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What We Loved This Week, Jan. 3 – 9

107 million spiders found in huge Baltimore web, gorgeous tropical Instagram photos, China’s panda researchers in panda suits to comfort cubs, up-close snowflake photos from the 1800s, TIME’s best animal photos of the year.

A Man Rides A Horse With A Child Through The Flames During The "Luminarias" Annual Religious Celebration In San Bartolome De Los Pinares

A man and child ride a horse through flames during the “Luminarias” annual religious celebration in San Bartolome de los Pinares, Spain. Image Source: TIME

TIME’s Most Astounding Animal Photos Of The Past Year

Baby Undulate Rays

Two endangered 10cm baby undulate rays which were born last month at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium. Image Source: TIME

Whether they’re small remarkably tiny or remarkably huge, compellingly cuddly or compellingly dangerous, markedly domesticated or markedly exotic, we’re inexhaustibly enthralled by animals. And from baby hippos to baby pandas to some creatures that are far more dangerous, TIME has collected the 50 most astounding, singular animal photos of the past year. See the full gallery here.

Hippo Tossing Baby Hippo

An sub-adult hippo tosses a small calf into the air as the distressed mother watches, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, South Africa. Image Source: TIME

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39 Tropical Instagram Photos To Cure Your Winter Blues

Millions of Americans experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) each year. The condition is brought about by sensitivity to light and temperature changes, so SAD’s symptoms—depression and low energy—are especially prevalent during winter. Treatments range from light therapy to vitamin supplements, but these tropical Instagram photos might help, too:

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Tropical Sunset Palm Tree

Seychelles. Image Source: @pierrestrauss

Hammock Sunset Tropical

Moorea. Image Source: @icfr_polynesia

Man Jumping Into Tropical Ocean

Bora Bora. Image Source: @alhashemiuae

Tropical Fish Swimming

Tahiti. Image Source: @popcherryfashion

Tropical Dock

Maldives. Image Source: @fe_dede

Swings Turquoise Water

Maldives. Image Source: @duskiiactive

Dusk Tropical Ocean

Bali. Image Source: @dan.kphotography

Sunset Ocean

Maldives. Image Source: @bob809

Turquoise Water

Bali. Image Source: @thehouseofmakeup_

Tropical Clouds

Maldives. Image Source: @paultskl

Infinity Pool Palm Tree

Maldives. Image Source: @rodeoand5th

Ocean Water Ripples

Maldives. Image Source: @sydney.curator

Dolphins Swimming

Maldives. Image Source: @lansva

Tropical Sea Turtle

Maldives. Image Source: @vaneeaful

Hammock Palm Trees

Tahiti. Image Source: @icfr_polynesia

Blue Fish Tropical

Maldives. Image Source: @vaneeaful

Tropical Atolls Aeiral

Maldives. Image Source: @vindemiatrixboabs

Island Turquoise Water

Rangiroa. Image Source: @vacationwolf

Stingrays People Ocean

Moorea. Image Source: @icfr_polynesia

Tropical Resort Bungalows

Tahiti. Image Source: @icfr_polynesia

Tropical Overwater Bungalow

Tahiti. Image Source: @icfr_polynesia

Tropical Fish

Maldives. Image Source: @aristocom_international

Sunset Pink Palm Trees

Bali. Image Source: @mytildalife

Tropical Ocean Woman Paddling

Bora Bora. Image Source: @fsborabora

Tropical Overwater Bungalows

Bora Bora. Image Source: @lycheeswimwear

Tropical Bungalows Rainbow

Bora Bora. Image Source: @fodorstravel

Tropical Flowers Ocean

Bora Bora. Image Source: @icfr_polynesia

Swing Tropical Beach

Seychelles. Image Source: @vodan77777

Sunset Boat Pink Orange

Bali. Image Source: @lucindacaroline

Turquoise Water Tropical Ocean

Seychelles. Image Source: @vodan77777

Tropical Water Tree Branches

Bali. Image Source: @fathomwaytogo

Tropical Instagram Photos

Seychelles. Image Source: @agap3008

Sunset Boat Water

Seychelles. Image Source: @lost2wanderlust

Tropical Instagram Photos Cliff

Seychelles. Image Source: @fromgreecewithlove

Tropical Instagram Photos Aerial

Seychelles. Image Source: @justart_paris

People Diving Tropical Ocean

Bora Bora. Image Source: @travelingourplanet

Island Sunset

Maldives. Image Source: @dronesetc

Night Sky Stars Tropical

Bora Bora. Image Source: @treyratcliff

Pig Swimming Ocean

Exuma, Bahamas. Image Source: @travelawesome

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21 Inspiring Instagrams That Helped Change The World This Year

