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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Tomorrow, March 22, is World Water Day, an event established by the United Nations in 1993 to highlight the challenges associated with this precious resource. Each year has a theme, and this year's is "Water and Food Security." The UN estimates that more than one in six people worldwide lack access to 20-50 liters (5-13 gallons) of safe freshwater a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. And as the world's population grows beyond 7 billion, clean water is growing scarcer in densely populated areas as well as in remote villages. Collected here are recent images showing water in our lives -- how we use it, abuse it, and depend on it. [36 photos]

A journalist takes a sample of polluted red water from the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province, China, on December 13, 2011. According to local media, the sources of the pollution were two illegal chemical plants discharging their production wastewater into the rain sewer pipes. (Reuters/China Daily)

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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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The Hajj pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims from around the world every year to Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, Islam's holiest place. Saudi Arabia expects to host perhaps three million people in a ritual journey that every able-bodied Muslim who can afford it must make at least once in their lifetime. It is the largest annual gathering of humanity anywhere. Timed to the Muslim lunar calendar, the Hajj is followed by the celebrations of the three-day festival of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, which symbolizes Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son. Collected here are photographs of the Hajj in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, as well as images of preparations for the Hajj and Eid al-Adha in many other parts of the Muslim world. -- Lane Turner (42 photos total)
A Muslim pilgrim prays as visits the Hiraa cave at the top of Noor Mountain on the outskirts of Mecca, Saudi Arabia on November 2, 2011. According to tradition, Islam's Prophet Mohammed received his first message to preach Islam while he was praying in the cave. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

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Sukkot, or Feast of Tabernacles, is a Biblical holiday celebrated in late September to late October. The holiday lasts seven days. The Sukkah is a walled structure covered with plant material - built for the celebration - and is intended to be a reminiscence of the type of dwelling in which the Israelites stayed during their 40 years of travel in the desert after the exodus from slavery in Egypt. Throughout the holiday, meals are eaten inside the Sukkah and many sleep there as well. On each day of the holiday, members of the household recite a blessing over the lulav and etrog (four species). The four species include the lulav (a ripe green, closed frond from a date palm tree), the hadass (boughs with leaves from the myrtle tree), the aravah (branches with leaves from the willow tree) and the etrog (the fruit of a citron tree.) -- Paula Nelson (29 photos total)
An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish child walks over palm fronds to be used to build a Sukkah hut, in Jerusalem's religious Mea Shearim neighborhood, Oct. 6, 2011. The palm branches are used as the roof of a temporary house called a "Sukkah" which is built and lived in during the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

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It's time for another look into the animal kingdom and our interactions with the countless other species that share our planet. Today we have scenes of an elephant rescue in India, a loyal dog bidding a final farewell, a competitor in the Open Rabbit Sport Tournament, and a rather unfortunate moose discovered intoxicated and tangled in a tree. These images and many others are part of this roundup of animals in the news from the past several weeks, seen from the perspectives of their human observers, companions, captors, and caretakers. [44 photos]

A dog casts a long shadow in the morning in St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

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CHILD AND CHICKEN
CHILD AND CHICKEN: An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man carried a chicken in one hand and his daughter in the other during Kaparot, where chickens are slaughtered as a symbolic gesture of atonement, in Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood Tuesday. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

CHECKING A COW
CHECKING A COW: A farmer examined a cow during a cattle fair in Appenzell, Switzerland, Tuesday. (Ennio Leanza/European Pressphoto Agency)

NO WAITING
NO WAITING: An employee sat in a restaurant as water from the Chao Phraya River flooded low-lying areas of downtown Bangkok Tuesday. Thailand’s worst monsoon flooding in decades has killed more than 200 people and affected three-quarters of the country. (Christophe Archambault/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

INCENSE OFFERING
INCENSE OFFERING: A person of Chinese descent lighted incense during the Nine Emperor Gods Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Tuesday. (Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters)

DRINK AND BE MERRY
DRINK AND BE MERRY: Waitresses celebrated the end of Oktoberfest in Munich Monday. (Felix Hoerhager/European Pressphoto Agency)

CHILD AT WORK
CHILD AT WORK: A girl looked for recyclable items in a pile of rubbish on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday. (Shah Marai/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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Muslims around the globe have begun their holiest month of the year by giving up food, drink, smoking and other physical needs from dawn till dusk each day. In many communities, large dinner gatherings are held each evening to break the fast. The month also marks a time for Muslims to reexamine their lives through the prism of Islamic teachings. -- Lloyd Young (38 photos total)
A student reads the Koran before morning prayer on the holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Solo, Indonesia Central Java province, August 2. (Beawiharta/Reuters)

