California, on September 16, 2014. The fire led officials to call on about 2,000 people to evacuate from areas threatened by the blaze. It has charred more than 70,000 acres and is currently listed as 5 percent contained. (Reuters/Noah Berger)
A firefighter battling the King Fire watches as a backfire burns along Highway 50 in Fresh Pond, California, on September 16, 2014. The fire led officials to call on about 2,000 people to evacuate from areas threatened by the blaze. It has charred more than 70,000 acres and is currently listed as 5 percent contained. (Reuters/Noah Berger)
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Scotland's Big Decision

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Tomorrow, legal residents of Scotland, ages 16 and older, will be voting in a referendum to decide their country's independence from the United Kingdom. While ending a centuries-old union is a complex and emotional issue, the wording on the ballot could not be more simple -- "Should Scotland be an independent country?" -- with only two choices, yes or no. Interest in tomorrow's vote is extremely high, and more than 97 percent of Scotland's eligible voters are registered to vote. "No" voters had the edge in polls for most of the past year, but "Yes" voters surged ahead to take a brief lead just weeks ago. At the moment, polls favor a "No" vote, but the slim margin makes the outcome too close to call. As Scotland prepares to decide its future, here is a collection of images of the campaign, the voters, and the country. [32 photos]

Ninian Gibson, 16, poses for a photograph at Duddingston Loch in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 4, 2014. Ninian, who plans to vote "No" in the referendum, said, "Though I think Scotland should have full control over its own affairs I think that the U.K. is an important force in the world that it should be kept united." (Reuters/Paul Hackett)
Ninian Gibson, 16, poses for a photograph at Duddingston Loch in Edinburgh, Scotland, on March 4, 2014. Ninian, who plans to vote "No" in the referendum, said, "Though I think Scotland should have full control over its own affairs I think that the U.K. is an important force in the world that it should be kept united." (Reuters/Paul Hackett)
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The Eruptions of Iceland's Bardarbunga Volcano

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In southeast Iceland, the Bardarbunga volcano system, located under Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajoekull, has been rocked by hundreds of tremors daily since mid-August, prompting fears the volcano could erupt explosively, wreaking havoc on air traffic once again. An eruption of Bardarbunga, the largest volcanic system in Iceland, has the potential to be even more disruptive than the 2010 eruption of nearby Eyjafjallajokull. Scientists are closely monitoring the site, as lava continues to spew from fissures, earthquakes rumble underfoot, and nearby glacial ice appears to be melting, possibly signaling explosive interaction between lava and meltwater. [14 photos]

An aerial picture taken on September 14, 2014 shows a small plane flying over the Bardarbunga volcano as it spews lava in southeast Iceland. The Bardarbunga volcano system has been rocked by hundreds of tremors daily since mid-August, prompting fears the volcano could explode. Bardarbunga, at 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), is Iceland's second-highest peak and is located under Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajoekull. (Bernard Meric/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial picture taken on September 14, 2014 shows a small plane flying over the Bardarbunga volcano as it spews lava in southeast Iceland. The Bardarbunga volcano system has been rocked by hundreds of tremors daily since mid-August, prompting fears the volcano could explode. Bardarbunga, at 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), is Iceland's second-highest peak and is located under Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajoekull. (Bernard Meric/AFP/Getty Images)
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Rosetta's Amazing 10-Year Space Journey

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More than a decade ago, the European Space Agency launched an orbiter named Rosetta, bound on a circuitous voyage to comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In the years since, Rosetta has been drawn in and flung along by multiple gravity assist maneuvers, visiting the Earth three times and making observations of the Moon, Mars, and several asteroids and comets. In January of this year, after 31 months of hibernation, Rosetta re-awoke, nearing comet 67P. Recently, it approached to within 100 km of the comet, entering orbit and preparing to send a lander to the surface. The lander, named Philae, will be deployed in November, securing itself to the comet with harpoons and drills to prevent it from bouncing away in the weak gravity. The lander and orbiter are then scheduled to ride along, escorting the comet on its upcoming close approach to the Sun next August, all the while sending imagery and data home to be combined with Earth-based observations. Gathered here are some snapshots of Rosetta's incredible trip so far. [28 photos]

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko imaged by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera aboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft on August 3, 2014. The photograph was taken from a distance of 177 miles (285 kilometers), with a resolution of 17 feet (5.3 meters) per pixel. Comet 67P measures approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) along its longest axis. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko imaged by the OSIRIS narrow-angle camera aboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft on August 3, 2014. The photograph was taken from a distance of 177 miles (285 kilometers), with a resolution of 17 feet (5.3 meters) per pixel. Comet 67P measures approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) along its longest axis. (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA)
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Photos of the Week: 9/6-9/12

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This week we have photographs covering a beer-mug-carrying world record, 9/11 remembrances, a wildfire in Yosemite National Park, flooding in Arizona and Pakistan, Vietnam's Ha Long Bay, an early snowstorm in Calgary, independence demonstrations in Catalonia, and much more. [35 photos]

A fiery Kyrgyz stuntman performs during the first World Nomad Games in the Kyrchin (Semenovskoe) gorge, some 300 km from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on September 10, 2014. Teams from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Mongolia and Tajikistan take part in the games. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images)
A fiery Kyrgyz stuntman performs during the first World Nomad Games in the Kyrchin (Semenovskoe) gorge, some 300 km from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on September 10, 2014. Teams from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Mongolia and Tajikistan take part in the games. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images)
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9/11: The Flight 93 National Memorial

