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FROLICKING
FROLICKING: Children played as seawater hit walls on a beach in East Timor Thursday. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

SAVING AMMO
SAVING AMMO: A soldier grabbed ammunition after a fire, sparked by the use of cannon fire, erupted during a training exercise in central Portugal Thursday. (Paulo Cunha/European Pressphoto Agency)

DRAMA IN THE SKIES
DRAMA IN THE SKIES: A sky diver’s parachute got tangled after he left a formation in Moscow Thursday. The experienced sky diver was able to cut away his twisted canopy and deploy his reserve parachute, landing safely. A fellow sky diver captured the incident. (National News/Zuma Press)

FLEEING HOME
FLEEING HOME: A Syrian refugee celebrated as he got closer to friends waiting at the border in Reyhanli, Turkey, Thursday. Officials said more than 1,000 Syrians have fled into Turkey over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey to at least 14,700. (Burhan Ozbilici/Associated Press)

RICE RESERVES
RICE RESERVES: Workers stacked rice at a warehouse owned by Indonesia’s state procurement agency in Makassar, Indonesia, Thursday. (Yusuf Ahmad/Reuters)

FACING A WALL
FACING A WALL: Alleged terrorists stood beside explosive devices after they were captured by Afghan National Security Forces members in Herat province, Afghanistan, Thursday. (Sardar/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

PARK SLUMBER
PARK SLUMBER: A man slept with a newspaper on his face in the grass in a London park Thursday. (Carl Court/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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The Smithsonian magazine's 9th annual photo contest finalists have been chosen. The contest attracted over 14 thousand photographers from all 50 states and over 100 countries. Fifty finalists from 67,059 images were selected by Smithsonian editors. Those editors will also choose the Grand Prize Winner and the winners in each of the five categories which include The Natural World, Americana, People, Travel and Altered Images. Photos were selected based on technical quality, clarity and composition, a flair for the unexpected and the ability to capture a picture-perfect moment. (Smithsonian invites everyone to select an additional "Readers' Choice" winner by voting through March for their favorite image on line.) -- Paula Nelson (25 photos total)
BEHIND THE BLUE Lilongwe, Malawi, May 2011 (Paolo Patruno/Bologna, Italy)

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 Zen Images 11913

In 1983, Alan Bishop of avant-garde freak rock band Sun City Girls was traveling through Morocco when he became obsessed with all of the unusual and "exotic" sounds coming from his transistor radio. He recorded hours of broadcasts and later collaged them into "Radio Morocco," a very strange and compelling CD that was the birth of Bishop's Sublime Frequencies record label. Since then, he's released dozens of recordings and videos of psych rock, traditional folk, ritual, and combinations of those from Indonesia, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Syria, and dozens of other locales. The trailer above is from a film by Bishop and Mark Gergis titled "Sumatran Folk Cinema." I recently raved about the label's new collection of Erkin Koray's pioneering Turkish rock from the 1970s. Another great point-of-entry into Sublime Frequencies is the just-reissued Princess Nicotine: Folk and Pop Sounds of Myanmar (Burma) Vol 1, first released in 1994. The Sublime Frequencies releases are available in the US via Forced Exposure. On a recent episode of the fantastic Expanding Mind podcast, BB pal Erik Davis and Maja D'Aoust spoke with Bishop about extreme travel, otherness, and the "archaeology of global sounds."

Expanding Mind: Alan Bishop

"Cameo Demons: Hanging with the Sun City Girls" (2004) by Erik Davis

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish bride Nechama Paarel Horowitz fulfils the Mitzvah tantz during her traditional Jewish wedding with Chananya Yom Tov Lipa, the great-grandson of the Rabbi of the Wiznitz Hasidic followers, in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva near Tel Aviv, Israel. The Mitzvah tantz, in which family members and honored rabbis are invited to dance [...]

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While photographer Anoek Steketee and writer Eefje Blankevoort traveled through Northern Iraq in 2006, researching a story on the Kurds and their efforts to create a united Kurdistan, they stumbled across a surreal scene amidst the daily reports of kidnappings and sectarian violence—an amusement park called Dream City, located on what was formerly a military base for Saddam Hussein. While outside the gates they may have been at war, inside the Disney-like park the pair saw Arabs and Americans, Christians and Muslims, Shiites and Sunnis peacefully rubbing shoulders while strolling around eating ice cream and popcorn, or waiting patiently in line for the bumper cars.

