A photo blog of world events by Sacbee.com Assistant Director of Multimedia Tim Reese.
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March 28, 2012
Pope urges greater openings in vast Cuban Mass
HAVANA (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI demanded more freedom for the Catholic Church in communist-run Cuba and preached against "fanaticism" in an unusually political sermon before hundreds of thousands at Revolution Plaza, with President Raul Castro in the front row.
Later, the president's brother, revolutionary leader Fidel, grilled the pontiff on changes in church liturgy and his role as spiritual leader of the world's Catholics, a Vatican spokesman said.
Benedict's homily was a not-so-subtle jab at the island's leadership before a vast crowd of Cubans, both in the sprawling plaza and watching on television. But he also clearly urged an end to Cuba's isolation, a reference to the 50-year U.S. economic embargo and the inability of 11 American presidents and brothers Fidel and Raul Castro to forge peace.
"Cuba and the world need change, but this will occur only if each one is in a position to seek the truth and chooses the way of love, sowing reconciliation and fraternity," he said.
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Pope Benedict XVI waves to people from his popemobile as he departs for the airport in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday March 28, 2012. Cubadebate / Ismael Francisco

March 27, 2012
Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Demonstrators returned Tuesday to the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court, with more than 100 supporters of the law circling and chanting, "I love Obamacare." They carried signs reading slogans such as "A healthy America is a productive America" and "Protect the law."
More than a dozen opponents held a news conference criticizing the bill.
Supporters, two of them wearing Statue of Liberty costumes, marched to music played over a loudspeaker. A trumpet player played "When the Saints Go Marching In" and "This Little Light of Mine," and supporters changed the lyrics to ones supporting the health care law.
One demonstrator opposing the law wore a striped prison costume and held a sign, "Obama Care is Putting the US Tax Payer in Debtors Prison."
Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a former Republican presidential candidate, joined a tea party press conference of opponents of the law.

Protesters from both sides campaign outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as the court began listened to oral arguments over the constitutionality of the individual mandate portion of the health care law championed by President Barack Obama. ZUMA24.com / Pete Marovich

March 23, 2012
Slain teen's friends say he never picked a fight
MIAMI (AP) -- Wearing a hoodie. Listening to music and talking on his cellphone. Picking up Skittles for his soon-to-be stepbrother. Friends say that's how they would have imagined 17-year-old Trayvon Martin on a Sunday afternoon.
Starting a fight? Possibly high on drugs and up to no good? No, friends say that description of Martin from the neighborhood crime-watch volunteer who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager doesn't match the young man they knew.
"There's no way I can believe that, because he's not a confrontational kid," said Jerome Horton, who was one of Martin's former football coaches and knew him since he was about 5. "It just wouldn't happen. That's just not that kid."
Martin was slain in the town of Sanford on Feb. 26 in a shooting that has set off a nationwide furor over race and justice. Neighborhood crime-watch captain George Zimmerman, whose father is white and mother is Hispanic, claimed self-defense and has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are still investigating.
Since his death, Martin's name and photographs -- in football jerseys, smiling alongside a baby, and staring into the camera in a gray hoodie -- have been held up by civil rights leaders and at rallies stretching from Miami to New York demanding Zimmerman's arrest.
On Friday, President Barack Obama called the shooting a tragedy, vowed to get to the bottom of the case, and added: "When I think about this boy, I think about my own kids."
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A peace sign is held up by one of thousands that rally for Trayvon Martin on March 22, 2012 in Sanford, Fla. Martin was shot by George Michael Zimmerman while on Neighborhood Watch patrol. Zimmerman's claim of shooting the teen in self defense has been questioned by community leaders. AP / Roberto Gonzalez

March 21, 2012
National Cherry Blossom Festival's centennial year
WASHINGTON (AP) -- More than 1 million people are expected in Washington over the five-week run of National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year marks the centennial of the trees, which were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912. The National Park Service says it and partner organizations have been working to provide additional services to enhance the experience of visitors to the Tidal Basin and Hains Point. The festival started Tuesday and runs through April 27.
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Blooming Cherry blossom trees are seen just after sunset at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, along the tidal basin in Washington. Due to unseasonably warm weather the trees are blooming earlier than usual. AP / Jacquelyn Martin

March 19, 2012
Indian girl trapped in life of cigarette rolling
DHULIYAN, India (AP) -- Sagira Ansari sits on a dusty sack outside her uneven brick home in this poor town in eastern India, her legs folded beneath her. She cracks her knuckles, then rubs charcoal ash between her palms.
With the unthinking swiftness of a movement performed countless times before, she slashes a naked razor blade into a square-cut leaf to trim off the veins. She drops in flakes of tobacco, packs them with her thumbs, rolls the leaf tightly between her fingers and ties it off with two twists of a red thread.
For eight hours a day, Sagira makes bidis -- thin brown cigarettes that are as central to Indian life as chai and flat bread.
She is 11 years old.
Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India. Many work in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food.
Most of the children in Sagira's town of Dhuliyan in West Bengal state work in the tobacco dust to feed India's near limitless demand for bidis.
Under Indian law, this is legal.
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Sagira Ansari, 11, right, rolls bidi tobacco with her family at their house in Dhuliyan, in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2012. Sagira is among hundreds of thousands of children toiling in the hidden corners of rural India, many working in hazardous industries crucial to the economy: the fiery brick kilns that underpin the building industry, the pesticide-laden fields that produce its food. Sagira and nearly every other child in the town of Dhuliyan works through the tobacco dust to feed India's near limitless demand for the thin, tight cigarettes. Sagira and her family earn 75 rupees ($1.50) for every 1,000 bidis rolled which brings in about 7,500 rupees ($150) a month. AP / Rafiq Maqbool

