Top News Stories
Top News Stories
1. Casey Anthony Trial
2. Japan Earthquake and Tsunami
3. Royal Wedding
4. Death of Osama bin Laden
6. Arizona Shooting
7. Death of Amy Winehouse
8. Arab Spring
9. Libya/Death of Moammar Gadhafi
10. Occupy Wall Street
Top News Stories
The death of a bogeyman who haunted a generation. A record-magnitude earthquake and a tsunami that swept away towns. The trial of the summer. A sudden passing. Dead-at-27 club. The next generation's go at a fairy-tale wedding. A disturbed man's action and the toxic side of politics. The toppling of long-entrenched regimes.
Those were just some of the many, many breaking news stories that hit us in 2011 and commandeered our online attention. While the Top 10 Searches focus on related keywords, the Top 10 News Stories involve a wider range of searches and include an analysis on the most-read news stories on Yahoo!.
And talk about a 24-hour news cycle: 2011 started off with the Arab Spring and the domino effect of toppling governments. Citizens from Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya rose up. Of course, each country had its own set of unique, complex circumstances and craved its own particular kind of freedom. Yet the domino effect, amplified by social networking, made the Arab Spring appear to be a collective revolt. Some, like Egypt and Tunisia, quickly effected astonishing change, from riot to election. Others followed a more typical, protracted conflict -- some with no end in sight (Syria), others with the death of a leader (Moammar Gadhafi). The contagion of protest spread to the United States, with Wall Street, not the government, as the target.
Not that American politics wasn't a toxic subject in 2011. Whether or not it was fair, Arizona's political climate received partial blame for a shooting spree that killed six and injured 14, including intended target Representative Gabrielle Giffords. But Americans came together, especially when the death of Osama bin Laden -- four months shy of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, was announced.
People the world over also banded together to help the victims in the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. A record 9.0-magnitude quake resulted in unspeakable, unfathomable calamity. Even more frightening was the very real possibility of a nuclear disaster, when waves tore through the seawall and swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Given all this, it seems astonishing that the Casey Anthony trial would figure so highly in news searches -- but yet, it does make sense. Many of the year's breaking news events stayed in the headlines day after day. The so-called trial of the summer was controversial for even being covered. To some, the daily queue of courtroom spectators was little better than the crowds of people in days gone by who gathered to witness public beheadings and hangings. For those who passionately sought justice for toddler Caylee Anthony, the story was every mother's terror: the disappeared child, the callous mother, a legal bureaucracy that favored the criminal over the innocent.
Two major events originated from Great Britain. Amy Winehouse's troubles with addiction were well-documented, but her talent was undeniable. Her death at age 27 revived the memory of other premature passings, of talented artists like Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain.
The other seemed to be a throwback, yet in the midst of turmoil, people wanted to bear witness to a fairy-tale royal wedding. More than one prince married a commoner this year, but the wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton was a second chance of sorts for those who still remembered -- and even revered -- his parents' wedding. Things didn't work out for Prince Charles and Diana Spencer, and her 1997 death added a tragic dimension to that wedding of the century. Seeing William all grown up and marrying a nice girl made the more romantic spectators think that his mother would have been quite proud.
These were the Top 10 News Searches. Read on to revisit the biggest stories of the year -- starting with the Casey Anthony trial -- and find out what lies in store for 2012.
The Yahoo! Year in Review editorial lead for five years running, Vera H-C Chan dissects news events, pop-culture idiosyncrasies, and online behavior to probe the "why" behind what's Web-hot with media and online. On Yahoo!, her articles can be found in News, TV, Movies, and her Shine blog Fast-Talking Dame. Across the Net, there are remnants of contributions to a cultural travel guide, martial arts encyclopedia, movie criticism, business profiles, and A&E/features reporting.
In December 2008, the body of 2-year-old Caylee Anthony was found a quarter-mile from her Orlando home. She had been reported missing by her grandmother, with whom she lived, along with her grandfather and her mother, Casey.
Three years and countless headlines later, Casey Anthony's murder trial was the courtroom spectacle of 2011 (or, as CNN described it, "one hot ticket"). The media furor had been whipped up partly by Casey's astonishing number of lies, which had eroded her faltering credibility. Still, no one had a clue how sharply this trial would seize the public imagination in 2011. Obsessed "tot mom" watchers descended on Florida from across the country, waiting in long lines overnight to duke it out for one of the coveted 50 courtroom seats reserved for the public.
