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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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[Video Link] A dapper fellow by the name of Augustus Gladstone (is that his real name?) posted a video to Youtube showing the room he lives in. It's a whimsically decorated place, but it's not until he takes you out into the empty hallway that it gets a little weird. He explains, "There ain't really any people who live here no more; I've got my one little place and that's about it." He goes on to tell us about the potential of moving into other vacant rooms and stealing electricity from the basement. Toward the end, he says, "No one is aware that I'm here."

Be sure to check out his other videos, too. He is quite a character.

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Russell Watkins / U.K. Department for International Development

Spiderwebs in trees in Pakistan.

Russell Watkins / U.K. Department for International Development

An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders climbed up into the trees to escape the rising flood waters. Because of the scale of the flooding and the fact that the water has taken so long to recede, many trees have become cocooned in spiders' webs. People in this part of Sindh have never seen this phenonemon before - but they also report that there are now less mosquitoes than they would expect, given the amount of stagnant, standing water that is around. It is thought that the mosquitoes are getting caught in the spiders' webs, thus lowering the chance of being bitten. This may in turn be reducing the risk of malaria, which would be one blessing for the people of Sindh, facing so many other hardships.

Phaedra Singelis says: That's a lot of spiders. I wonder if it harms the trees.

The Department for International Development is helping survivors in Pakistan. More information on the floods and how the UK is helping can be found at http://www.dfid.gov.uk/floodsinpakistan2010.

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