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Their homelands are torn by war, economic distress, political strife, or environmental collapse. They choose to leave, or have no choice. They're called migrants, refugees, or internally displaced people. The labels are inadequate as often circumstances could allow all three descriptions, or some combination of them. Once in their new countries, they face difficult transitions, discrimination, or outright hostility. Host countries are burdened with the economic and political repercussions of the arrivals, while home nations are sometimes saddled with a "brain drain" of their most important human resources. Immigration is a hot-button issue in the American presidential race, and a wave of new arrivals from Libya to Italy has left the European Union struggling with decisions over the Schengen policy of borderless travel between member nations. Gathered here are images of some of the estimated 214 million people worldwide in the process of redefining what "home" means to them. -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)
Rescuers help people in the sea after a boat carrying some 250 migrants crashed into rocks as they tried to enter the port of Pantelleria, an island off the southern coast of Italy, on April 13. Italy is struggling to cope with a mass influx of immigrants from north Africa, many of whom risk their lives by sailing across the often stormy Meditteranean in makeshift vessels. (Francesco Malavolta/AFP/Getty Images)

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RISING WATER RISING WATER: Li Dawu stood in a flooded building in Wuhan, China, Friday. More flooding across central China has killed 41 people, state media reported Friday, bringing the total killed in seasonal flooding this year to at least 95. (Zuma Press)

AMERICAN DREAM AMERICAN DREAM: Homeowners seeking to modify their mortgages spoke with loan servicers at the Neighborhood Assistance Corp. of America’s ‘Save-the-Dream Tour’ at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver Thursday. (Matthew Staver/Bloomberg)

MAN SHOT MAN SHOT: A still video image shows a man identified as Sarfaraz Shah, left, holding the barrel of a paramilitary Ranger’s weapon at a park in Karachi, Pakistan, shortly before he was shot dead Wednesday. The incident triggered fresh criticism of Pakistan’s human rights record and an unpopular government many say has failed to rein in the police and army, who seem to act with impunity. (Reuters)

HOT HORSE HOT HORSE: Master of Hounds got a cool breeze from a pair of fans as he rested in his stall Thursday at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y. Master of Hounds, trained in Ireland, is entered in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes. (Mark Lennihan/Associated Press)

GOING GREEN GOING GREEN: Aslam Hazrat, 63, carried a customer’s vegetables over his head at a wholesale fruit and vegetable market on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

GETTING CLEAN? A man bathed in water from a broken water pipeline in a slum in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Friday. (Parivartan Sharma/Reuters)

ARMS RAISED ARMS RAISED: Soldiers who joined sides with anti-regime protesters chanted slogans during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh in San’a Friday. Nearly 100,000 Yemenis protested Friday in a main square of the capital. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

UNDER CONTROL UNDER CONTROL: A firefighter sprayed water over charred ground Friday after a blaze affecting over five square miles of Upton Heath was brought under control overnight near Poole in southwest England. (Stefan Wermuth/Reuters)

MORE PROTESTS MORE PROTESTS: A vegetable market worker stood beside a police cordon during a protest in front of the labor ministry in Athens Friday. (Yannis Behrakis/Reuters)

BITTER END BITTER END: Police investigators examined the scene near the body of disgraced Russian army colonel Yuri Budanov in Moscow Friday. Mr. Budanov, who was convicted of murdering a Chechen teenage girl in 2000, was gunned down in a brazen, contract-style killing. (Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty Images)

AIR HAZARD AIR HAZARD: Smoke and ash rose from the Puyehue volcano in Chile Friday. The volcano has been disrupting air traffic in South America for days. (Ivan Alvarado/Reuters)

TIED UP TIED UP: Fishing boats were tethered together at fisheries Friday in Karachi, Pakistan, because of a cyclone in the Arabian Sea. (Fareed Khan/Associated Press)

STUDENT PROTEST STUDENT PROTEST: A college student chanted slogans as he was detained after he and his fellow college students held a sudden demonstration to demand tuition fees cuts near the presidential Blue House in Seoul Friday. (Truth Leem/Reuters)

DEADLY DAY DEADLY DAY: A demonstrator ran during a street protest in Mogadishu, Somalia, Friday. An explosion in the home of Somalia’s interior minister killed him and the suspected bomber as violent demonstrations swept the capital. Security guards and soldiers opened fire on protesters, killing two. (Omar Faruk/Reuters)

ROSE-COLORED GLASSES ROSE-COLORED GLASSES: A man looked at an art installation titled “Sea Pink” during the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition in Aarhus, Denmark, Friday. (Darren Staples/Reuters)

BLUE MAN GROUP BLUE MAN GROUP: Anti-corruption demonstrators wearing blue costumes symbolizing the color of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s ruling Democratic Party rested on a police truck during a protest outside the Corruption Eradication Commission in Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

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