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Joe Raedle

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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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Mitt Romney launched his fall campaign for the White House in a rousing Republican National Convention finale Thursday night, proclaiming America needs “jobs, lots of jobs” and promising to create 12 million of them in perilous economic times. “Now is the time to restore the promise of America,” Romney said in a prime-time speech to [...]

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One year ago, the small town of Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by an EF5 Tornado. A mile-wide multiple-vortex tornado, with estimated winds peaking at 362 to 402 km/h (225 to 250 mph), tore through the area on May 22, destroying more than 7,000 houses, killing 161 people, and injuring hundreds more. The task of rebuilding is underway, but the scale is daunting -- a year later, Joplin still has an eight-mile scar running through its middle. Gathered here are images of the town on this somber anniversary. [See also, Tornado Ravages Joplin, Missouri, from last year.] [30 photos]

A tall steel cross is refracted in raindrops on a window in Joplin, Missouri, on May 7, 2012. The cross is all that was left standing of St. Mary's Catholic Church, which was destroyed by an EF-5 tornado that tore through a large swath of the city and killed 161 people nearly a year ago. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

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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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World Water Day is observed on March 22 every year. The day to recognize the importance of earth's most precious natural resource was proposed 20 years ago at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. While we often take water for granted, many cannot. And water plays a role in almost everything we do. We drink it, wash in it, play in it, generate power with it, irrigate crops with it, travel and transport goods on it, fight fires with it, and worship with it. Gathered here are images of water from the last year in all its uses, in scarcity and in abundance. -- Lane Turner (48 photos total)
A child bathes from a public tap in his neighborhood in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on March 6, 2012. A UNICEF report says unhygienic conditions cause an estimated 1. 2 million child deaths before the age of five from diarrhea worldwide every year. The report says in urban areas access to improved water and sanitation is not keeping pace with population growth. (Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press)

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Powerful storms leveled two small towns in southern Indiana, transforming entire blocks of homes into piles of debris, tossing school buses into a home and a restaurant and causing destruction so severe it was difficult to tell what was once there. As night fell, dazed residents shuffled through town, some looking for relatives, while rescue [...]

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People around the world once again expressed their affection for one another in many ways with balloons, cards, flowers, chocolates, gifts, and kisses to name just a few. The National Retail Federation said Americans alone will spend some $17.6 billion on the day that traces its origins to Roman rituals and the legend of Saint Valentine from the Catholic Church. -- Lloyd Young (34 photos total)
A man is silhouetted as he fills heart shaped balloons with helium while waiting for customers on Valentine's Day in Islamabad. (Faisal Mahmood/Reuters)

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Today is Valentine's Day, a day set aside for expressions of love and affection. The traditional western holiday has spread to many countries around the globe, despite some efforts by religious and cultural groups to fight its adoption. Valentine's Day spending in the U.S. this year is expected to reach nearly $15 billion -- $2 billion of it on flowers alone. Ninety percent of the flowers Americans will give to their sweethearts are imported, and nearly all of those imports originate in Colombia and Ecuador. Included in today's posting is an 18-photo series depicting the voyage of the roses from South American farm to florists worldwide. [37 photos]

A couple kisses during a flashmob organized by a local television station on the eve of Valentine's Day in the Russian city of Stavropol, on February 13, 2012. (Reuters/Eduard Korniyenko)

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