Now with over 80 million photo uploads per day, Instagram is sure to capture virtually all of humanity’s inanity. At some point, if you’ve seen one sunset, selfie, or Starbucks order, no matter how perfectly shot or filtered, you’ve seen them all. But none of that precludes the fact that Instagram’s unprecedented powers of communication can be used to actually make a difference in this world. It’s not always easy to separate wheat from chaff, but whether saving animals, feeding the hungry, or documenting humanity’s appalling lows and wondrous highs, here are 21 inspiring Instagrams that used their reach to effect real change in 2015.

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Oceana

White Sea Lion Pup

Over the last 15 years, Oceana, the largest international ocean conservation group, has completed dozens of successful large-scale campaigns to save ocean habitats and their residents from dangers like oil drilling, overfishing, and pollution. In North America, they've saved three-quarters of a billion acres of ocean from destructive trawling practices. In Europe, they've stopped tens of millions of tons of pollutants from being dumped into the ocean.

Furthermore, Oceana works to save today's threatened marine species, like the sea lion pictured above. In recent years, climate change has caused an increase in marine parasites that have ravaged their populations.

Image Source: Oceana

Malala Fund

Girl Pink Clothing

It's virtually impossible to think of a greater hero than Malala Yousafzai. In 2009, when she was just an adolescent in Pakistan, she began writing a BBC blog protesting Taliban abuses, especially their prevention of education for females. In 2012, after her efforts had attracted worldwide attention, a Taliban gunman shot her through the back of the head. She not only survived, she went on to establish The Malala Fund, a global advocacy group for female education, and won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, using her $1.1 million prize money to build a school for girls in Pakistan.

This year, photos like the one above (depicting Hannatu Abbas, an 18-year-old Nigerian girl who defied tradition and chose education over forced marriage) have allowed The Malala Fund to reach new heights in the fight for freedom and education.

Image Source: Malala Fund

Pencils of Promise

Little Girl Clutching Book

"We don't do charity work," reads Pencils of Promise's mission statement. "We make long-term investments."

Since 2008, the organization has built 266 much-needed schools in developing nations. And true to their word, they've trained local populations to keep the schools self-sustaining and keep children like the girl above (and the countless others that populate the organization's Instagram feed) educated.

Image Source: Pencils of Promise

Amber Amour, #StopRapeEducate

Rape Survey

With her #StopRapeEducate campaign, activist Amber Amour is helping to expose the truth about the prevalence of rape and the sexist culture that supports it. "Rape culture is engrained in all of us," she writes, "without even knowing it. Education plays the role of unlearning rape culture and creating a culture of consent."

The image above shows the results of a survey of high school students about when rape is acceptable. While the survey was taken in 1978, and we can hope that attitudes have changed significantly since then, the results are nevertheless absolutely chilling.

Image Source: Amber Amour

Ruddy Roye, "Humanist/Activist."

Man Stomach Wound

The starkly beautiful photojournalism of Radcliffe "Ruddy" Roye would have earned attention and acclaim purely on its aesthetic merits. But in a year in which the plight of black Americans remained at the forefront of the national discussion, Roye's alternately heartrending and uplifting photos proved especially poignant.

Taken from a series entitled "Forgotten People," the photo above shows a man from Mobile, Alabama who was left homeless after Hurricane Katrina.

Image Source: Ruddy Roye, "Humanist/Activist."

NASA

Influential Instagrams NASA

In a watershed year for space exploration, NASA's Instagram was filled with stunning--and humbling--images of our planet, the newly photographed Pluto, and beyond.

Above is a photo taken from the International Space Station by astronaut Scott Kelly. The gilded ribbon on the far left is the Nile River.

Image Source: NASA

Black Lives Matter

Influential Instagrams BLM

Black Lives Matter's Instagram blends its grassroots organizing campaigns with impactful images of the many unique issues—such as police brutality (glimpsed above)—facing the black community today.

Moreover, alongside this, you'll also find inspiring images of strength, resilience, and beauty.

Image Source: Black Lives Matter

Human Rights Watch

Influential Instagrams HRW

Traveling far and wide to uncover human rights abuses around the globe, Human Rights Watch uses Instagram to highlight unjust and under-reported conditions that many around the world face on a daily basis.

