2012 was an eventful year, from big events like the London Summer Olympics and the U.S. presidential race, to regional conflicts in the Middle East and Africa, to smaller issues closer to home. Reverberations from last year's transformative Arab Spring still heavily affect Syria and Egypt; and the slow recovery from the recent global economic crisis brought bitter austerity measures to parts of Europe, leading to widespread protests. Collected here is Part 1 of a three-part photo summary of the last year, covering its first four months.
The Costa Concordia, seen on January 14, 2012, after the cruise ship ran aground and keeled over off the Isola del Giglio. 32 passengers and crew members were killed after the Italian ship with some 4,200 people on board ran aground. The Costa Concordia was on a trip around the Mediterranean when it apparently hit a reef near the island of Giglio on Friday, only a few hours into its voyage, as passengers were sitting down for dinner. Captain Francesco Schettino, who reportedly abandoned the ship shortly after it sank, lost his job and still potentially faces manslaughter charges.
(Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)
A man rides a horse through a bonfire on January 16, 2012 in the small village of San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain. In honor of San Anton, the patron saint of animals, horses are ridden through the bonfires on the night before the official day of honoring animals in Spain.
(Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Principal Artist at The Australian Ballet Amber Scott (right) and Bangarra Dance Theatre artist Patrick Thaiday, during a photo shoot on top of the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the ballet company's 50th anniversary on January 22, 2012 in Sydney, Australia.
(Jess Bialek/The Australian Ballet via Getty Images)
A leopard attacks and wounds Pintu Dey, an Indian laborer in a residential neighborhood of Silphukhuri area in Guwahati, India, on January 7, 2012. Three people were seriously injured in the leopard attack before the cat was tranquilized and taken to Assam state zoo. Pintu Dey, in his 40s, recovered completely, the leopard was reportedly tranquilized and released into a wildlife sanctuary.
Members of United Kennel Club Japan (UKC Japan) care for pets which were rescued from inside the exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, at the group's pet shelter in Samukawa town, Kanagawa prefecture, on January 25, 2012. Dogs and cats that were abandoned in the Fukushima exclusion zone after the 2011 nuclear crisis had to survive high radiation and a lack of food, and were struggling with the region's freezing winter weather. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and massive tsunami on March 11, 2011 triggered the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years and forced residents around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to flee, with many of them having to leave behind their pets.
The dead body of a gunman, inside a car behind a bullet-riddled windshield in Jungapeo in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, on January 19, 2012. In a shootout between gunmen and soldiers, two gunmen were killed while other three managed to escape, according to local media. Although the extreme levels of violence in Mexico's drug war appear to have slowed in 2012, grisly murders are still a common occurrence.
Overcrowded trains prepare to leave for the city after the final prayer ceremony of Bishwa Ijtema in Tongi, on the outskirts of Dhaka, Bangladesh, on January 15, 2012. Thousands of Muslims joined the Akheri Munajat, the final supplication as the first phase of the Muslims congregation concluded by seeking forgiveness and blessings for mankind on Sunday, according to local media.
Republican Arizona Governor Jan Brewer gestures during an intense conversation with President Barack Obama after he arrived at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, on January 25, 2012, in Mesa, Arizona. Asked moments later what the conversation was about, Brewer said: "He was a little disturbed about my book." Brewer recently published a book, "Scorpions for Breakfast," something of a memoir of her years growing up and defends her signing of Arizona's controversial law cracking down on illegal immigrants, which Obama opposes. Obama was objecting to Brewer's description of a meeting he and Brewer had at the White House, where she described Obama as lecturing her.
(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
A Dutch resident stands in his house as high floodwaters reach up to his window, in Dordrecht, Netherlands, on January 5, 2012. Gale force winds reaching up to 110 kph (about 70 mph) as well as heavy rains hit along the Dutch coast. About a quarter of the country sits below sea level.
(Robin Utrecht/AFP/Getty Images)
A man injured in a bomb blast puts on a shoe before being taken to the hospital in the Khyber region, near Peshawar, Pakistan, on January 10, 2012. A bomb targeting a tribal militia opposed to the Pakistani Taliban exploded in a market close to the Afghan border, killing dozens of people in the deadliest blast in the country in several months, officials said.
(AP Photo/Qazi Rauf)
A black rhino is transported by helicopter in South Africa. The seventh black rhino population established by the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project was released after an epic trip across the country. Nineteen of the critically endangered animals were moved from the Eastern Cape to a new location in Limpopo province.
(AP Photo/Green Renaissance-World Wildlife Fund)
A physically disabled woman in her wheelchair clashes with riot police in the center of La Paz, Bolivia, on February 23, 2012. Hundreds of physically disabled people arrived in La Paz after completing a protest march of some 1,600 km (994 mi) over a hundred days to demand that Bolivia's government offer support in the form of 3000 bolivianos ($434) payment to each physically disabled Bolivian, according to local media.
