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A framework for robust foreground detection that works under difficult conditions such as dynamic background and moderately moving camera is presented in this paper. The proposed method includes two main components: coarse scene representation as the union of pixel layers, and foreground detection in video by propagating these layers using a maximum-likelihood assignment. We first cluster into "layers" those pixels that share similar statistics. The entire scene is then modeled as the union of such nonparametric layer-models. An incoming pixel is detected as foreground if it does not adhere to these adaptive models of the background. A principled way of computing thresholds is used to achieve robust detection performance with a prespecified number of false alarms. Correlation between pixels in the spatial vicinity is exploited to deal with camera motion without precise registration or optical flow. The proposed technique adapts to changes in the scene, and allows to automatically convert persistent foreground objects to background and reconvert them to foreground when they become interesting. This simple framework addresses the important problem of robust foreground and unusual region detection, at about 10 frames per second on a standard laptop computer. The presentation of the proposed approach is complemented by results on challenging real data and comparisons with other standard techniques.