Above, refugees frantically board a boat in search of a better life. This year, according to the UN, nearly 1 million refugees from the Middle East fled to Europe.

Image Source: Human Rights Watch

#InstaPride

Inspiring Instagrams Transgender Balloons

Without question, 2015 was a landmark year for the transgender community. Caitlyn Jenner made headlines, transgendered characters saw representation on television, and Instagram stepped in to raise awareness.

This summer, Instagram partnered with Miley Cyrus to launch #InstaPride, a campaign that shared stories of both struggle and resilience from transgendered people around the world (above is the campaign's first photo).

Image Source: Miley Cyrus

Dmitry Markov

Inspiring Instagrams Russian Orphans

Dmitry Markov works with orphans and disabled children in Russia. This year, he was able to use his Instagram following to reveal the children's sadly underrepresented plight.

Markov was awarded a $10,000 grant from Getty Images and Instagram for his work. Two other photographers highlighting underrepresented communities were also awarded grants in what was a historic partnership between two giants of the world of photography, one old and one young.

Image Source: Dmitry Markov

The New York Times

Ebola Victims

Though Instagram launched in 2010, and has since become an essential tool in media and journalism, it wasn't until this year that The New York Times, perhaps the most widely recognized news source on the planet, joined the photo sharing network.

Their very first photo (above) gave the world a touching reminder that brief tender moments can still bring hope to areas in crisis--in this case, Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone. Fortunately, however, 2015 was an important, positive year in the fight against Ebola, with epidemics thwarted and promising new treatments and vaccines on the way.

Image Source: The New York Times

UN Women

Influential Instagrams UNW

UN Women uses its Instagram account to provide updates on gender equality around the world, and the unique issues that women in developed and developing countries face at home and in the workforce.

Above is a photo of Zawadi Mrisho Iddi, a 24-year-old woman who ran for Zanzibar's House of Representatives this year. Over 1,000 women ran for public office in Zanzibar's parent country of Tanzania in 2015.

Image Source: UN Women

Hillary Clinton

Hilary Clinton Suits

"Hard choices.," read the caption on Hillary Clinton's very first Instagram post, published this summer.

Beyond Clinton's droll caption, politicians across the board have simply had to become more self-aware and down-to-earth (or at least appear to be) with the advent of social media, particularly Instagram. Now, nearly every major candidate in the upcoming presidential election (not just Donald Trump) has an Instagram account--and the way politicians interact with the public has changed irrevocably.

Image Source: Hillary Clinton

David Doubilet

Fish Projection Vatican

In early December, the organizers behind the art project, Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home, used one of the world’s most stunning buildings, St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, as their canvas. Fiat Lux projected massive images of some of nature’s most extraordinary animals onto the basilica, with the blessing of Pope Francis, in order to raise awareness about climate change and endangered species.

Celebrated photographer David Doubilet, himself an environmentalist and conservationist, contributed many of the incredible images for Fiat Lux (including the one above).

Image Source: David Doubilet

Humans of New York

Sad Pensive Arabic Woman

Humans of New York (HONY) is, of course, already a household name, but this year, HONY reached new heights in joining the fight to help Middle Eastern refugees fleeing war in Syria and Iraq to resettle in the U.S.

Above is Aya, a young Iraqi woman who was denied entry by the U.S. HONY is currently using Instagram to promote a petition to President Obama that would allow Aya haven in America.

Image Source: Humans of New York

The Food Trust

Pumpkins Squash Sunlight

Lord knows, Instagram is filled with enough immaculately photographed images of gorgeous looking food. Frankly, it's nice to see someone use those kinds of photos for good.

The Food Trust has long been a leader in advocating for affordable, nutritious food for everyone. Through their work with schools, stores, governments, and more, they've contributed to a, sadly, rare drop in childhood obesity rates in their native Philadelphia.

Image Source: The Food Trust

Facing Homelessness

Old Homeless Man Portrait

A few years ago, Seattle architect Rex Hohlbein started photographing his native Seattle's homeless residents and sharing their stories online, in order to raise awareness and ask for donations. He soon quit his job and started Facing Homelessness, a social media-fueled charitable organization. This year, the organization's reach skyrocketed, with sister organizations springing up in other major U.S. cities.

"Preacher John" (above), a homeless man living in Seattle, frequently receives help from Facing Homelessness.

