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Laurent Gbagbo

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Any "best of" list must surely be subjective. This one is no different. Choosing the best photographs of the year is an enormously difficult task, with many terrific photographs slipping through the cracks. But with major news events as a guide, and with single images I fell in love with throughout the year forcing their way into the edit, I look at my favorite pictures from the first four months of the year. Two main stories dominated headlines in the first part of the year: the Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the rising of the Arab Spring. The protests in the Middle East would spread to Greece, Spain, and eventually inspire the Occupy movement in Western nations. Other stories included a historic wave of tornados in the U.S., a Royal wedding in London, and the creation of the world's newest nation in South Sudan. Images from the rest of the year will follow in posts later this week. -- Lane Turner (36 photos total)
A wave caused by a tsunami flows into the city of Miyako from the Heigawa estuary in Iwate Prefecture after a magnitude 8.9 earthquake struck Japan March 11, 2011. (Mainichi Shimbun /Reuters)

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Their homelands are torn by war, economic distress, political strife, or environmental collapse. They choose to leave, or have no choice. They're called migrants, refugees, or internally displaced people. The labels are inadequate as often circumstances could allow all three descriptions, or some combination of them. Once in their new countries, they face difficult transitions, discrimination, or outright hostility. Host countries are burdened with the economic and political repercussions of the arrivals, while home nations are sometimes saddled with a "brain drain" of their most important human resources. Immigration is a hot-button issue in the American presidential race, and a wave of new arrivals from Libya to Italy has left the European Union struggling with decisions over the Schengen policy of borderless travel between member nations. Gathered here are images of some of the estimated 214 million people worldwide in the process of redefining what "home" means to them. -- Lane Turner (47 photos total)
Rescuers help people in the sea after a boat carrying some 250 migrants crashed into rocks as they tried to enter the port of Pantelleria, an island off the southern coast of Italy, on April 13. Italy is struggling to cope with a mass influx of immigrants from north Africa, many of whom risk their lives by sailing across the often stormy Meditteranean in makeshift vessels. (Francesco Malavolta/AFP/Getty Images)

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LANDMINE VICTIM
LANDMINE VICTIM: Landmine victim Paak Bivi posed for a picture outside her house in a poor neighborhood of Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday. The girl and her grandmother each lost a foot after stepping on a landmine in 2010. (Dar Yasin/Associated Press)

IN ABIDJAN
IN ABIDJAN: A doctor treated a patient in a health clinic after security forces loyal to embattled President Laurent Gbagbo opened fire on civilians in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, Tuesday. The man being treated lived, but the man whose feet are shown was among at least four protesters who were killed. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

CRATE AND CARRY
CRATE AND CARRY: A trader salvaged a crate of soda as fire engulfed the Deep Sea slum in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, displacing thousands of residents. (Thomas Mukoya/Reuters)

BOMBING SCENE
BOMBING SCENE: A rescue worker searched for victims amid rubble left by a car bomb in Faisalabad, Pakistan, Tuesday. The blast near a military-intelligence agency killed at least 20 people and wounded more than 100. (Aamir Qureshi/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

FREE AT HEART
FREE AT HEART: Aiala Zaldibar, a suspected Basque activist fugitive from Spain, raised her handcuffed fists into the air as she left a courthouse in Pau, France, Tuesday. She is accused of belonging to the banned separatist movement Segi. (Bob Edme/Associated Press)

ALL TOGETHER NOW
ALL TOGETHER NOW: France’s Rugby Union national team trained with an electronic scrimmage simulator in Marcoussis, France, Tuesday. The team plays Italy on March 12. (Franck Fife/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

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