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Valentine's Day 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! This traditional western holiday, dedicated to expressions of love and affection, has grown to be observed in many countries around the globe. As couples exchange traditional gifts of flowers and chocolate, they fuel a robust industry. In the United States alone, Valentine's Day spending is expected to reach $18.6 billion this year. Gathered here are images of this Valentine's Day from all around the world, including some scenes of the One Billion Rising campaign, a global collection of flash mobs and protests to raise awareness of violence against women. [27 photos]


Carnival 2013 in Brazil

In Rio de Janeiro, more than 72,000 spectators jammed into the Sambodrome to watch the spectacle of samba school floats, dancers, and extravagant costumes during Carnival. Even more people -- millions of locals and visitors -- took part in the many "blocos," or street parties, dancing and drinking into the wee hours of the night. Collected here are images from Rio and Sao Paulo, Brazil, as Carnival 2013 comes to a close. [39 photos]


Chinese Lunar New Year 2013

Yesterday marked the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year 2013, the Year of the Snake. One of the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, the snake signifies cleverness and tenacity and is associated with the element of fire. In the larger Chinese astrological cycle, this year is also associated with the element of water, which makes 2013 the Year of the Water Snake. The combination of the water and fire elements may signify turmoil in the months ahead. But people around the world ushered in the new year with displays of fireworks, family get-togethers, temple visits, and street festivals. Collected here are images from several countries where revelers have been welcoming the arrival of the Water Snake. [29 photos]


Northeast Slammed by Blizzard

A record-breaking winter storm pounded the northeastern U.S. yesterday, with hurricane-force winds, high water, and more than 3 feet of snow in some places. Travel bans were in effect, hundreds of thousands lost power, and at least nine are reported to have been killed. As New Englanders dig out and watch for potential flooding, here is a collection of photos of the wide-reaching effects of this monster blizzard. [28 photos]


9 Years on Mars

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity just celebrated its ninth anniversary on Mars - a mission that was originally meant to last just 90 days. Although recently eclipsed in the news by its bigger brother Curiosity, Opportunity is still going strong and making valuable scientific discoveries. Launched into space in 2003, Opportunity bounced to a hole-in-one landing in a small crater on Mars' Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004. It has since spent 3,212 Martian days, or sols, on the surface, slowly moving from target to target, exploring craters, meteorites, unusual rock formations, and finding evidence of past water activity. Over the past 108 months, Opportunity has driven a total of 35.48 kilometers (22.05 miles) across Mars -- not bad for a mission designed to last only three months. [30 photos]


The 2013 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 122,000 entries from 170 countries. The photographs are being judged in six different competition categories, including Professional, Open, and Student Focus. 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. [40 photos]


Up Helly Aa

In Lerwick, the capital of Scotland's Shetland Islands, a fire festival named Up Helly Aa is held every January to mark the end of the yule season. Local participants called guizers celebrate their Norse heritage, dressing in Viking gear and marching through town with battle axes and torches as they drag a ceremonial Viking longboat. At the end of the procession, the guizers hurl their torches onto the longboat and set it ablaze. After the flames die down, guizers sing the traditional song "The Norseman's Home" before a night of partying. [21 photos]


Afghanistan: January 2013

In early January, President Barack Obama met with Afghan president Hamid Karzai, indicating a series of decisions that may accelerate the planned handover of power to the government of Afghanistan. Terms are still being negotiated, and final troop levels have yet to be decided, but NATO troops will be withdrawing from villages this spring, and prisons holding terrorism suspects will soon be under Afghan control. One big condition still left unsettled: an immunity agreement in which remaining U.S. troops would not subjected to Afghan law. These photos show just a glimpse of this conflict over the past month. [39 photos]


Grand Central Terminal Turns 100

A century ago, rail travel was at its peak in the U.S., and New York City built the massive Grand Central Terminal to accommodate the growth. Built over 10 years, gradually replacing its predecessor named Grand Central Station, the Grand Central Terminal building officially opened on February 2, 1913. The terminal and the surrounding neighborhood thrived -- by 1947, 65 million people a year were traveling through the building. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, rail travel declined sharply, and Grand Central Terminal fell into disrepair, threatened several times with demolition. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority was able to undertake a huge restoration in the 1990s, and Grand Central remains a New York City icon today, 100 years after it first opened. [38 photos]


Intense Battle Scenes From Damascus

Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic returned to Syria earlier this month, where he has been traveling the war-torn streets of Damascus with the Free Syrian Army. His past 24 hours were especially harrowing, as he accompanied an FSA group on an attack mission. Tomasevic captured the scene as one rebel was shot and killed in front of him by a government sniper. Just an hour later, he managed to keep taking photos as a tank shell slammed into a wall just above him and a group of fighters, sending chunks of plaster and concrete onto their heads. These images bring home with power and immediacy the frightening reality of Syria's urban warfare -- this all happened just yesterday -- but they offer just a few glimpses of this long, bloody uprising. [21 photos]


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