That visit spurred a four-year journey, documented in their series Dream City, through the world of carnies and Ferris wheels from Rwanda to Turkmenistan. The parks’ surreal fairy-tale settings, with perfectly manicured gardens in areas torn by genocide and ethnic clashes, showed the duo that the desire to escape from reality is a universal human need. Which was something America’s great creator of amusement parks, Walt Disney, based his empire on. “I don’t want the public to see the world they live in,” said Disney describing his parks, “I want them to feel they’re in another world.”

TIME‘s Alexander Ho spoke to Steketee about the project:

Did you ever encounter any sort of trouble from park security or local police? 

Most of the time, the management of the parks welcomed us. But there were some incidents. In Turkmenistan, the authorities are not so happy with western journalists. We went on a tourist visa to avoid any restrictions in our movements. After a few days working in the park we had to go with the security and hand over the material. Fortunately I was able to avoid giving it to them, but we were forced to stop photographing and were refused further access to the park. In Israel, it took me a few hours to convince the security that I was coming with all the equipment just to photograph amusement parks.

Are there plans to continue the project? Are there shows slated this year for Dream City to be exhibited—perhaps in America?

At the moment we are looking for the possibilities to bring it to the USA, and after that, to Colombia and the other places we visited for the project, like Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, China and Indonesia. Also, in cooperation with FOTODOK, an educational program is being developed which we would like to bring with along with the exhibition.

What projects do you have coming up? 

Our next project is, among others, about a popular radio soap opera in Rwanda, which is a sort of Romeo and Juliet story situated in two villages in the countryside.

Dream City is published by Kehrer Verlag. More of Steketee’s work can be seen on her website at: www.anoeksteketee.com.

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SMELLING A ROSE
SMELLING A ROSE: A woman kissed a rose during Yemanja Day in Rio de Janeiro Thursday. Yemanja is an African sea goddess. (Christophe Simon/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

CROWD STRIKES
CROWD STRIKES: Palestinians who have relatives held in Israeli jails attacked a convoy carrying U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as it entered the Gaza Strip Thursday. Protesters pelted vehicles with shoes and sticks, accusing Mr. Ban of being biased toward Israel. (Majdi Fathi/Demotix)

SOCCER BACKLASH
SOCCER BACKLASH: Protesters ran from tear gas fired by security forces in downtown Cairo Thursday. Thousands of Egyptians protested the police and military’s failure to stop rioting at a soccer match that left at least 74 people dead Wednesday. (Khalil Hamra/Associated Press)

FELINE RESCUE
FELINE RESCUE: Firefighter Joe Ostermiller and other responders treated cats with oxygen after rescuing them in Boise, Idaho, Wednesday. Neighbors reported a house fire; no one was inside the residence at the time. Investigators were investigating the cause of the fire. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman/Associated Press)

BACKSTROKE
BACKSTROKE: A Child swam in polluted waters in a slum in Cilincing, North Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday. (Agung Kuncahya B./Xinhua/Zuma Press)

CLEAR STREETS
CLEAR STREETS: A woman waited for transportation in Bogota, Colombia, Thursday. Many residents in the capital walked, biked or took buses and taxis to their destinations on the annual ‘Day Without Cars.’ (William Fernando Martinez/Associated Press)

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Andry Prasetyo / Reuters

A zoo official prepares to tie the mouth of an African lion, after it was successfully anesthetized at Taman Satwa Jurug in Solo, in Indonesia's Java province, on Jan. 31, 2012.

Andry Prasetyo / Reuters

Zoo officials examine a dead camel after it was attacked by an African lion at the zoo on Jan. 31, 2012.

By David R Arnott, msnbc.com

Oni, an African lion, escaped from his cage at an Indonesian zoo and then attacked and killed a camel before he was subdued and anesthetized, according to local reports monitored by Reuters.

ITN reports that the camel killed in the incident was a two-year-old male called Thomas, while another female camel survived.

It took 90 minutes for zoo officials to capture the lion and shoot him with a tranquilizer dart inside the camel's enclosure.

The zoo keeper is thought to have forgotten to lock Oni's cage after cleaning and feeding the lion. Indonesian website VIVAnews reports that the errant keeper was given the day off to calm down.

Follow @msnbc_pictures

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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An Indonesian ethnic Chinese man prays during the Chinese Lunar New Year celebration at Dharma Bakti temple in Chinatown in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. Divers of the Nucleo Operatori Subacquei Guardia Costiera conduct a search and rescue operation that led to the discovery of the body of a woman inside of the ship [...]

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