March 14, 2012
Journalist recounts fleeing Syrian city under fire
ANTAKYA, Turkey (AP) by Rodrigo Abd -- Explosions illuminated the night as we ran, hoping to escape Syria after nearly three weeks of covering a conflict that the government seems determined to keep the world from seeing. Tank shells slammed into the city streets behind us, snipers' bullets whizzed by our heads and the rebels escorting us were nearly out of ammunition.
It seemed like a good time to get out of Syria.
With regime forces closing in on the rebel-held northern city of Idlib, Associated Press cameraman Ahmed Bahaddou and I set out Sunday for neighboring Turkey on a journey that would take us through a pitch-black passage and miles of muddy olive groves in the freezing cold.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Award-winning journalists Rodrigo Abd and Ahmed Bahaddou sneaked into Syria and spent nearly three weeks reporting from opposition-held territory. Here is a selection of Abd's pictures.
Read the full story.

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In this Sunday, March 11, 2012 file photo, Syrian rebels take position during clashes with Syrian Army forces in Idlib, north Syria. In the previous days, troops had encircled Idlib, and tank shells pounded the city from dawn until evening. Rebels dashed through the streets, taking cover behind the corners of buildings as they clashed with the troops. Wounded fighters were piled into trucks bound for makeshift clinics. AP / Rodrigo Abd

March 12, 2012
Pakistani troops feel West undervalues their war
KALPANI BASE, Pakistan (AP) -- The wind was howling and the snow outside their bullet-pocked bunker lay knee-deep as the men of the 20th Lancer armored regiment bedded down for the night, nearly 2,500 meters (8,000 feet) up a mountain on one of the world's most inhospitable borders.
Pakistan has lost more than 3,000 soldiers in battles with Taliban since it deployed soldiers to its western border, more than all the foreign deaths in Afghanistan since 2001. Although it sees India to its east as its biggest military challenge, it regards its Afghan flank to the west as critical enough to warrant stationing 130,000 soldiers there.
The base called Kalpani is on the front line in the 10-year war against militant Islamists, a war that allies Pakistan with the U.S. and NATO in an uneasy, distrustful partnership. Pakistan feels scapegoated for the coalition's failures in Afghanistan. At the same time it is accused of playing a double game, fighting the militants it chooses to fight while giving others haven and logistical support for their actions in Afghanistan.
Last month the army took an unprecedented step, allowing an Associated Press writer and photographer to follow Pakistani troops on their front-line rounds for a glimpse inside its fight against militants in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.
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A Pakistani Army soldier with the 20th Lancers Armored Regiment stands atop the 8000-foot mountain during a patrol near his outpost, Kalpani Base, in Pakistan's Dir province on the Pakistan-Afghan border on Friday, Feb. 17, 2012. AP / Anja Niedringhaus

March 8, 2012
2012 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- The 40th edition of the Iditarod began on Sunday as 66 mushers and their sled dog teams began the 1,000-mile trek across Alaska. The finish line is in the old gold rush town of Nome, on Alaska's western coast. The Iditarod field this year includes mushers from Alaska, four other states and four other countries. The contenders include defending champion John Baker, 49, who won last year's race in record time. Baker was the first Inupiat Eskimo to win the Iditarod and the first Alaska Native to win it since Jerry Riley did in 1976. Images from the photojournalists at the Anchorage Daily News
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Four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser prepares his team to leave the checkpoint in Nikolai, Alaska, during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race on Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Anchorage Daily News / Marc Lester

March 6, 2012
Holi Festivities 2012
It's Holi season, the festival of color, in India. Associated Press photojournalist Kevin Frayer has dispatched a colorful group of images from the festivities.
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Indian Hindus worshippers are covered in colorful powder thrown on them as they pray at the Radha Rani Temple during Lathmar Holi in Barsana, India, Friday, March 2, 2012. According to tradition which has its roots in Hindu mythology men from Lord Krishna's village of Nandgaon are beaten by the women of Barsana, home of Lord Krishna's lover Radha. It is said that Lord Krisna's relatives used to tease Radha and her friends and were beaten by them in return. Even to this day, marriage between the two villages are not permitted. AP / Kevin Frayer

March 2, 2012
Tsunami pictures - Then and Now
It has been nearly one year since a monstrous earthquake triggered a tsunami that roared across Japan's coast on March 11, 2011, transforming once-pristine and thriving towns into waterlogged wastelands and sparking the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century.
In the last 12 months, some progress has been made in rebuilding lives, but much remains unfinished. Associated Press photographer David Guttenfelder, who chronicled the devastated towns in the aftermath of the disaster, has revisited these communities to see what has changed -- and what hasn't.

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In this combination photo, a ship washed away by the tsunami sits in a destroyed residential neighborhood in Kesennuma, northeastern Japan, on March 28, 2011, top, and the same ship sits on the same spot on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. A year after an earthquake and tsunami ravaged the country's coastline and killed around 19,000 people, many of the boats carried inland by the wall of water have been removed. But some, like this one, remain - providing a stark reminder of nature's fearsome power. AP / David Guttenfelder

March 1, 2012
Winter Weather 2012
From surfing in Southern California to swimming in China, here is a look at winter weather pictures from around the world made during January and February.
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A swimmer jumps into icy water for a morning swim in Shenyang, China on Jan. 6, 2012. Many Shenyang citizens persist in doing outdoor exercises in winter, shrugging off the cold weather. ZUMA24.com / Liu Jinhai