Police were called in more than once to deal with brawls and stampedes.
A media circus
A look at Yahoo! searches revealed that the highest percentage of people following the Casey Anthony case online were women in the 35-54 age range. No surprise there -- as the success of shows like "Law & Order" and "Bones" have proven, women do love a good mystery. And in the publishing world, women -- often middle-class -- are more drawn to true crime. But it wasn't just homemakers and mommy bloggers showing up for a glimpse of the live-trial drama. The proceedings spawned a media circus on par with the 1997 O.J. Simpson trial and the 1993 Menendez brothers' trial. More than 600 media passes were given out, and every major network had at least one reporter at the Anthony trial. The coverage was salacious and predictably sensational, much of it originated by Casey's own defense lawyer, Jose Baez. He referred to her as a "lying slut" and accused Casey's father, George, of sexually molesting her. On the stand, Casey's ex-fiance testified that she had also mentioned being sexually abused by her brother, Lee.
The more the trial coverage intensified, though, the more the public freaked out -- and the ratings skyrocketed.
A stunning verdict
For most Anthony-watchers, the verdict was a disappointing reminder that real life was nothing like our favorite prime-time police procedurals. We didn't get our righteous Hollywood ending, no matter how fervently Nancy Grace fought for it. (Her postverdict assessment that "the devil is dancing tonight" was typically, uh, candid.) Other media types were equally flummoxed -- "The Talk's" Julie Chen broke down crying when she announced the verdict on-air. ABC News legal analyst Dan Abrams tweeted that he was "stunned." And celebrities such as Sharon Osbourne, Niecy Nash, and the Kardashian sisters also took to Twitter to vent their shock.
In the end, Casey Anthony was convicted of nothing more than lying to police and being a terrible mom -- neither of which necessarily make her a murderer. In the court of public opinion, she was already sentenced to life, which will surely make the rest of her days insufferable.
People are, naturally, still curious about what the rest of those days will look like, searching on Yahoo! for "where is casey anthony." She's been forced to stay in Florida on probation for check fraud, and she seems to be in hiding. In July, Casey was offered a porn deal with Vivid Entertainment (no word on whether she accepted, but at this point, nothing would shock us). More recent Casey news was less glamorous: In September it was reported that she was "broke, sober, and unemployed."
Laura Barcella is a freelance writer and a Yahoo! copy editor. She has written pop culture, news, arts, and lifestyle pieces for more than 40 publications, including Salon.com, the Village Voice, AlterNet, ELLEGirl, Nylon, Time Out New York, CNN.com, BUST, and the Chicago Sun-Times. She's also the editor of the forthcoming anthology Madonna and Me, a collection of Madge-centric personal essays by women writers.
Japan is earthquake country. The archipelago nation sits on the junction of four plates: the Pacific and Philippine plates to the east and the North American and Eurasian plates to the west. Its worst temblor, the Great Kanto Earthquake, hit in 1923 and left 143,000 dead. Memories of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, which killed more than 5,200, are more recent. Japan's vulnerability has brought about extensive disaster plans and sophisticated earthquake-prediction technology.
It was therefore that much more terrifying that a nation as prepared as Japan lost swaths of land to roaring tsunamis and raging fires. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck the Tohoku region on March 11. It was more powerful than Hanshin or Kanto, and 900 times greater than the January 2010 tremor that devastated Haiti. It rattled the planet on its axis and shifted parts of Japan's main island 3 to 16 feet. Then came the waves, at times 30 feet high and sweeping 6 miles inland, tearing towns apart and pulling them into the ocean. Tsunami warnings went out to 50 countries and territories, including the United States.
Threat of nuclear meltdown
At last count, 15,703 people died and nearly 5,000 disappeared in the fires and tsunami, the highest number of casualties Japan has seen since World War II, pointed out Kyoto University earthquake scientist Manabu Hashimoto.
The Tohoku earthquake recovery was delayed not just by a chain of aftershocks, but also by the threat of nuclear meltdown. Countries from the Philippines to the United States, on high alert for tsunamis bearing down on their shores, now monitored the risk of radiation. People fretted over the safety of the food supply, a concern that would persist long after Fukushima, site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, was at last shut down — and spurred the shutdown or freeze of facilities in Germany and Switzerland. "Fukushima," declared der Spiegel, "marks the end of the nuclear era."