Julian, a two-month old pet monkey, bites the ear of Kan, a transvestite performer, backstage at the Tiffany's Show in Pattaya, 150 km (93 miles) east of Bangkok, Thailand, on February 10, 2012. The first Tiffany's Show was performed as a one-man show for friends on New Year's Eve in 1974. It has since become a world famous transvestite cabaret with dozens of artists performing every night.
Afghan Border Police with 4th Tolai, 2nd Kandak, Helmand ABP, and U.S. Marines with Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, board a CH-53D Sea Stallion helicopter near Combat Outpost Torbert before the start of Operation Shahem Tofan (Eagle Storm), in Afghanistan, on February 10, 2012. After arriving in the Registan Desert on helicopters and an armored convoy, ABP and the Weapons Marines scoured dusty highways for smugglers and insurgents moving across the eastern desert into Helmand province.
(USMC/Cpl. Reece Lodder)
A refugee boy from Myanmar stands in ruins of the Um-Piam refugee camp after a fire engulfed a big part of it near Mae Sot, on February 24, 2012. According to local officials, around 5,000 people lost their homes in Um-Piam, the second largest refugee camp along the Thai-Myanmar border which houses more than 17,600 refugees. The refugee camps along the Thai-Myanmar border house more than 140,000 people from Myanmar who fled the country due to economic hardship, abuses and discrimination, and fighting between the army and ethnic armed groups. Many have been living in the camps for decades.
Susan Clark of Santa Monica, California, who opposes health care reform, stands with a red hand painted over her mouth to represent what she said is socialism taking away her choices and rights, in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on March 28, 2012, on the final day of arguments regarding the health care law signed by President Barack Obama.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
A man walks inside of the crumbling oval skeleton of the House of the Bulgarian Communist Party on mount Buzludzha in central Bulgaria on March 14, 2012. Over two decades after the toppling of the regime they glorified, the megalomaniac monuments of the communist era are still standing, setting a quandary for Bulgarian authorities, who can neither maintain nor dismantle them.
(Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)
Huang Sufang reacts as she sees a part of her house being taken down by demolition workers at Yangji village in central Guangzhou city, Guangdong province, China, on March 21, 2012. Huang, who is a resident of Yangji village, clashed with demolition workers as they mistakenly took down a part of her home, which was not included in the demolition project, local media reported.
A molotov cocktail, thrown during a clash between student protesters and the government against plans to raise fuel prices in Jakarta, Indonesia, on March 27, 2012. Protesters rallied across Indonesia against a government proposal to increase fuel prices by a third as parliament prepared to vote on a divisive subsidy that cost Southeast Asia's largest economy some $18 billion last year.
Members of the Maasai Warriors cricket team take part in a practice session on the beach in Mombasa, on March 6, 2012. The group of young Maasai warriors from the Laikipia region formed a cricket team with big hopes: to promote healthy living, to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS and women's issues. On the right is team captain Nissan Jonathan Ole Meshami.
(Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)
Russian Prime Minister and presidential candidate Vladimir Putin, tears in his eyes, addresses a massive rally of supporters at Manezh square outside Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, on March 4, 2012. President Dmitry Medvedev stands behind him. Vladimir Putin claimed victory in Russia's presidential election, which the opposition and independent observers say was marred by widespread violations.
(AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
A Tibetan man screams as he runs engulfed in flames after self-immolating at a protest in New Delhi, India, ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the country, on March 26, 2012. The Tibetan activist lit himself on fire at the gathering and was rushed to hospital with unknown injuries, reports said.
(AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Having last traveled to low Earth orbit in March 2011, NASA's Space Shuttle Discovery took to the skies one last time yesterday, piggybacking on a modified Boeing 747. The shuttle left Florida and landed just outside of Washington, DC, where it joined the collection at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum. Here, Discovery flies over the Washington, DC skyline on April 17, 2012.
Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik gestures as he arrives for his terrorism and murder trial in a courtroom in Oslo, on April 16, 2012. Breivik, who massacred 77 people last summer, lifted his arm in what he has called a rightist salute as his trial began. Breivik, 33, admitted setting off a car bomb that killed eight people at government headquarters in Oslo last July, then massacring 69 in a shooting spree at an island summer camp for Labour Party youths. He was later found guilty, and sentenced to preventive detention, a special form of prison sentence, with a term of 21 years and a minimum of 10 years, with the possibility of extension for as long as he is deemed a danger to society.
A bear that wandered into the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado, dorm complex Williams Village falls from a tree after being tranquilized by Colorado wildlife officials, on April 26, 2012. Colorado University police spokesman Ryan Huff said the bear was likely 1-3 years old and weighed somewhere between 150-200 pounds.
(AP Photo/CU Independent, Andy Duann)