The World

10 ESSENTIAL STORIES

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1 | Gulf of Mexico

Estimate Upped; Oil Lingers

As BP attempted to permanently seal the Deepwater Horizon leak that gushed oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days, a government-appointed group released a new estimate for the spillage: 4.9 million bbl. Though the finding makes the BP spill the world's worst accidental leak at sea, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report concluding that almost 75% of the oil had evaporated, dispersed or been eliminated. Still, that leaves the Gulf of Mexico with more than 1 million bbl. of oil (four times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill) that could pose environmental and health risks. While the effort to seal the well by pumping in mud initially seemed successful, engineers noted that it would take at least a week to tell whether the well had been permanently plugged.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

Where did the 4.9 million bbl. of oil go?

DISPERSED

8% Chemically dispersed

16% Naturally dispersed

25% Evaporated or dissolved

26% Still at sea or on shores

REMOVED

3% Skimmed

5% Burned

17% Recovered from wellhead

SOURCE: NOAA

2 | San Francisco

Prop 8 Overturned

On Aug. 4, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that Proposition 8, the California voter initiative passed in November 2008 that banned same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. The decision was the result of a lawsuit filed by two same-sex couples who claimed that Prop 8 infringed their constitutional rights. Voters had originally approved the ban in response to a California Supreme Court ruling that temporarily legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Walker's decision is expected to be appealed and to eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Currently, five states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage.

3 | Pakistan

Monsoon and Cholera

Rescue teams attempting to reach people trapped in northwestern Pakistan following the country's worst floods in 80 years found themselves hindered by new rains. Some 1,500 Pakistanis have died in the weeklong deluge that has affected 3 million people, many of whom have protested, calling the government slow to respond. Various reports of cholera outbreaks emerged as officials continued to warn Pakistanis of the high risk of waterborne diseases.

4 | Afghanistan

The Netherlands Becomes First NATO Country to Leave

The Netherlands ended its combat mission Aug. 1, removing its 1,950 soldiers from Uruzgan province. Since 2006, Dutch troops have earned praise for their "3-D" counterinsurgency strategy, which focuses on defense, development and diplomacy. Debate over a withdrawal timeline led to the collapse of the Dutch coalition government in February. The Netherlands departs at the tail end of the two deadliest months for NATO troops in the nearly nine-year Afghan war.

5 | Norway

Cluster Bomb Ban in Effect

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