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The 25th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest is under way, and entries will be accepted for another six weeks, until June 30, 2013. First prize winner will receive a 10-day Galapagos expedition for two. National Geographic was once more kind enough to allow me to share some of the early entries with you here, gathered from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. Photos and captions by the photographers. [42 photos]

A fennec fox walks against the wind in Morocco. The fennec, or desert fox, is a small nocturnal fox found in the Sahara Desert in North Africa. (© Francisco Mingorance/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest)    

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Nerval's Lobster writes "Nate Silver feels a little odd about his fame. That's not to say that he hasn't worked to get to his enviable position. Thanks to his savvy with predictive models, and the huge readership platform provided by The New York Times hosting his FiveThirtyEight blog, he managed to forecast the most recent presidential election results in all 50 states. His accuracy transformed him into a rare breed: a statistician with a household name. But onstage at this year's SXSW conference, Silver termed his fame 'strange' and 'out of proportion,' and described his model as little more than averaging the state and national polls, spiced a bit with his algorithms. "It bothered me that this was such a big deal," he told the audience. In politics, he added, most of the statistical analysis being conducted simply isn't good, which lets someone like him stand out; same as in baseball, where he made his start in predictive modeling. In fields with better analytics, the competition for someone like him would be much fiercer. He also talked about, despite a flood of data (and the tools to analyze it) in the modern world, we still face huge problems when it comes to actually understanding and using that data. 'You have a gap between what we think we know and what we really know,' he said. 'We tend to be oversensitive to random fluctuations in the data and mistake the fluctuations for real relationships.'"

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This Week in Florida - Public Masturbation and Girlfriend Arson

If you want a sneak peek at what twisted fate will befall America in the decade to come, look no further than Florida. The state is America’s bellwether, the proverbial canary in the coalmine.

Every scheme, scam and scandal either begins here or is perfected here, and goes on to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting nation.

At various times, Florida has been the nation’s capital of drugs, immigrants, money laundering, race riots, serial killers, foreclosures, mortgage fraud, bankruptcies, Medicare fraud, Ponzi schemes, pill mills, election shenanigans and one of the richest sources of Jerry Springer Show guests. Al Capone, Meyer Lansky, the Watergate burglars, Bundy, Cunanan, Madoff, even the 9/11 hijackers have all worked on their tans in Florida. And, it was recently revealed, so too did the “Canadian Cannibal.”

Florida is ground zero for it all.

In his book Miami: City of the Future, author T.D. Allman proclaimed:

“Every major national transformation the United States is undergoing—from the postindustrial revolution to the aging of America, and the third great wave of immigration into the US—has converged on Miami. How Miami solves, or fails to solve, those problems cannot but provide clues as to how the whole country will cope with the massive changes—full of both peril and opportunity—that are transforming the lives of us all.”

Welcome to This Week in Florida.

-  Last week, the feds accused Florida of violating election laws in purging voter rolls and Florida Governor Rick Scott responded to the Justice Department with an affirmative Pee-wee Herman defense: “I know you are, but what am I?” Later, The Daily Show ripped Florida a new one on national television.

- It wouldn’t be a week in Miami without news of a massive cocaine seizure. Or two. U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the Miami Seaport discovered 169 bricks of cocaine hidden in cardboard boxes (totaling about 459 pounds), valued at $7.3 million. Also this week, the U.S. Coast Guard Southeast announced the bust of 2,654 pounds of cocaine (that’s worth $32.5 million wholesale) after chasing a go-fast smuggling boat and shooting out the engine to stop it.


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SEEKING SCRAPS: Men searched for valuables in the Zongo market in Cotonou, Benin, on Thursday, two days after residents say the market was destroyed by police without warning. Officials said they were making the area presentable for Pope Benedict XVI, who arrives Friday. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

MOVED TO TEARS: Gretchen Vanderlinden-Wang cried as she listened to personal testimony from Social Security recipients Thursday at Capitol Hill in Washington during a rally against cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

STORM DAMAGE: A man walked past damaged cars and trees near Rock Hill, S.C., Thursday. A storm system that spawned tornadoes moved across the Southeast late Wednesday, killing at least six people in three states and flattening homes. (Rainier Ehrhardt/Associated Press)

RELOCATED: Police officers carried away a protester from the Occupy movement in Los Angeles Thursday. (David McNew/Reuters)

WHALE OF A TIME: People took pictures in front of a dead sperm whale in Meldorf, Germany, Thursday. The beached whale’s body will be recovered in the coming days and its skeleton eventually will be displayed at the Natural History Museum in Muenster, Germany. (Carsten Rehder/DPA/Zuma Press)

SMOLDERING HEAP: Smoke rose from houses after a blaze in a slum of Dhaka, Bangladesh, Thursday. More than 100 homes burned to the ground. (Munir uz Zaman/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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Luis Robayo / AFP - Getty Images

Colombian soldiers guard a homemade submersible in a rural area of Timbiqui, Colombia, on Feb. 14, 2011. A submersible has the capacity to transport eight tons of cocaine, and it can sail from Colombia to Mexico. The Colombian Army said they found the sub on the southwestern coast of the Colombian Pacific Ocean.


Robert Hood says: I was a passenger on a U.S. Navy submarine and few years ago, and I was completely overwhelmed by how complex and dangerous a submarine is. So many things can go wrong at any time. It seemed to me that the submariners’ well-practiced skills and professionalism are the only things that prevent tragedies from happening every day. It’s difficult to imagine a drug smuggling organization approaching that kind of skill and organization. Maybe we underestimate them.

El Tiempo Newspaper reports:
Officials were surprised at the advanced technology used to make the 100 ft. long vessel, which allows for complete submersion, making it virtually undetectable.

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