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Vltava River

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The Danube River reached its highest level in 500 years. The Elbe, Rhine, and other rivers and tributaries are cresting high as well as swathes of central Europe lie inundated by floodwaters that have killed 12 and displaced tens of thousands. Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic have been severely affected, as Hungary prepares for the swell of water. Gathered here are images of the flooding and people affected in the last several days. -- Lane Turner (40 photos total)
The river Rhine floods Mainz, Germany on June 2, 2013 (picture taken with an underwater camera). (Fredrik Von Erichsen/AFP/Getty Images)     

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Today is the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It also marks the end of "the winter that wasn't," as the past several months in North America have been dubbed. It was the fourth-warmest winter in the United States since record-keeping began 117 years ago. In accord with the unusual weather, this turn of the season brings us snow in Arizona and Saudi Arabia, while conditions remain sunny and warm in America's Northeast and Western Europe. Collected here are scenes from around the world as a strange winter gives way to spring. [40 photos]

The sun sets behind cherry blossoms which have come into full bloom due to the early warm weather in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

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People around the world once again expressed their affection for one another in many ways with balloons, cards, flowers, chocolates, gifts, and kisses to name just a few. The National Retail Federation said Americans alone will spend some $17.6 billion on the day that traces its origins to Roman rituals and the legend of Saint Valentine from the Catholic Church. -- Lloyd Young (34 photos total)
A man is silhouetted as he fills heart shaped balloons with helium while waiting for customers on Valentine's Day in Islamabad. (Faisal Mahmood/Reuters)

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Today is Valentine's Day, a day set aside for expressions of love and affection. The traditional western holiday has spread to many countries around the globe, despite some efforts by religious and cultural groups to fight its adoption. Valentine's Day spending in the U.S. this year is expected to reach nearly $15 billion -- $2 billion of it on flowers alone. Ninety percent of the flowers Americans will give to their sweethearts are imported, and nearly all of those imports originate in Colombia and Ecuador. Included in today's posting is an 18-photo series depicting the voyage of the roses from South American farm to florists worldwide. [37 photos]

A couple kisses during a flashmob organized by a local television station on the eve of Valentine's Day in the Russian city of Stavropol, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko)

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CROWNING AROUND
CROWNING AROUND: Swimmers took part in a New Year swim in the Vltava River on Friday in Prague. Prague Castle is seen in the background. (Matej Divazna/AFP/Getty Images)

DIRTY WATER
DIRTY WATER: A Pakistani boy waded through a dirty water channel on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan, on Friday. An estimated 250,000 children die annually in Pakistan from water-borne diseases, local media APP reported on Wednesday. (Umar Qayyum/Xinhua/Zuma Press)

SLIPPERY SLOPE
SLIPPERY SLOPE: Britain’s Kristan Bromley competed in the men’s skeleton race during the FIBT Bobsleigh and Skeleton World Cup competition in Altenberg, Germany, on Friday. (David W Cerny/Reuters)

HAILSTONES
HAILSTONES: An Indian girl picked up hail after a hail storm and heavy rain outside the Sikh Shrine Golden temple in Amritsar on Friday. (Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)

EPIPHANY
EPIPHANY: A worshiper kissed a pillar in the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, during Orthodox Christmas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Friday. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

NEW BISHOPS
NEW BISHOPS: Marek Solczynski of Poland and Charles John Brown of the U.S. lay on the ground before being appointed bishops by Pope Benedict XVI during the Eucharist for the Solemnity of Epiphany on Friday at St Peter’s basilica at the Vatican. (Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

IN THE DRINK
IN THE DRINK: A man dragged packages of potable water in a flooded street in the Tres Vendas neighborhood in Campos, Brazil, Friday. A dike burst in the flood-hit northern Rio de Janeiro state Thursday, forcing the evacuation of their nearly 4,000 residents, authorities said. (Vanderlei Almeida/AFP/Getty Images)

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