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Thirteen years ago, during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a passenger revolt against the hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 resulted in the aircraft crashing into a field just outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing all 44 people aboard (including the four hijackers). Authorities believe this fourth hijacked aircraft was also to be used as a missile, targeting either the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House. In the years since, a national memorial at the Pennsylvania crash site has been under planning and construction, now due to be completed sometime in late 2015. Phase one was completed in 2011, including the "wall of names," 40 granite slabs standing eight feet tall, inscribed with the names of the passengers and crew of Flight 93. On this 13th anniversary of that tragic day, here are a few recent images of the Flight 93 National Memorial. [15 photos]

Visitors walk along the wall of names of passengers who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the attacks at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center Complex in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 10, 2014. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Visitors walk along the wall of names of passengers who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the attacks at the Flight 93 National Memorial Visitor Center Complex in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 10, 2014. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
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Historic Flooding in India and Pakistan

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Days of heavy monsoon rain in northern Pakistan and the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir have brought some of the worst flooding the region has seen in 60 years. More than 450 deaths have been reported and the scale of the disaster is straining rescue efforts. Hundreds of thousands remain trapped as the armed forces of both Pakistan and India ramp up relief and evacuation operations. [34 photos]

A temple stands amid the waters of the overflowing river Tawi during heavy rains in Jammu on September 6, 2014. Authorities declared a disaster alert in the northern region after heavy rain hit villages across the Kashmir valley, causing the worst flooding in decades. (Reuters/Mukesh Gupta)
A temple stands amid the waters of the overflowing river Tawi during heavy rains in Jammu on September 6, 2014. Authorities declared a disaster alert in the northern region after heavy rain hit villages across the Kashmir valley, causing the worst flooding in decades. (Reuters/Mukesh Gupta)
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Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: 6 Months Without a Trace

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Six months ago, on March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 mysteriously disappeared about an hour into a routine journey from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, with 239 mostly Chinese people aboard. The search is due to resume again soon, with investigators hoping that evidence might be found in the southern Indian Ocean, though it will be extremely difficult to find on an ocean floor four miles deep, with the black box voice and data recorder batteries long dead. Loved ones of missing passengers are left with huge holes in their lives, losses without explanation, grieving in a painfully uncertain situation. Some derive what comfort they can from what was left behind: photographs, possessions, emails, plans, and memories. Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon recently traveled to Beijing to photograph several of these relatives who are trying to cope, still looking for answers. [16 photos]

Feng Xuehong, whose son Wang Houbin was aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which disappeared on March 8, 2014, cries during an interview with Reuters in Beijing on July 18, 2014. In the last conversation with her son before the incident, he said, "Give me a hug, mom. Take care of yourself and I'll come back to see you soon." (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
Feng Xuehong, whose son Wang Houbin was aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 which disappeared on March 8, 2014, cries during an interview with Reuters in Beijing on July 18, 2014. In the last conversation with her son before the incident, he said, "Give me a hug, mom. Take care of yourself and I'll come back to see you soon." (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
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Up in the Air

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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. [30 photos]

A Palestinian man plays with his baby on a beach in Gaza city on September 7, 2014. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian man plays with his baby on a beach in Gaza city on September 7, 2014. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
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Photos of the Week: 8/30-9/5

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This week we have a look at the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn, Ecuador's still-erupting Tungurahua volcano, Iraqi forces taking the battle to ISIS, the massive Jurong Rock Caverns below Singapore, a kitesurfing world record in Spain, and an 82-foot-tall white rabbit in Taiwan, as well as many other subjects. [35 photos]

Leng Yuting, 26, poses underwater for her wedding pictures at a photo studio in Shanghai on September 3, 2014, ahead of her wedding next year. Her fiance Riyang said they had their wedding photographs taken underwater because "it's romantic and beautiful." (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
Leng Yuting, 26, poses underwater for her wedding pictures at a photo studio in Shanghai on September 3, 2014, ahead of her wedding next year. Her fiance Riyang said they had their wedding photographs taken underwater because "it's romantic and beautiful." (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images)
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Amazon Warriors Fight for Their Trees

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Reuters photographer Lunae Parracho recently went on a search and destroy mission in the Amazon with Brazil's Ka'apor Indians. Frustrated by the government's lack of action to keep illegal loggers out of the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, local warriors from several tribes have taken it upon themselves to find logging camps, destroy equipment, and drive out the unwelcome intruders. Parracho documented the scene as Ka'apor warriors captured a number of men in the forest, burned their trucks, destroyed their logs, then sent their captives down the road—freed, but without shoes or pants, their hands still bound. The Ka'apor Indians and four other tribes—the legal inhabitants and caretakers of the territory—have also set up monitoring camps in areas that are being illegally exploited. [20 photos]

A Ka'apor Indian warrior chases a logger who tried to escape after he was captured during a jungle expedition to find and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Brazil's Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, on August 7, 2014. Tired of what they say is a lack of sufficient government assistance in keeping loggers off their land, the Ka'apor Indians, who along with four other tribes are the legal inhabitants and caretakers of the territory, have sent their warriors out to expel all loggers they find and set up monitoring camps in the areas that are being illegally exploited. (Reuters/Lunae Parracho)
A Ka'apor Indian warrior chases a logger who tried to escape after he was captured during a jungle expedition to find and expel loggers from the Alto Turiacu Indian territory, near the Centro do Guilherme municipality in the northeast of Brazil's Maranhao state in the Amazon basin, on August 7, 2014. Tired of what they say is a lack of sufficient government assistance in keeping loggers off their land, the Ka'apor Indians, who along with four other tribes are the legal inhabitants and caretakers of the territory, have sent their warriors out to expel all loggers they find and set up monitoring camps in the areas that are being illegally exploited. (Reuters/Lunae Parracho)
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