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"So forward now, with spirit and ideals" reads a line in a poem by Hristo Botev, a Bulgarian poet and national hero. Nestled on the Black Sea between Greece and Romania, Bulgaria is a predominantly Christian country independent of the Soviet Union since the fall of the Iron Curtain over 20 years ago. Despite joining the European Union in 2007, the eastern Balkan nation suffers the same economic problems found elsewhere since the global downturn in 2008. Further complicating the country's economic outlook is endemic corruption and organized crime, which has led the EU to exclude Bulgaria from the Schengen passport-free zone. But the 'spirit and ideals' are still alive in these images from the past several months of Bulgaria, a country of over seven million, as it moves forward. -- Lane Turner (37 photos total)
A worshipper lights a candle as she attends Sunday Mass led by Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and Bulgarian Patriarch Maxim in Alexander Nevski cathedral in Sofia on April 29, 2012. (Stoyan Nenov/Reuters)

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For a number of reasons, natural and human, people have recently evacuated or otherwise abandoned a number of places around the world -- large and small, old and new. Gathering images of deserted areas into a single photo essay, one can get a sense of what the world might look like if humans were to vanish from the planet altogether. Collected here are recent scenes from nuclear-exclusion zones, blighted urban neighborhoods, towns where residents left to escape violence, unsold developments built during the real estate boom, ghost towns, and more. [41 photos]

A tree grows from the top of a chimney in an abandoned factory yard in Luque, on the outskirts of Asuncion, Paraguay, on October 2 , 2011. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

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The effort to save any remaining earthquake victims continues around the clock in the eastern province of Van in Turkey after an earthquake reduced many of its buildings to rubble on Sunday, Oct. 23. A two-week old baby girl, her mother and grandmother were rescued in Ercis on Tuesday, but most teams are finding only bodies among the ruins. The 7.2 magnitude quake has reportedly killed at least 450 people as of Tuesday night and damaged more than 2,000 structures. Survivors live on the streets and in tents provided by the government. -- Lloyd Young
(28 photos total)
About 46 hours after an earthquake decimated the Turkish town of Ercis, rescue workers cradle 14-day old Azra Karaduma after pulling her from a collapsed apartment building. “Given the work conditions and hardships of rescue teams, the best prize is to bring people back to life,” Ercan Toprak, leader of the rescue team that saved the girl, told NTV. “We feel the joy of connecting her back to life and hope her mother and grandmother will also be saved very shortly.” Her mother and grandmother had taken shelter with the baby behind a couch in their damaged apartment. After hearing their cries for help, rescuers drilled a hole into their wall. (Reuters)

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With one month of the season left before the first day of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, take a look at the cold, snowy days of the last couple months.

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An anti-government demonstrator weeps with joy upon hearing the news of the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. After 18 days of widespread protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has now left Cairo for his home in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheik, announced that he would [...]

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