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Eid al-Adha

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Simple and efficient, rail travel nonetheless inspires a sense of romance. By train, subway, and a seemingly endless variety of trams, trolleys, and coal shaft cars, we've moved on rails for hundreds of years. Industry too relies on the billions of tons of freight moved annually by rolling stock. Gathered here are images of rails in our lives, the third post in an occasional series on transport, following Automobiles and Pedal power. -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)
An employee adjusts a CRH380B high-speed Harmony bullet train as it stops for an examination during a test run at a bullet train exam and repair center in Shenyang, China on October 23, 2012. (Stringer/Reuters)     

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Scenes of anguish have become part of daily life around Omonia Square in Athens, as Greece’s multiple woes have turned the vibrant commercial heart of this Mediterranean capital into a national symbol of despair and social collapse.

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After cutting a destructive path through the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage along the East Coast this week. Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey and brought with it major flooding, travel disruption, structural damage, and power outages. New York City was especially hard hit. The storm system was so large ­-- nearly 1,000 miles wide at times -- it brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and 20 foot waves to Lake Michigan. It is projected Sandy will have caused about $30 billion in damages in the United States. To date, the storm claimed more than 100 lives. -- Lloyd Young ( 57 photos total)
Flooded homes in Tuckerton, N.J., on Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the southern New Jersey coastline on Oct. 29. (US Coast Guard via AFP/Getty Images)

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As the War in Afghanistan passes the 10-year mark, the effect of the American withdrawal is already being felt among civilian aid workers, raising anxieties that Afghanistan will be abandoned and that gains will be quickly reversed. Even President Hamid Karzai asked nations at a conference in Germany recently to continue aid to his country for another decade. The United States, which provides two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, slashed its $4 billion aid budget to $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. The budget for 2012 may be cut further. In this post we continue our monthly visit to the country of Afghanistan, its residents and our troops. -- Paula Nelson (47 photos total)
An Afghan woman, holding her baby, walks through a busy street in Kabul, Dec. 5, 2011. A major international conference on December 5 sought ways forward for Afghanistan after the withdrawal of NATO combat troops in 2014. The boycott of two crucial players,Pakistan and the Taliban, dampened hopes of success. The one-day gathering brought around 100 national delegations and aid organizations to the former German capital Bonn. (Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images)

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DigitalGlobe

Worshipers crowd around the Kaaba shrine in the Saudi city of Mecca, venerated as the most sacred site in Islam, in a satellite picture from DigitalGlobe. The image was captured from orbit on Nov. 2, just before the beginning of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. During the Hajj, millions of Muslims walk counterclockwise seven times around the Kaaba.

Alan Boyle writes

'Tis the season for religious holidays, including Hanukkah for Jews and Christmas for Christians. But the Muslim world has already marked its biggest religious observance of the year, with an orbiting satellite as a witness.

Today's offering for the Cosmic Log Space Advent Calendar adds an Islamic twist to the holiday countdown: Here's a picture from DigitalGlobe showing thousands of people gathering around the Kaaba shrine in Mecca on Nov. 2, just before the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Participating in the Hajj is a duty able-bodied Muslims are required to perform at least once in their lives. The capstone of the experience is the Eid al-Adha, a festival that commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God.

The scriptural story serves to illustrate the linkages between different religious traditions. Whether you observe Eid al-Adha or Hanukkah, Advent or none of the above, here's wishing you wider perspectives on the world and its inhabitants during this holiday season.

Some of those wider perspectives are on view in our Month in Space Pictures slideshow, which we've just published for November. Here's a lineup of links for the pictures included in the slideshow, plus pointers to some other space-themed Advent calendars:

Check back on Saturday for the next installment of our Advent calendar, which will be featuring new views of Earth from space every day until Christmas.

Correction for 2:10 a.m. ET Dec. 3: Space consultant Charles Lurio pointed out that in Islamic tradition, it's Ishmael who is offered to God by Abraham. I originally went with Isaac, in accordance with Genesis 22, but in this context I guess I should go with the Koran's version of the story. Many thanks to Charles for setting me straight.

Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.

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It's been just over a month since the capture and death of Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy, ending his 42-year reign. Since then, the rebels have declared that the nation is liberated, installed a transitional government, and started the process of writing a constitution. Still, substantial problems remain. Pockets of fighting have erupted among rival tribes and some rebels have refused to give up their cache of weapons. Doctors continue to struggle to treat the wounded and sick, with a few of the most severely injured being sent to rehabilitation centers in Boston and elsewhere. Last weekend, Khadafy’s son, Seif, was captured and could face war crimes for his part in the conflict. -- Lloyd Young (EDITOR'S NOTE: We will not post a Big Picture on Friday, November 25, due to the Thanksgiving Holiday.) (40 photos total)
Anti-Khadafy fighters acknowledge the crowd during a review of the brigades from the eastern region to commemorate the liberation of Quiche in Benghazi Oct. 27. (Esam Al-Fetori/Reuters)

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Protesters unhappy with the pace of change and the continued military rule in Egypt flooded Cairo's Tahrir Square over the weekend demanding civilian rule. Riot police responded with tear gas, beatings, and live ammunition, leaving at least 20 dead in continuing clashes. Egypt holds parliamentary elections next week, and demonstrators want presidential elections to be held shortly afterward. The ruling military has proposed to delay those elections until late 2012 or even 2013, angering Egyptians frustrated with the military's role in government. Collected here are images of the struggle over the weekend. -- Lane Turner (24 photos total)
Protesters run from tear gas fired by riot police in a side street near Tahrir Square in Cairo November 21, 2011. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

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