In the outpouring of support that followed the Tohoku earthquake was admiration for survivors' politesse, reportedly stemming from Japan's culture, its legal system, and, surprisingly, its Yakuza presence. The civility is immeasurable during the long road to recovery, as thousands of homeless await guidance from a squabbling government and its prime minister of the moment. Others with homes in the area surrounding Fukushima still await a decision to see if they must vacate them.
As Japan thanks the many who continue to give, the country has taken time to give to others: The country recently gave aid to an inundated Thailand.
The Yahoo! Year in Review editorial lead for five years running, Vera H-C Chan dissects news events, pop-culture idiosyncrasies, and online behavior to probe the "why" behind what's hot online.
On April 29, 2011, Prince William of England married Catherine Middleton -- and the world was invited to the wedding. The last royal ceremony of this magnitude was 30 years before, when Lady Diana married Prince Charles.
Now the couple was the heir to the British throne, the handsome son of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and a commoner named Kate. ABC called the stylish pair "the couple of the moment." Romantics everywhere rejoiced that the royal duo, who after a 10-year courtship, married for love. In the early hours of the morning, people tuned in to the ceremony: Yahoo! received one billion page views for the British event.
Millions tune in
On a beautiful sunny day, more than a million people flocked to the streets of London to watch the royal procession. Romantics put aside Britain's social and economic troubles for the occasion.
The bride wore a stunning white gown designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, a secret Kate managed to keep not just from her beloved, but also from the public. Replicas of the wedding gown were already in the works as Kate walked down the aisle, with designers feverishly working to get copy "Kates" into production for fall brides looking to be a princess for a day.
The two tied the knot in Westminster Abbey, with 1,900 in attendance. The guest list glittered with royalty and celebrity, from the queen herself to David and Victoria Beckham, to heads of state (although no Barack Obama), and to family and friends.
The couple appeared on the same balcony as William's parents for a postwedding kiss, and then, in a twist all their own, took off from Buckingham Palace in dad's Aston Martin.
The two did share the spotlight. The world had a close look at William's dashing younger brother, Harry, and Kate's younger sister, Pippa Middleton. She memorably attended to her sister's 9-foot-long train in her own form-fitting McQueen dress. Pippa's backside caused a social media sensation, and people launched Facebook sites to praise the assets of the still-single sister. Twitter nearly crashed as people speculated about what Harry whispered to Pippa as they followed the newlyweds back down the aisle.
Ordinary domestic bliss
The new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, titles bestowed by the queen to celebrate their nuptials, have settled into rather ordinary domestic bliss in Anglesey, North Wales, near a military base. William serves as a search and rescue pilot for the Royal Air Force -- and the extraordinary newlyweds will even live apart for a couple of months when William deploys to the Falkland Islands early next year. When in London, the pair enjoy digs in Kensington Palace.
The wedding is a pleasant memory, but now fans await the next big news: a royal pregnancy.
Yahoo! Sports general assignment writer/reporter Martin Rogers spent seven years as a soccer writer for the London Daily Mirror, covering the English Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup, and international soccer. Claudine Zap, an editor with Yahoo!, live-blogged the royal wedding for Yahoo!.
When the announcement came May 1 at 11:35 p.m. ET about the death of Osama bin Laden, much of the East Coast was likely in bed. The timing was curious on two levels -- not for how late the news came, because news like this couldn't wait.
Only a few days earlier, the nation had been preoccupied with a fringe issue gone mainstream -- the citizenship of President Barack Obama, thanks to the hectoring of real estate mogul Donald Trump. Obama released his long-form birth certificate on April 27, after the Hawaii State Department of Health granted an exception to release that version, so that attention could return to the budget. The next day, the president was able to deliver some lighthearted pokes to his nemesis Trump during the White House Correspondents dinner.
It was in this frivolous and contentious atmosphere that Obama dropped a bomb (interrupting "Celebrity Apprentice" in the West Coast), and he took little time in getting to it. At a live press conference from the White House, Obama greeted the world. "Good evening. Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world that the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaida and a terrorist who's responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children."
A decade of waiting
Twenty seconds. The president's address would take an additional 9 minutes and 8 seconds, remembering September 11, 2001, before he talked about the "possible lead" that surfaced August 2010. Three minutes and 30 seconds into the speech, Obama outlined the chase into a "compound deep inside Pakistan," later identified as Abbottabad, and described a small team that infiltrated the compound. "After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body," he said.
