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World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year. The day to recognize the importance of earth's most precious natural resource was proposed 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. While we often take water for granted, many cannot. And water plays a role in almost everything we do. We drink it, wash in it, play in it, generate power with it, irrigate crops with it, travel and transport goods on it, fight fires with it, and worship with it. Gathered here are images of water from the last year in all its uses, in scarcity and in abundance. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
A child bathes from a public tap in his neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 6, 2012. A UNICEF report says unhygienic conditions cause an estimated 1. 2 million child deaths before the age of five from diarrhea worldwide every year. The report says in urban areas access to improved water and sanitation is not keeping pace with population growth. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)

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In the year 2011, a total of 565 NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan were killed -- down from 711 in 2010 -- marking the largest decline in annual deaths during the decade-long conflict. The large number of NATO soldiers on the ground appears to have made a difference, a fact that worries Afghans as the U.S. and others accelerate their planned pullback. This year, 23,000 U.S. soldiers are scheduled to depart the country, heading toward a full withdrawal by 2014. For now, U.S. troops appear to be focusing on intensive training of Afghan forces and preparing for the logistical challenge of shipping home some $30 billion worth of military gear. Gathered here are images of the people and places involved in this conflict over the past month, as part of an ongoing monthly series on Afghanistan. [42 photos]

Cpl. James Hernandez, a combat engineer with Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, and a native of Goodyear, Arizona, uses an electric saw to dismantle a HESCO barrier at Firebase Saenz, in Helmand province, on December 13, 2011. FB Saenz is the first of several patrol bases being demilitarized by the Marines of 9th ESB throughout the month of December. (USMC/Cpl. Bryan Nygaard)

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The second collection of images from 2011 once again brought us nature at its full force with floods, drought, wild fires, tornadoes and spectacular images of volcanic eruptions. The death of Osama bin Laden, the attack on an island in Norway by a lone gunman, continued fighting in Libya, and protests around the globe were a few of the news events dominating the headlines. -- Lloyd Young Please see part 1 from Monday and watch for part 3 Friday. (45 photos total)
A cloud of ash billowing from Puyehue volcano near Osorno in southern Chile, 870 km south of Santiago, on June 5. Puyehue volcano erupted for the first time in half a century on June 4, 2011, prompting evacuations for 3,500 people as it sent a cloud of ash that reached Argentina. The National Service of Geology and Mining said the explosion that sparked the eruption also produced a column of gas 10 kilometers (six miles) high, hours after warning of strong seismic activity in the area. (Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images) )

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It's time for another look into the animal kingdom and our interactions with the countless other species that share our planet. Today we have scenes of an elephant rescue in India, a loyal dog bidding a final farewell, a competitor in the Open Rabbit Sport Tournament, and a rather unfortunate moose discovered intoxicated and tangled in a tree. These images and many others are part of this roundup of animals in the news from the past several weeks, seen from the perspectives of their human observers, companions, captors, and caretakers. [44 photos]

A dog casts a long shadow in the morning in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

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Wildfires have blazed across Texas for several days, but the drought conditions that fed the flames have been building for many months. The ten-month period through July was the driest in Texas state history. Entire lakes have dried up. Since last November, almost 1,500 homes have burned in nearly 21,000 fires across the state. Two deaths so far have been attributed to the fires, which have forced the evacuations of thousands of residents. The Texas drought and wildfires come on the heels of the Arizona wildfire, the largest in that state's history. -- Lane Turner (45 photos total)
Two firefighters break from battling a wildfire off Foster School Road near Needville, Texas on September 7, 2011. (Patric Schneider/The Courier/AP)

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Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, lies on a hospital bed inside a cage of mesh and iron as he appears in a Cairo courtroom. The scene, shown live on state television, is the country’s first look at their ousted ex-president since February when he gave a defiant speech refusing to resign, the day before he resigned.

With the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks a little more than a month away, One World Trade Center towers over the lower Manhattan skyline. The skyscraper, under construction, has reached 76 floors with 28 to go.

In Brazil, demonstrators in São Paulo march to demand a reduction of hours in the workweek; the first print of a Macrobian World Map from Ambrosius Macrobius’s 1483 incunabulum “In Somnium Scipionis Expositio. Saturnalia” depicting the Great South Land now known as Australia is part of a collection of rare books and maps detailing the search for Australia being offered for sale; while in Texas, the dry bed of O.C. Fisher Lake bakes and cracks in the hot sun. Long periods of 100-degree-plus temperatures combined with a dearth of rain in the drought-stricken region over the past few years have almost entirely dried up a reservoir that once spanned over 5,400 acres.

In Switzerland, the 64th Locarno Film Festival opens on a clear summer evening at the city’s Piazza Grande; the WTA tennis tournament is underway in Carlsbad, Calif.; and in Brazil, an inmate of the Women’s Prison of Brasilia lets her nail polish dry in preparation for the third annual Miss Penitentiary beauty pageant. A modeling agency selected 12 finalists out of the nearly 100 incarcerated hopefuls who entered the contest.

Being an insider was a definite plus.

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