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Tuesday’s Iowa caucus goes down in the history books as a photo finish for an epic race. Mitt Romney edged out victory over Rick Santorum by just eight votes, with Ron Paul finishing not far behind. Iowa City photographer Danny Wilcox Frazier, who has been covering the race in the Hawkeye State for TIME, offers an inside look at this the quintessential American saga from its early to final days, and in chronicling this path, he sheds light on a Republican spirit ready to take on Barack Obama.

Frazier’s lens captures the sentiments not just of the candidates but also of the voters, as well as the reporters who’ve covered them both. For Frazier, the Iowa path is well-worn. He traced the campaign trail for the magazine in 2008, and now, four years and a recession later, the state’s mood appears expectant and committed. The Tea Party vigor has muted, but the determination for change has not. It is apparent in the eyes of those he photographed, from Occupy Des Moines protesters to Faith and Freedom Coalition banqueters to veterans at the Iowa State Fairgrounds, all of whom were preparing to make 2012’s first great decision. And when you behold his images of empty audience chairs after campaign stops and candidate speeches, you can’t help but feel the present investment Iowans—and all the nation’s Republicans—feel in their political future.

“I followed Republican presidential hopefuls as they addressed voters in kitchens, cafes, and town halls—candidates opening themselves up to unexpected questions as they met face to face with factory workers, farmers and residents of a state that is questioned over its first in the nation status once every four years,” Frazier said. “Attack ads paid off, as did the traditional formula of visiting all 99 counties and doing the ‘work’ that wins Iowa.”

Several of Frazier’s photos have already become some of the election’s most memorable. He snapped Michele Bachmann moments after she declared her candidacy in June, and Newt Gingrich as he was getting his makeup done for a November interview—both of which were featured in the pages of TIME last year. Then there are his images of Rick Perry hunting pheasants with Rep. Steve King (R-IA) in October and Rick Santorum following suit two months later. Some things never change—you have to know the game to play the race.

Danny Wilcox Frazier is a photographer with Redux who is based in Iowa City.

Elizabeth Dias is a reporter in TIME’s Washington bureau. Find her on Twitter @elizabethjdias.

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Ahmed Harara is a dentist. While protesting during the Egyptian revolution in January, he was struck in the eye by a rubber bullet. Blinded in that eye, he continued to protest. Then, during the November protests in Tahrir Square, Ahmed was shot in his other eye by a rubber bullet. Now he is completely blind.

But he kept protesting.

Harara is one of more than a hundred protesters around the world photographed by TIME contract photographer Peter Hapak. From Oakland, Calif., to New York City, across Europe and through the Middle East, Hapak and I traveled nearly 25,000 miles photographing protesters and activists from eight countries.

We photographed protesters representing Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Oakland, Occupy the Hood, Los Indignados of Spain, protesters in Greece, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt, activists from Syria fleeing persecution, a crusader fighting corruption in India, Tea Party activists from New York, a renowned poet turned protester from Mexico and a protester from Wisconsin who carries a shovel, topped by a flag.

We set up makeshift studios in hotel rooms, apartments and people’s homes, inside a temple in rural India and an anarchist headquarters in Athens — even in the courtyard of the home of Mannoubia Bouazizi, the mother of Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi. Tear gas wafted into our studio in a hotel room overlooking Tahrir Square — the same room where Yuri Kozyrev made a now iconic photograph of the crowd.

Each time, we asked subjects to bring with them mementos of protest. Rami Jarrah, a Syrian activist who fled to Cairo, brought his battered iPhone. He showed me some of the most intense protest footage I’ve ever seen. A Spanish protester named Stephane Grueso brought his iPhone too, referring to it as a “weapon.” Young Egyptian protesters brought rubber pellets that had been fired at them by security forces. Another brought a spent tear-gas canister. Subjects carried signs, flags and gas masks (some industrial ones, some homemade, like the one belonging to Egyptian graffiti artist El Teneen — his was made from a Pepsi can). A trio of Greek protesters brought Maalox. (Mixed with water, it was sprayed on their eyes to counter the harsh effects of tear gas.) Molly Katchpole, the young woman from Washington, D.C., who took on Bank of America — and won — brought her chopped-up debit card. Sayda al-Manahe brought a framed photograph of her son Hilme, a young Tunisian killed by police during the revolution. El Général, the Tunisian revolutionary rapper, brought nothing but his voice — he rapped a cappella for us (we have video). Lina Ben Mhenni, a blogger from Tunisia and a Nobel Peace Prize contender, brought her laptop. She spoke Arabic, yet we understood the words Facebook and Twitter.

Each subject was photographed in front of a white or black background — eliminating their environments but elevating their commonality to that of “Protester,” a fitting setup for a group of people united by a common desire for change.

“They were all unhappy. They wanted change, and they wanted a better life,” Hapak said. “Everybody is out there to unite their power for one common cause, one common expression: to get a better life.”

Witty is the international picture editor at TIME.

Hapak is a contract photographer for TIME, who most recently photographed Tilda Swinton for the Dec. 19, 2011, issue.

