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If 2011 was the year social media arrived as a force in Chinese culture and politics, then 2012 was the year social media supercharged one of contemporary China’s finest forms of cultural and political expression: the Internet meme.

To be sure, the Chinese Internet has been a fertile producer of memes for quite some time. One of 2011’s great Internet moments — the Ministry of Railways spokesman’s haughty and ultimately career-ending effort to explain the burial of passenger cars after a deadly high-speed train crash in Wenzhou — is still going strong a year and a half later. And of course there’s 2009’s “grass mud horse,” which appears destined for immortality (and even a modicum of global cross-over) after being adopted by dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

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From the late 1930s to 1969, amateur photographer Charles W. Cushman traveled the country documenting American life and landscapes with color photographs. Upon his death in 1972, he bequeathed his collection of 14,500 Kodachrome color slides to his alma mater, Indiana University, where they remain today. Below are a selection of Cushman’s photos from 1938 [...]

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Pope Benedict XVI is back in Rome following his week-long-travels to Mexico and Cuba. In reviewing almost 4,000 images that documented his historic travels to the two countries, I decided to concentrate on Cuba, a country that because of travel restrictions, still remains a bit of a mystery to most of us. The first image, though, shows the Pope traveling to Cristo Rey sanctuary in Mexico to lead the holy mass celebration. The Pope urged the faithful to seek a humble and pure heart and trust in God in the face of evil. While in Cuba, in the heart of Revolution Square, with the towering images of guerrilla heroes staring back at him, the Pope called for "authentic freedom" in one of the world's most authoritarian states. Benedict's visit comes 14 years after the historic first papal trip to Cuba by Pope John Paul II, a visit that yielded an era of greater religious expression. – Paula Nelson (50 photos total)
Pope Benedict XVI looks from the helicopter at the Cristo Rey sanctuary as arrives to lead the holy mass celebration at the Parque del Bicentenario in Silao, March 25, 2012. Pope Benedict XVI sought to boost the Catholic faith in the face of violence and other challenges on his first visit to Mexico, receiving eager support from vast crowds of Mexicans. (Osservatore Romano/AFP/Getty Images)

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Coal occupies a central position in modern human endeavors. Last year over 7000 megatons were mined worldwide. Powerful, yet dirty and dangerous, use of coal is expanding every year, with 2010 witnessing a production increase of 6.8%. Around 70 countries have recoverable reserves, which some estimates claim will last for over a hundred years at current production levels. Mining for coal is one of the world's most dangerous jobs. While deadliest in China, where thousands of miners die annually, the profession is still hazardous in the West and other regions as well. Our mining and use of coal accounts for a variety of environmental hazards, including the production of more CO2 than any other source. Other concerns include acid rain, groundwater contamination, respiratory issues, and the waste products which contain heavy metals. But our lives as lived today rely heavily on the combustible sedimentary rock. Over 40% of the world's electricity is generated by burning coal, more than from any other source. Chances are that a significant percentage of the electricity you're using to read this blog was generated by burning coal. Gathered here are images of coal extraction, transportation, and the impact on environment and society. The first eight photographs are by Getty photographer Daniel Berehulak, who documented the lives of miners in Jaintia Hills, India. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
22-year-old Shyam Rai from Nepal makes his way through tunnels inside of a coal mine 300 ft beneath the surface on April 13, 2011 near the village of Latyrke, in the district of Jaintia Hills, India. In the Jaintia hills, located in India's far northeast state of Meghalaya, miners descend to great depths on slippery, rickety wooden ladders. Children and adults squeeze into rat hole like tunnels in thousands of privately owned and unregulated mines, extracting coal with their hands or primitive tools and no safety equipment. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

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An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy runs next to bonfires during Lag Ba’Omer celebrations to commemorate the end of a plague said to have decimated Jews in Roman times in Bnei Brak, Israel, Saturday, May 21, 2011.

A man carries a young girl who was rescued after being trapped with her mother in their home after a tornado hit Joplin, Mo. on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011. The tornado tore a path a mile wide and four miles long destroying homes and businesses.

Smoke plumes rise from the Grimsvotn volcano, which lies under the Vatnajokull glacier, about 120 miles east of the capital, Rejkjavik, which began erupting Saturday for the first time since 2004. Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled domestic flights Sunday as a powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles into the air.

