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Flooding in Southwest England

For more than a month now, parts of the Somerset Levels - low-lying plains in southwestern England where locals are accustomed to a certain amount of flooding - have been underwater. Villages have become islands, residents have been cut off from each other, and farm fields are now at the bottom of shallow lakes. Many Somerset residents blame not only heavy rainfall, but the government's failure to dredge rivers and mount a rapid response. Gathered here are recent images from the Somerset Levels, as they expect even more wet weather in the coming days. [26 photos]


Sochi 2014: The Opening Ceremony

It was big. It was bold. And it has got the XXII Olympic Winter Games started. A glittering opening ceremony has been held in Sochi, Russia, with dance, music, fireworks and a journey through Russia’s history to delight the 40,000 people present. Millions more watched on television and via the Internet as the 22nd Winter Games got underway at the state-of-the-art Fisht Stadium. Between now and February 23, the competition for gold, silver and bronze medals will dominate the world’s sporting agenda. [41 photos]


Sochi 2014: Seven Years of Preparation

When the International Olympic Committee selected Sochi, Russia, as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics in 2007, the small seaside resort town had no major venues, minimal housing, and few transportation options. Seven years and $51 billion later, the city has built dozens of large facilities, created thousands of housing units, added new rail systems, and toughened security. Now, less than 24 hours before the Opening Ceremony, we take a look back at some of the construction and preparation in Sochi over the years, leading up to athletes making their final practice runs today. [30 photos]


The 2014 Sony World Photography Awards

The Sony World Photography Awards, an annual competition hosted by the World Photography Organisation, has recently announced its shortlist of winners. This year's contest attracted more than 140,000 entries from 166 countries. The organizers have been kind enough to share some of their shortlisted images with In Focus, gathered below. Winners are scheduled to be announced in March and April. All captions below come from the photographers. [33 photos]


Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

For more than three decades, Pakistan has been home to one of the world's largest refugee communities: the more than one million Afghans who have fled years of warfare in their home country. Living in temporary shelters along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border - and cared for by the the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Pakistan's government, and numerous international care agencies - this massive and persistent population remains vulnerable to multiple dangers, from outbreaks of disease to violence spilling over from the war next door. Associated Press photographer Muhammed Muheisen has spent the past several years in Pakistan, documenting the lives of these refugees, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable: the children caught up in the chaos as their families try to keep them safe. [30 photos]


Happy Chinese New Year 2014

Today marks the start of the Chinese Lunar Year, the Year of the Horse. One of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, the horse signifies kindness, strength, and gregariousness. In the larger Chinese astrological cycle, this year is also associated with the element of wood, which makes 2014 the Year of the Wooden Horse. The combination is supposed to signify 12 months of patience and cooperation ahead. People around the world ushered in the new year with firework displays, family get-togethers, temple visits, and street festivals. Collected here are images from several countries where revelers have been welcoming the Wooden Horse's arrival. [34 photos]


Winter storms shock US Deep South

Rare and unusual snow and ice in the US have led to three states calling a state of emergency. Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina have been hardest hit by the arctic vortex. Drivers there were told to stay off the roads. In Atlanta, Georgia, miles of snow-covered motorways packed with hundreds of stranded motorists waited hours for the traffic to clear. In Washington, the National Gallery’s ice rink closed. Officials said it was too cold for skaters to be out on the ice. The cold snap is part of an arctic front that’s put millions of people under weather warnings. Across the Deep South, the deep freeze could make temperatures feel as cold as minus 34 degrees Celsius. [20 photos]


Ukraine's Prime Minister Resigns, Anti-Protest Laws Repealed

Months of protest in Ukraine - which started in opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych's move to increase ties to Russia, but flared up recently in reaction to new strict anti-protest laws - have resulted in the resignation of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the dismissal of his cabinet, and the repeal of most of the recent anti-protest legislation. Demonstrations spread throughout the country over the past few days, with the most intense in central Kiev, where days of pitched battles, fires, and destruction have left parts of the city in blackened ruin. This morning Kiev was peaceful once more, as all parties met to work their way out of the crisis. Gathered here are scenes from the streets of Ukraine over the past few days. [38 photos]


Tough Guy 2014

Billed as "the toughest race in the world," the Tough Guy 2014 competition took place yesterday in Perton, England. Every year, thousands of men and women tackle the course, which is described on the Tough Guy website as eight country miles filled with freezing mud and "barbed wire, cuts, scrapes, burns, dehydration, hypothermia, acrophobia, claustrophobia, electric shocks, sprains, twists, joint dislocation and broken bones." Gathered here are some images of the fun had by the tough competitors in this year's event. [20 photos]


The Ancient Ghost City of Ani

Situated on the eastern border of Turkey, across the Akhurian River from Armenia, lies the empty, crumbling site of the once-great metropolis of Ani, known as "the city of a thousand and one churches." Founded more than 1,600 years ago, Ani was situated on several trade routes, and grew to become a walled city of more than 100,000 residents by the 11th century. In the centuries that followed, Ani and the surrounding region were conquered hundreds of times -- Byzantine emperors, Ottoman Turks, Armenians, nomadic Kurds, Georgians, and Russians claimed and reclaimed the area, repeatedly attacking and chasing out residents. By the 1300s, Ani was in steep decline, and it was completely abandoned by the 1700s. Rediscovered and romanticized in the 19th century, the city had a brief moment of fame, only to be closed off by World War I and the later events of the Armenian Genocide that left the region an empty, militarized no-man's land. The ruins crumbled at the hands of many: looters, vandals, Turks who tried to eliminate Armenian history from the area, clumsy archaeological digs, well-intentioned people who made poor attempts at restoration, and Mother Nature herself. Restrictions on travel to Ani have eased in the past decade, allowing the following photos to be taken. [27 photos]


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