MORE: See the entire 2011 Person of the Year package here

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In the final installment of the series (Parts One, Two, Three, Four), we look at the export possibilities for Japanese culture when the “most popular” goods and works are increasingly being made by and for marginal subcultures without obvious analogs overseas.

Part Five: The Difficulty of Exporting Marginal Subcultures

Marketing guru Kawaguchi Morinosuke’s recent book Geeky Girly Innovation: A Japanese Subculturist’s Guide to Technology and Design posits that corporate Japan needs to take more guidance from otaku and gyaru. There is an important point to this — these are now the most influential and powerful groups in Japanese pop culture and should not be ignored out of snobbery. And maybe their obsessive spirit has applicable lessons for industry management. Yet we should not be naive about this either in a wider context: the products actually made within these subcultures are increasingly losing their resonance overseas.

Until now, you could divide Japan’s successful consumer exports into three groups:

(1) technological/industrial goods like cars and electronics
(2) kids’ products like video games, toys, comic books, and pens/stationary
(3) sophisticated cultural goods like fashion brands, indie music, and literature.

Other than automobiles, Japan has lost its edge on high-tech goods. Korean rival Samsung has almost singlehandedly taken over the space once monopolized by Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, and Sharp. And with the decreasing number of children, greater competition from the U.S. on video games, and a general move away from gadget culture, Japan is also struggling to export kids’ products. Meanwhile most of Japan’s successful cutting-edge culture exports — Pizzicato Five, Cornelius, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Shonen Knife, The Boredoms A Bathing Ape, Comme des Garçons, Hiromix, Murakami Takashi — came from a scene that has ceased to be high-profile in Japan.

This last category, while minor in terms of actual sales, did a lot of the legwork for boosting the Japan “brand” in the 1990s, especially among the cultural elite in the U.S. and Europe. The reason is simple: the artistic works spoke the language of upper middle-class aesthetes overseas. Furthermore these artists made an easy match with the West because they played with iterations of ideas originally created in The West: avant-garde art and fashion, street culture as defined by US/UK, punk rock, lounge music, etc. In general, the successful products and artistic works had something “universal” (i.e., “Western”) at their core, which made them more easily exportable. Overall Japanese culture found warm reception where the consuming groups in the West were similar to the Japanese creators in class position and values. We take for granted that Miyamoto Shigeru’s art-school tastes appealed subconsciously to the richer American youth who bought up the NES in droves during the mid-1980s.

What we have not seen, however, are good consumer comparisons overseas to the psychologically tortured Japanese subcultures like contemporary otaku or the yankii/gyaru. Mass market anime like Naruto and Gundam are relatively easy to export as they were built for “normal” youth. That cannot be said about moe titles that are meant to satisfy older men obsessed with two-dimensional elementary school girls. Similarly, no gyaru clothing brand has more retail stores overseas than the avant-garde Comme des Garçons, despite gyaru clothing’s huge business in Japan and CDG’s highly-limited audience. At least from what we have seen from the big subcultural moments in the last decade, the culture of Japan’s marginal pluralities is almost unexportable.

Let’s look again at AKB48 on YouTube — a global site where anyone can watch videos from anywhere else around the world. Based on the public viewership data for “Heavy Rotation” and other AKB48 videos, the vast majority of views for AKB48 come from the group’s domestic fan base. In other words, no other country than Japan contributes to AKB48’s multi-million view count despite the fact that the videos are available worldwide and AKB48 is the overwhelmingly dominant group in Japanese pop at the moment. AKB48’s seemingly-massive popularity in Japan make them the number one favorite for J-Pop exportation. Yet no one non-Japanese is watching their videos — even in light of a “Japan Cool” wave and the popularity of YouTube all around the world. Compare AKB48’s videos to the insight map for “The Boys” by Girls Generation (SNSD) in Korea, who have had massive success in Japan and whose YouTube stats show a very wide global audience.

In most countries with growing economies, educated upper-middle class consumers still spearhead the consumer market. They have the most disposable income and the most interest in cultural exchange. And those consumers, whether it’s Taiwan or the U.K., are the ones most likely to be willing to follow and purchase foreign cultural items.

Currently, however, the most conspicuous Japanese culture of otaku and yankii represents value sets with little connection to affluent consumers elsewhere. Most men around the world are not wracked by such deep status insecurity that they want to live in a world where chesty two-dimensional 12 year-old girls grovel at their feet and call them big brother. The average university student in Paris is likely to read Murakami Haruki and may listen to a Japanese DJ but not wear silky long cocktail dresses or fake eyelashes from a brand created by a 23 year-old former divorcee hostess with two kids. Overseas consumers remain affluent, educated, and open to Japanese culture, but Japan’s pop culture complex — by increasingly catering to marginal groups (or ignoring global tastes, which is another problem altogether) — is less likely to create products relevant for them.

This is not to say that the emergence of otaku and yankii culture is insignificant for Japan. This wave has finally given material and cultural expression to pockets of society that had a hard time voicing their experience in the past. The rich Tokyo elite enjoyed a disproportionately high influence over national culture for decades, and now the two marginal groups have taken the elite’s place in dominating the direction of pop. When it comes to “fairness” and democracy, this is the least elitist that Japanese culture has ever been. But we have replaced one kind of distortion with another, and we still should not confuse these subcultures’ tastes with being truly “mainstream.”

