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Times  |  25.12.2011

Times editors select top 10 stories of 2011

The Times gives an account of the most important news-stories in 2011 - from Japan, over Osama Bin Laden, to the economy.
Here, in no particular order, is a list of the top 10 stories of the year as chosen by editors of the St. Petersburg Times.

Osama bin Laden killed

In a dramatic middle-of-the-night raid, U.S. commandos burst into an upstairs room in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2. Inside: Osama bin Laden, the master­mind behind the 9/11 terror attacks on America. With a burst of gunfire, one of the longest and costliest manhunts in modern history was over. The raid followed months of covert activity that led to a courier who was one of bin Laden's few contacts with the outside world. Bin Laden's body was shuttled to a U.S. Navy ship and buried at sea.

Tsunami/nuclear disaster

Japan — and its economy — are still struggling to overcome the magnitude 9 earthquake that struck off its coast on March 11. It was the most powerful quake to ever hit the island nation, and it unleashed a tsunami that devastated much of the country. The waves reached 30 feet high and swept inland for up to 6 miles. Along with hundreds of aftershocks came the fear of the worst nuclear emergency since Chernobyl. Damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station suffered partial meltdowns, and spent fuel rods caught fire, releasing radioactive material directly into the atmosphere. At last count, 15,703 people died and nearly 5,000 disappeared in the fires and tsunami.

St. Petersburg officers killed

St. Petersburg had gone three decades without losing a police officer in the line of duty. Then, on the morning of Jan. 24, as detectives searched for a man wanted for beating his wife, all hell broke loose. The fugitive, Hydra Lacy Jr., a known sex offender and felon, was hiding in the attic. He feigned surrender, then gunned down Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39, and wounded a deputy U.S. marshal as they tried to arrest him. As Sgt. Tom Baitinger, 48, tried to rescue his comrades, he was shot and fatally wounded. Lacy died in a barrage of gunfire, and the house was demolished. The city, shattered by those two murders, was still in mourning on Feb. 21 when Officer David Crawford, 46, was killed downtown while trying to question a suspected prowler. A teenager, Nicholas L. Lindsey, has been charged in the case and is awaiting trial.

Arab Spring

The revolution began with Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit seller, who set himself on fire to protest mistreatment by police and his lack of opportunity. Video of Bouazizi spread through social media. Street protests grew to the point that President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled Tunisia for 23 years, was forced to flee on Jan. 14. The uprisings spread across North Africa and the Middle East with protests in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Syria.

In Egypt, demonstrations in Tahrir Square forced President Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled since 1981, to resign on Feb. 12. The first free elections were held in November and were won by Islamic fundamentalists.

Libya's leader, Moammar Gadhafi, responded brutally to the protests in his country and unleashed his military on opposition forces. As his troops neared the rebel stronghold in Benghazi, the United Nations Security Council authorized military intervention. NATO forces began airstrikes on March 19. Fighting continued through the summer, with insurgents marching into Tripoli on Aug. 21. Gadhafi eluded capture until rebel fighters caught and killed him near his hometown of Sirt on Oct. 20.

Unrest continues, especially in Syria, which has been suspended from the Arab League for killing its own citizens.

The royal wedding

People are still talking about the hats and the maid of honor. On April 29, England's Prince William married Kate Middleton after a 10-year courtship. A million people turned out on the streets of London, and millions more watched as the ceremony was broadcast live to the world. Facebook sites have been launched in honor of Pippa Middleton, Kate's sister, who was the maid of honor. The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the titles a wedding present from the queen, live in North Wales, near a military base where William serves as a search and rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force.

Rep. Giffords, 18 others shot

As she greeted constituents outside a super­market in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head at point-blank range. Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl, Christina Taylor Green, and a federal judge.

Thirteen people including Giffords were wounded. Onlookers tackled 22-year-old college dropout Jared Lee Loughner as he struggled to reload his gun. He has been charged with five federal counts, including the attempted assassination of a member of Congress. Giffords, 41, a Democrat who has represented Arizona's 8th Congressional District since 2007, appeared unexpectedly in the House of Representatives on Aug. 1 to cast one of the last votes needed to pass the bill to raise the nation's debt limit.

NASA retires shuttle fleet

Three decades ago, the shuttles had been conceived as NASA's workhorses, built to haul people and supplies into orbit and return them safely to Earth again and again. The image took severe beatings with the accidents that destroyed Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. Seven astronauts died in each incident. Reviews after each accident found major faults with NASA, and the Bush administration announced in 2004 the program would come to an end. The final shuttle mission ended as Atlantis rolled to a stop at Cape Canaveral at 6 a.m. July 21. It was a big blow to Florida and the hundreds of workers who were let go.

Steve Jobs dies

We knew he was sick. Steve Jobs had taken a third medical leave from Apple in January. And there was the pancreatic cancer surgery in 2004 and a liver transplant in 2009. In March, he made a surprise appearance to show off the new version of the iPad, and in June he was back to present iCloud. Still, many people were stunned to learn of his death on Oct. 5 at the age of 56. Perhaps more than any other CEO in history, Jobs was linked to the products his company made, from the first Apple computer and later the first Macintosh up to the iPods, iPhones and iPads. The New York Times wrote that Jobs "led a cultural transformation in the way music, movies and mobile communications were experienced in the digital age.''

Occupy Wall Street

The name evolved at Adbusters, an anti­consumerist magazine in Canada. On July 13, editor Kalle Lasn and his staff created the #OCCUPYWALLSTREET hash tag on Twitter. The name was adopted by activists who say on their website that the movement "aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy.'' From the first protest Sept. 17 at Zuccotti Park in New York, the occupation has spread with protesters camping in parks in cities across the country, including Tampa. Cities began clearing the encampments in November, and images of police using tear gas and pepper spray on protesters provoked outrage.

The economy

For the fourth consecutive year, the economy has made our top 10 list. Two and a half years after the Great Recession ended, the few signs of recovery are still disappointing. The U.S. economy is growing again — 2 percent in the third quarter — but 25 million people remain unemployed or unable to find full-time work. The 8.6 percent unemployment rate in November was down slightly from 9 percent in October. Foreclosures and falling prices remain a huge burden on the housing market. Consumer confidence continues to hover near the bottom after reaching its lowest level in years after political bickering over the country's debt limit and federal budget deficit enraged voters.
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