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Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali

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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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WARNING: SOME IMAGES CONTAIN GRAPHIC CONTENT OR NUDITY
From the uprisings across the Arab world to the devastating earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan, there was no lack of news in 2011. Reuters photographers covered the breaking news events as well as captured more intimate, personal stories. In this showcase, the photographers offer a behind the scenes account of the images that helped define the year.

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ONE, TWO, THREE, POUR
ONE, TWO, THREE, POUR: Women poured hot water into cups for tea before the closing session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing Monday. (David Gray/Reuters)

WASHING UP
WASHING UP: A Somali refugee, fleeing the fighting in Libya, washed clothes at the Choucha transit camp, near the Tunisian border town of Ras Jedir Monday. (AFP/Getty Images)

SHATTERED
SHATTERED: An Iraqi soldier sat in the rubble of a suicide bomb attack in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday. The early morning attack on an Iraqi army intelligence battalion headquarters killed 10 Iraqi soldiers and wounded 30 people. (Ali Mohammed/European Pressphoto Agency)

‘HERE’S WHAT I THINK’
‘HERE’S WHAT I THINK’: ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, left, talked with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker at the start of an intergovernmental ministerial meeting on the European Stability Mechanism at the European Union council headquarters in Brussels Monday. (Thierry Roge/Reuters)

WARY
WARY: A sign reading ‘No evacuation possible’ on a building in Newbury, Mass., refers to the nuclear power plant in nearby Seabrook, N.H. Anxiety over Japan’s quake-crippled nuclear reactors has triggered calls from U.S. lawmakers and activists for review of U.S. nuclear energy policy. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

REFUGE IN A STORM
REFUGE IN A STORM: North African migrants arrived with an Italian export at the southern Italian island of Lampedusa Monday. Thousands of Tunisians have fled their country this year in the wake of the uprising that toppled longtime ruler Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. (Stefano Rellandini/Reuters)

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Beginning in December of last year, a series of ongoing protests in the streets of Tunisia escalated to the point where President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali - who had ruled the country for 23 years - at first declared he would not seek re-election, then fled the country on January 14th. An interim government was assembled, but protesters remain in the streets, demanding removal of all traces of Ben Ali's old RCD party. Protesters' frustrations with high unemployment, inflation and corruption drove them to the streets after a pivotal event, when a young Tunisian vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire after police confiscated his produce cart. Bouazizi died of his injuries days later. Collected here are images of the turmoil in Tunisia over the past couple of weeks. (40 photos total)
People demonstrate during a protest in central Tunis on January 17, 2011. After weeks of demonstrations, Tunisian protesters called for the abolition of ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's ruling party on January 17 amid a chaotic power vacuum as politicians prepared a government of national unity. Hundreds of people rallied in Tunis and there were similar protests in Sidi Bouzid and Regueb in central Tunisia -- two towns at the heart of the movement that forced Ben Ali to resign and flee on Friday after 23 years in power. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

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