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As China's population and economy continue to grow, the country is scrambling to solve challenges in housing, elder care, cultural and political institutions, the environment, and other areas of everyday life. Today's collection, a recent gathering of images from across the nation, covers a range of subjects from wheelchair dancers to bear bile farms, a monkey-controlled robot arm to a Tibetan exile protester who set himself on fire earlier today, and much more. [41 photos]

A woman and her son sit inside the capsule of an electric tricycle as they drive along a main road in central Beijing, on March 15, 2012. (Reuters/David Gray)

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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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World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year. The day to recognize the importance of earth's most precious natural resource was proposed 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. While we often take water for granted, many cannot. And water plays a role in almost everything we do. We drink it, wash in it, play in it, generate power with it, irrigate crops with it, travel and transport goods on it, fight fires with it, and worship with it. Gathered here are images of water from the last year in all its uses, in scarcity and in abundance. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
A child bathes from a public tap in his neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 6, 2012. A UNICEF report says unhygienic conditions cause an estimated 1. 2 million child deaths before the age of five from diarrhea worldwide every year. The report says in urban areas access to improved water and sanitation is not keeping pace with population growth. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)

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TENDING TO A LOT
TENDING TO A LOT: Parking attendant Tyler Bounelis sat near an empty lot at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Monday. Heavy rain on Sunday forced Nascar to postpone the Daytona 500 to Monday, the first postponement in its 54-year history. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)

CONSOLED
CONSOLED: Samantha Kimball hugged her little brother, Daniel, after she picked him up from school in Chardon, Ohio, Monday. A teenager described as an outcast opened fire in the cafeteria of Chardon High School, killing one student and wounding four before being caught, authorities said. (David Maxwell/Corbis/Euoprean Pressphoto Agency)

TESTING, TESTING
TESTING, TESTING: A technician checked phone lines at the European Council headquarters in Brussels Monday. European Union leaders will gather there for a summit March 1-2. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

FIT TO PRINT
FIT TO PRINT: A man read the news Monday in Dakar, Senegal, as the country’s papers covered a presidential election. President Abdoulaye Wade said he expects a runoff; votes in 282 out of 551 districts showed him leading 13 opposition candidates with 32.17% of the vote. (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters)

OSCAR BLISS
OSCAR BLISS: Best actress winner Meryl Streep, of ‘The Iron Lady,’ and best actor winner Jean Dujardin, of ‘The Artist,’ posed with their Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood Sunday. (Joel Ryan/Associated Press)

AT THE WHITE HOUSE
AT THE WHITE HOUSE: Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, wore a button reading ‘Cheer up’ as he listened to President Barack Obama give a speech during the National Governors Association meeting at the White House in Washington Monday. (Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

TRADITIONAL GIRLS
TRADITIONAL GIRLS: Dongria Kondh tribal girls watched sacrifice rituals during the annual festival of Niyam Raja in Lanjigarh, India, Sunday. (Biswaranjan Rout/Associated Press)

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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In today’s Pictures in the News, Israeli soldiers secure the areas near the sites of several attacks in southern Israel; internally displaced children are at a settlement camp in Mogadishu, Somalia; the aerobatic team “Falcons of Russia” performs outside Moscow; and competitors are nearly a blur as they paddle in the 39th Flatwater Kayaking and Canoeing World Championships in Hungary. These are just a sampling.

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With just a year until the 2012 Summer Olympics, athletes are immersed in intensive training around the world. Reuters photographer Jason Lee documented members of China's Yunzhinan Swimming Club as they prepared for the Paralympics, which will be held in London in August, after the Olympics. Olympic-style games for disabled athletes were organized for the first time during the 1960 Summer Games in Rome. -- Lloyd Young (21 photos total)
Qian Hongyan, 16, from the Yunzhinan Swimming Club for the handicapped, climbs onto a platform during a daily training session at a swimming centre in Kunming, southwest China's Yunnan province, July 30, 2011. About 30 disabled athletes from the club aged 10 to 22 are training for the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The club was founded in August 2007. (Reuters/Jason Lee)

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Dwi Oblo's picture, draws you in through the light and the smoke, to evoke a real feeing of people humbling themselves as they pay respects to their dead relatives as they also prepare for Ramadan.

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For more than two terrifying, seemingly endless minutes Friday, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in Japan shook apart homes and buildings, cracked open highways and unnerved even those who have learned to live with swaying skyscrapers. Then came a devastating tsunami that slammed into northeastern Japan and killed hundreds of people.
The violent wall of [...]

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