One of Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter’s teachings is that companies that are competitive overseas come from domestic markets where they have local competition and must learn to please demanding local consumers. The more advanced the consumers, the more advantage a company has in eventually exporting its products when other consumers catch up. Apple’s success with the iPod came from the product’s direct targeting of tech-savvy American college students and former college students who had massive libraries of mp3s stuck on computers and wanted to take them out on the streets. Girls Generation worked to best other idol groups in Korea through highly skilled dancing, singing, and a song library purchased from European producers.

Japan’s consumer market meanwhile is becoming increasingly dominated by technological and cultural laggards. The peak “Japan Cool” came at a time in the 1990s when the average Japanese was intentionally or inadvertently consuming highly sophisticated culture, and the pressures to please them gave Japanese companies the training to be globally competitive. Cultural producers tried to one-up each other in coolness.

Japanese companies now face a true crisis: Appealing to the most powerful consumers in Japan will lead them away from tastes and values that can be easily exported overseas. AKB48 may be opening vanity branches in Taiwan and Jakarta, but will the world inherently be interested in an idol group meant to please a small group of men’s reactionary attitudes towards women and desire for songs that ignore the last twenty years of musical change? And as we’ve seen with the success of K-Pop in Japan, companies cannot automatically protect the domestic market against invasion. When the mainstream consumers do see something they like, that reflects their values in a way that otaku and gyaru content does not, they pounce. But until they reawaken as a consistent consumer force or rebuild cultural online to be less centered around product purchase, we are likely to stay within the current situation — where marginal subcultures rule the school.

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On the surface, the differences between Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are evident. Yet Nina Berman, who has photographed protests involving both groups, found some shared symbolism.

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There are many forms of protest, many ways to express an objection to particular events, situations, policies, and even people.  Protests can also take many forms - from individual statements to mass demonstrations - both peaceful and violent. In the last 30 days, there have been numerous protests across the globe in many countries.  The following post is a collection of only some of those protests, but the images convey a gamut of emotions as citizens stand up for their political, economic, religious and lifestyle rights.  -- Paula Nelson (51 photos total)
As protesters sleep in Zuccotti Park, N.Y. police officers receive instructions. A group of activists calling themselves Occupy Wall Street targeted the Financial District for more than a week of demonstrations in late September. The group said they sought to bring attention to corporate malfeasance, social inequality, and the yawning gap in income between America's rich and poor. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

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Richard Metzger says: "Sonny Bono seems more than a little stoned in this US government anti-marijuana film from 1968. It includes an hilarious final piece to camera (which looks edited to best comic effect) where Bono trips over his words, as he tells the audience."

Well now, you’ve heard from both sides of the question, but what you do with your life is up to you.

If you become a pothead you risk blowing the most important time of your life: your teen age. That unrepeatable time for you to grow up and to prepare for being an adult that can handle problems, and make something meaningful out of life.

Or, you have the choice to have the courage to see and deal with the world for what it really is - far, far from perfect but for you and for me the only one there is.

While it’s true that some of you will actually go to the moon and perhaps other planets, it’s also true that in a few short years, this world will be your establishment, and you will be the Establishment and what you do or don’t do about it will be your scene. Your the generation with the brain power and the opportunity to do more for the human needs of this world than any other generation in history.

Let’s hope your teenage children don’t have too much criticism of what you did or didn’t do because you were on pot.”

Corniness aside, this seems like a fairly well-balanced and enlightening film about drug use.

"Marijuana": A 1968 government film starring a spaced-out Sonny Bono

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I'm at the Personal Democracy Forum at NYU today, and the morning plenary has been a series of fascinating short talks. But one talk, by Jim Gilliam's "The Internet is My Religion," brought the house down. Jim worked in many early and influential Internet firms, went on to produce Robert Greenwald's extraordinary films, and do many other notable things. Among them was surviving two bouts of cancer and a double-lung transplant. The story of how he went from a Jerry Falwell born-again to an Internet advocate and film producer ended with a standing ovation and not a dry eye in the house. Watch this, please, I'd consider it a favor.

Jim Gilliam- The Future of Sharing

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Features and Essays – Agnes Dherbeys: Red Shirts (updated) (VII Magazine: May 2010)

Features and Essays – Stanley Greene: Cannes (NOOR: May 2010)

Features and Essays - Nina Berman: Tea Party (NOOR: May 2010)

Features and Essays - Lynsey Addario: Reaching Out to Afghan Women (NYT: May 2010)

Features and Essays - Boston Globe: Afghanistan May 2010 (Boston Globe Big Picture: May 2010)

Features and Essays – James Estrin: Faltering Hope in Haiti (NYT: May 2010)

Articles - PDN: Was Annie Leibovitz a Victim of Fraud? (PDN: May 2010)

Tutorials - David Degner: 13 Photography Portfolio Website Options (Incendiary Image: May 2010)

Features and Essays - Christopher Morris: Obama’s Burden (Telegraph21: May 2010) video

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