Image Source: Facing Homelessness

Everyday Climate Change

Beijing Pollution Smog

The first line of Everyday Climate Change's Instagram bio says it all: "Climate Change is Real!" And this collective of five celebrated photographers all on different continents around the world is demonstrating just that, with haunting images of climate change's effects across the globe.

Above, Katharina Hesse shows us the "apocalyptic" view of the unbelievably polluted air in Beijing, which reached new heights of danger in 2015.

Image Source: Everyday Climate Change

charity: water

Kid Clean Water Smile

Clean water. It's utterly essential, yet virtually all of the developed world takes it utterly for granted. But for the estimated 663 million people worldwide without clean water, a simple glass of the stuff can elicit a smile for the ages.

charity: water is going around the world to provide clean water to people in need, and sharing their smiles--and raising awareness--on Instagram along the way.

Image Source: charity: water

The World Wildlife Fund

Influential Instagrams WWF

The World Wildlife Fund collects stunning visuals of animal life around the world, while raising awareness about the perils many of them face.

Above, penguins plunge into icy Antarctic waters. Scientists estimate that, over the past 50 years, climate change has cut the penguin population in half.

Image Source: WWF International

Best Friends Animal Society

Smiling Dog

For three decades, Best Friends Animal Society has been operating America's largest no-kill sanctuary for dogs, cats, and the like. And, as you'd imagine, when you're in the business of working with adorable animals, Instagram is going to help your cause immensely.

This year, Best Friends, with the help of photos of rescued animals (like the one above), spread their message of compassion to hundreds of thousands of people around the world.

Image Source: Best Friends Animal Society

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21 Stunning Photos Of New Year Celebrations Around The World

At midnight two days from now, the majority of the world will be welcoming 2016 around friends and family, cheering to a Happy New Year with festive food, champagne, parties and fireworks. Although most of the world has now aligned onto the Western Gregorian calendar, a few countries and cultures continue to observe different New Year dates and traditions. While putting the final touches to your NYE preparations, take a look at the colorful, boisterous, or spiritual ways other populations will enter their own new year throughout 2016:

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The Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year Dragon Parade

Also known as Spring Festival or Lunar New Year, the world’s most famous “other” new year is followed by Chinese communities worldwide and a number of other countries in Asia. It runs from the eve – whose date varies each year – to the Lantern Festival on the 15th of the first calendar month, making it one of the longest celebrated festivals. Image Source: Red and White

Chinese New Year Family Meal

Chinese people’s cross-country and international travels to reunite with friends and relatives for the holidays represent the world’s largest punctual migratory wave. According to tradition, after cleaning their houses thoroughly, families will open their doors and windows to welcome in the Year of the Monkey at midnight on February 7th 2016. Image Source: International Business Times

Seollal – Korean New Year

Seollal Korean New Year Family Reunion

Usually falling on the same day as the Chinese New Year, South Korea’s own Lunar New Year, Seollal, is an occasion for families to get together to share elaborate meals and play ancestral games, often dressed in traditional clothing called hanbok. Image Source: Korean Safari

Losar – Tibetan New Year

Tibetan New Year Losar Festival

The Losar Festival held in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and certain parts of India lasts for 15 days, although celebrations are concentrated over the first three days. The colorful festivities include beer- and noodle-making, prayers, monastery cleaning, ritual offerings, dances, and theatrical performances. In 2016, Losar will fall on February 9-11. Image Source: Make My Trip

Nyepi – Balinese New Year

Nyepi Bali New Year Pecalang Patrol

In March, Bali’s Hindu population greets in the Saka New Year by respecting Nyepi, a full day of silence, fasting, and meditation. The island comes to a standstill as locals and visitors alike are forbidden to work, make noise, use electricity, and seek entertainment. Only a few “pecalang” (traditional security men, pictured above) are allowed to patrol Bali’s usually bustling streets and beaches to ensure that they remain empty. Image Source: Blog.icbali

Nyepi Bali New Year Ritual Parade

The days preceding the Nyepi “Day of Silence” bring much more animation to the island. Balinese villagers perform a series of processions and celebrations, including the Bhuta Yajna Ritual, during which they parade ogoh-ogoh statues made of bamboo and paper meant to represent demonic spirits, before burning them in the Ngrupuk ceremony. Image Source: Photo.sf

Yancuic Xīhuitl – Aztec New Year

Aztec New Year Celebrations Mexico

Following the Aztec Calendar, the Nahua communities of Mexico welcome the Año Nuevo Azteca by lighting ocote (pitch-pine) candles and fireworks on the eve of the March 12th New Year. Ceremonial songs and dances are performed to the beat of drums in colorful folk costumes topped by quetzal feather headgear.

