Glittering fireworks exploded as revelers in Australia and Asia welcomed 2012. That included more than 1.5 million crowded onto boats in Sydney Harbor. In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel set the tone for a continent hammered by an unprecedented economic crisis: She warned in her New Year's message that despite her country's comparatively stable economic situation, next year will be more difficult than 2011.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's New Year's greetings came mixed with sarcasm toward those protesting his 12 years in power. He wished prosperity "to all our citizens regardless of their political persuasion, including those who sympathize with leftist forces and those situated on the right, below, above, however you like." In Russian, the sexual innuendo was clear. (Read more New Year's Eve stories.)