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An Ultra-Orthodox Jewish boy runs next to bonfires during Lag Ba'Omer celebrations to commemorate the end of a plague said to have decimated Jews in Roman times in Bnei Brak, Israel, Saturday, May 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) #

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In this photo taken on Saturday, May 21, 2011, smoke plumes from the Grimsvotn volcano, which lies under the Vatnajokull glacier, about 120 miles, (200 kilometers) east of the capital, Rejkjavik, which began erupting Saturday for the first time since 2004. Iceland closed its main international airport and canceled domestic flights Sunday as a powerful volcanic eruption sent a plume of ash, smoke and steam 12 miles (20 kilometers) into the air. (AP Photo/Jon Gustafsson) #

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A man carries a young girl who was rescued after being trapped with her mother in their home after a tornado hit Joplin, Mo. on Sunday evening, May 22, 2011. The tornado tore a path a mile wide and four miles long destroying homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mike Gullett) #

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Emergency personnel walk through a neighborhood severely damaged by a tornado near the Joplin Regional Medical Center in Joplin, Mo., Sunday, May 22, 2011. A large tornado moved through much of the city, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) #

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Lightning from a severe thunderstorm flashes in the distance beyond a crucifix in a cemetery near Easton, Kan. Saturday, May 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) #

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Cadets from the 2011 graduating class of the U.S. Air Force Academy arrive to Falcon Stadium on May 25, 2011 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A total of 1,021 graduates were to receive their diplomas in front of their families, dignitaries and the public at the annual event. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) #

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A rebel fighter walks in a old and abandoned Catholic Church used by Moammar Gadhafi forces as a military camp on the east front line, 25 km from Misrata, Libya, Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Predicting success in Libya, President Barack Obama said Wednesday that Moammar Gadhafi would ultimately be forced to step down if NATO keeps up its military campaign with the U.S. playing a key role. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd) #

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U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron play table tennis at Globe Academy on May 24, 2011 in London, England. The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, and his wife Michelle are in the UK for a two day State Visit at the invitation of HM Queen Elizabeth II. During the trip they will attend a state banquet at Buckingham Palace and the President will address both houses of parliament at Westminster Hall. (Photo by Paul Hackett - WPA Pool/Getty Images) #

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A demonstrator shows his hands covered with blood of a fellow demonstrator as police officers try to remove them during clashes in Barcelona, Friday, May 27, 2011. Truncheon-wielding police in Barcelona have clashed with protesters at a makeshift camp that is one of dozens erected in Spain to protest high unemployment and other woes. Officers in riot gear were accompanying workers tasked with cleaning up the nearly two-week old camp at Plaza de Catalunya and police used force when protesters would not evacuate the camp temporarily as requested. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) #

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Burqa-clad Afghan women walk through a graveyard in the old section of Kabul on May 25, 2011. Despite massive injections of foreign aid since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan remains desperately poor with some of the lowest living standards in the world. AFP PHOTO / Punit PARANJPE #

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Beverly Winans hugs her daughter Debbie Surlin while salvaging items from Winans' devastated home in Joplin, Mo. Wednesday, May 25, 2011. Winans and her husband rode out the EF-5 tornado by hiding under a bed in the home. The tornado tore through much of the city Sunday, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses and killing at least 123 people. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) #

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Storms clouds pass behind Buck Creek School near Lawrence, Kan., Saturday, May 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) #

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Florene Renfro, 85, breaks down as she goes through her damaged home Wednesday, May 25, 2011, in Joplin , Mo. Renfro was able to save herself by hiding in a tiny linen closet and holding on to the door handle as massive tornado severely damaged her house Sunday night. "He was knocking, but I wouldn't let him in," she said of the tornado. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) #

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A neighborhood destroyed by a powerful tornado on Sunday is seen in Joplin, Mo. Tuesday, May 24, 2011. A tornado moved through much of the city Sunday, damaging a hospital and hundreds of homes and businesses and killing at least 116 people. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) #

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Jean Logan reacts as she sees the damage to her home in Joplin, Mo., Monday, May 23, 2011 after it was damaged by a tornado that destroyed nearly 30 percent of the town on Sunday afternoon. Logan and her granddaughter rode out the storm in the laundry room. The twister cut a six-mile path through the city. (AP Photo/Tulsa World, Adam Wisneski) #

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Kashmiri villagers carry the body of Mohammed Imran Khan, a suspected militant of Jaish-e-Mohammed during his funeral procession in Keller some 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Srinagar, India, Friday, May 27, 2011. Thousands attended the funeral of two suspected rebels in Indian Kashmir Friday, a day after they were killed in a gunbattle with government forces in the restive region, according to police. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin) #

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A man wearing a mask painted with the flag of the old Libyan monarchy that has been adopted by the Libyan revolutionary movement attends a demonstration in support of the Libyan rebels and in protest against Sweden and their stance toward the EU near the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on May 20, 2011. NATO said on May 20 its warplanes hit eight vessels of Moamer Kadhafi's navy, after US President Barack Obama predicted the veteran Libyan strongman would "inevitably" leave or be forced from power. AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND #

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A trio of local area rodeo queens ride in the backseat of a 1955 Ford Thunderbird during the Parade America on Saturday, May 21, 2011 in Nampa, Idaho. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield) #

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