Aztec New Year Seashell Blowing

To conclude the celebrations, revelers burn a flag representing the past year and perfume the replacement one. They then greet the New Year by making noises with seashells, as their Aztec ancestors did centuries ago. Image Source: The Durango Herald

Nowruz – Iranian New Year

Haji Firooz

Usually falling on or around 21st March, this holiday of Zoroastrian origin marks the start of the year in the Persian calendar and the first day of spring – or Equinox – for Iranians and their Central Asian neighbors. The beginning of the festivities is heralded by Hajji Firuz, a fictional character whose face is painted black as a symbol of good luck. Image Source: Tyne and Wear Museums

Nowruz Iranian New Year Fire Jumping

The night before the last Wednesday of the year, Norwuz observers light bonfires and jump over them while singing a traditional song asking the fire to burn the fear in their spirit in preparation for the new year. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Kha b' Nisan – Assyrian New Year

Assyrian New Year Parade

Every 1st of April, Assyrian people all over the world celebrate Kha b' Nisan, the “Head of the Year”, with parades and parties involving traditional costume and dancing in parks for hours. Image Source: Bethsuryoyo

Assyrian New Year Wedding Parade

Weddings are often celebrated as part of the festival. After a long ban on public celebrations by Saddam Hussein's regime, one of the largest Assyrian New Year celebrations took place in Iraq in 2008, attracting 45,000 to 65,000 revelers. Image Source: Bethsuryoyo

Songkran – Thai New Year

Songkran Thai New Year Water Festival

Held between 13th and 15th April each year, the Thai New Year Festival ends with the world’s largest water fight: on the last day of Songkran, the entire country takes to the streets armed with water guns, buckets, and elephants to splash the crowds. Image Source: Astonishing Festivals

Pohela Boishakh – Bengali New Year

Pohela Boishakh  Bengali New Year Festival

On April 14th, this lively festival brings the different religious and ethnic Bengali communities of Bangladesh and the West Bengal Province of India together to party at Boishakhi Fairs. The merriments include parades, plays, puppet shows and merry-go-rounds. Image Source: Huffington Post

Aluth Avurudda and Puthandu – Sinhalese and Tamil New Years

Puthandu Sinhalese Tamil New Year Fun

In other parts of India, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, the Sinhalese and Tamil populations also enter the New Year on 14th April. Their day begins with carefully-timed rituals based on astrological observations. Later, they can indulge in looser partying. Image Source: The Huffington Post

Sinhalese Tamil New Year Cart Racing

In Sri Lanka, Sinhalese and Tamil villagers engage in friendly competitions in games including sack-racing, rope-pulling, and the less conventional bull cart races and coconut wars. Image Source: Metro

Matariki – Maori New Year

Matariki Maori New Year Kite Flying

In late May or early June, kites are flown all over New Zealand to celebrate Matariki, the Maori New Year marking the annual rise of the Pleiades cluster of stars. Image Source: Stuff

Odunde – Yoruba Nigerian New Year (celebrated in Philadelphia)

Odunde Festival Nigerian New Year

The mid-June Odunde Festival brings Africans from across the world to the US city of Philadelphia for a one-day street party inspired by the New Year celebrations of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Image Source: Odunde Festival

Willkakuti – Aymara New Year

Willkakuti Aymara New Year

Willkakuti (literally, “the Return of the Sun”) is celebrated by the Aymara indigenous peoples of Bolivia, Chile, and Southern Peru to commemorate the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. On June 21st, Andean locals gather before dawn to wait for the first rays of the sun, welcoming its rise with chants and offerings. Image Source: Concord Monitor

BOLIVIA AYMARA NEW YEAR

The biggest Willkakuti celebrations take place at the Temple of Kalasasaya in Tiwanaku, where Aymara priests usher in the new agricultural cycle and call for an abundant harvest by making toasts and sacrifices to the sun and “Pachamama”, the Mother Earth. Image Source: Facebook

Rosh Hashanah – Jewish New Year

Shofar Rosh Hashanah Jewish New Year

In the autumn, Rosh Hashanah – or by its Biblical name, Yom Teruah (the Feast of Trumpets) – marks the beginning of the agricultural cycle and the creation of Adam and Eve. Observers sound the shofar, a hollowed-out ram's horn, and eat symbolic foods such as apples dipped in honey to call for a “sweet new year”. Image Source: Business Insider

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