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The Drought of 2012

This summer, the United States has experienced its worst drought in more than half a century. The Mississippi River is approaching record lows, as far as 20 feet below normal. Throughout the Midwest, meager corn harvests began on the some of the earliest dates ever recorded. Corn and soybean farms are producing far smaller yields this year, which will affect livestock production and impact food prices worldwide -- especially in developing nations, where even a small rise in the cost of grains can be devastating. Collected below are images of a very dry and dusty Midwest, where residents hope that remnants of Hurricane Isaac might bring at least a little relief. [36 photos]


Animals in the News

It's time once more for a look into the animal kingdom and our interactions with the countless other species that share our planet. Today's photos include a WiFi-enabled donkey, a wayward badger, Slash holding a koala, and a farewell to Bao Bao, the world's oldest male panda. These images are part of this roundup of animals in the news from recent weeks, seen from the perspectives of their human observers, companions, captors and caretakers. [41 photos]


Lightning Strikes

Worldwide, lightning strikes around 50 times every second (more than 4 million times every day). Electrical imbalances generated by turbulent skies are suddenly balanced by a spectacular discharge tracing across a darkened sky -- a display that is both frightening and awe-inspiring. Collected below are recent images of lightning around the world, including a rare image of an upper atmosphere "red sprite" flash captured by NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station. [24 photos]


Pussy Riot: Dissent on Trial in Russia

In February, four members of a feminist Russian punk-rock band named "Pussy Riot," protesting against President Vladimir Putin's government, walked into the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. They wore bright-colored balaclavas and performed a provocative song called "Punk Prayer," with lyrics that called on the Virgin Mary to drive Putin away, and condemned the close relationship of the church and the Russian government. Shortly after, three of the women were arrested and detained for months as a 2,800-page indictment was compiled, accusing them of criminal hooliganism and religious hatred. On Friday, the three were convicted and sentenced to two years imprisonment, after a trial widely condemned by outside observers as an attack on free speech. Gathered here are several images from the trial and the reactions of Pussy Riot supporters around the world. [34 photos]


Ramadan 2012

Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, will come to a close this weekend with the observation of a festival called Eid al-Fitr. Throughout this ninth month on the Islamic calendar, devout Muslims must abstain from food, drink, and sex from dawn until sunset. The fast, one of the five pillars of Islam, is seen as a time for spiritual reflection, prayers, and charity. After sunset, Muslims traditionally break the fast by eating three dates, performing the Maghrib prayer, and sitting down to Iftar, the main evening meal, where communities and families gather together. Gathered here are images of Muslims around the world observing Ramadan this year. [42 photos]


Winners of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012

The winners of the 24th annual National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest have just been announced, with a group of ten photos coming out on top, plus one Viewer's Choice winner. These eleven images were chosen from more than 12,000 entries submitted by 6,615 photographers from 152 countries. National Geographic was kind enough to allow me to share the winning photographs with you here, from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments. [11 photos]


Syria, 'on the Verge of Collapse'

Nearly a year and a half after Syria's uprising began back in the Arab Spring, it has devolved into a violent civil war with fractious rebel forces continuing their efforts to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. Earlier today, Riad Hijab, Syria's Prime Minister who defected to the opposition last week, held a press conference, saying "the regime is on the verge of collapse morally and economically." Activists now claim more than 20,000 have been killed in the conflict since early 2011, and the violence continues to spread to the cities of Damascus and Aleppo. [39 photos]


London 2012: The Closing Ceremony

Last night in London, thousands of fans gathered in Olympic Stadium for the Closing Ceremony of the 2012 games. The spectacular show kicked off with fireworks and rolled into a series of performances by British pop stars from the past six decades, including Brian May, The Who, Blur, and George Michael. Even John Lennon and Freddie Mercury made posthumous appearances via video. Brazil gave a preview performance of things to come in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the London Games Organizing Committee, praised the execution of this year's summer games, saying, "When our time came, Britain, we did it right." [46 photos]


2012 London Olympics: The Final Week

The 2012 Summer Olympics come to their conclusion this weekend, and the 10,000 athletes from 200 national Olympic committees around the globe who have gathered in London for the 17-day event will soon be returning home. Collected here are some small glimpses of the final week of the games -- moments of triumph, exhaustion, dejection, celebration, and much more. [55 photos]


Monsoon Rain Floods Manila

The capital city of the Philippines has been drenched by heavy, deadly rainfall for 11 days now, beginning with the arrival of Typhoon Saola last week, leading to mudslides and extensive flooding. About 60 percent of Manila is currently flooded, and authorities are reporting 72 deaths so far. Nearly 850,000 remain stranded or displaced, as residents wait for a break in the downpour, predicted to begin on Thursday. [31 photos]


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