When that announcement came, 1,397 soldiers had already died in Afghanistan, 4,779 in Iraq. There would be more deaths to come, including members of Navy SEAL Team Six, who would be brought down in the worst military casualties of the war in Afghanistan.
But what made the timing especially curious -- incredible, even -- was America's bogeyman had been brought down four months shy of the September 11 attacks' 10th anniversary. America erupted, celebrating on Pennsylvania Avenue outside the White House, Ground Zero, Times Square. College campuses thronged with revelers who had been in their single digits in 2001.
The news crackled and surged online, but the details couldn't come fast enough as people searched for every detail, from "bin Laden informants" to "bin Laden wives." Of keen interest was "bin Laden mansion," No. 25 in the Abbottabad neighborhood, which the Economist described as near potato fields and residents who are "wealthy retired military folk" and layabouts funded by relatives.
Photographic proof existed and many wanted to see, although ultimately the White House refused because of the photos' gruesome nature -- and the less fodder for a jihad backlash, the better.
Jubilation and justice, qualified
Jubilation, in America and abroad, wasn't unqualified. Der Spiegel asked, "What is just about killing a feared terrorist in his home in the middle of Pakistan?" Certainly Pakistan, America's partner in the "war on terror," was infuriated by a stealth operation -- an invasion even -- in its own sovereignty, although its righteous indignation had that edge of humiliation that came from bin Laden's compound being within 1,000 feet of its main military academy. Its president, Asif Ali Zardari, published pointed words about Pakistan being "perhaps the world's greatest victim of terrorism," the "decade of cooperation and partnership," and how his wife, Benazir Bhutto -- "bin Laden's worst nightmare" -- had been assassinated by al-Qaida. (The article ran in the Washington Post in the Opinions pages; in the paper's typical understated fashion, the author's identity at the end of the piece is simply, "The writer is the president of Pakistan.")
In the many questions that surfaced, another had to be asked: Was bin Laden even relevant anymore? A global poll concluded he had been "largely discredited" in Muslim nations. Intelligence officials already foresaw a "finish line" with al-Qaida. Didn't another kind of jubilation, the one that was breaking nearly 5,000 miles away, in Tunisia, in Egypt, and two months later in Libya, underscore al-Qaida's weakness? Would a trial have yielded more about the network?
Or, as some pointed out when he was still alive, was his death an end to a figurehead who still had social resonance and "strategic ambiguity"? After all, a message he recorded a week before his death praised the Arab spring revolt and urged freedom from "the desires of the rulers, man-made law, and Western dominance." He had plans, unsurprisingly, of an anniversary attack. Whether bin Laden could have carried any out will never, fortunately, be known.
Among Americans, the death of Osama bin Laden was the fulfillment of a promise, at a time when so many promises seemed broken, under siege, or unfulfilled. Four months later, on September 11, Americans could gather to mourn the dead and honor the living, without his specter.
Vera H-C Chan has been the Yahoo! Year in Review editorial lead for five years running.
"The unemployed need not apply."
This is the line that greeted some job-hunters as they scanned the want ads this year. And with more than 4 million Americans out of work for a year or more, and an outlook that tells us higher unemployment rates should be the norm for a while, such instructions came as one more blow in a frustratingly sluggish labor market.
But some relief did just come for the long-term unemployed: The House and Senate have reached an agreement to extend the payroll tax, along with emergency unemployment benefits for those in the hardest-hit U.S. states, for at least two months (they were set to expire on Dec. 31). This means that, at least for now, certain job seekers won't see less money in their wallets in 2012 -- and we all know what lighter wallets can mean for the economy.
Signs of improvement
Recent economic data, including jobs reports, have shown some signs of improvement, easing fears of a double-dip recession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers for November showed an uptick of 120,000 on the payrolls, basically in line with expectations (although well below the ADP estimate of 206,000). Notably, the unemployment rate, stuck stubbornly at or above 9% for the past two years, dipped unexpectedly to 8.6%, the lowest since March 2009. That's a good headline number, but if you dig beneath the surface, there is less reason for enthusiasm. The fall in the unemployment rate coincided with a drop in the overall labor force of 315,000, which is the most since January of this year. As Yahoo! Finance's Daniel Gross notes, "In a truly healthy labor market, both the number of people working and the labor force would be growing."
The private sector has been steadily adding to payrolls in 2011. But government positions are routinely being slashed (20,000 were lost in November), and much of the jobs growth has been in the lower-paying service sector. The U6 number (what some call the "real" unemployment rate) also fell month to month, but it still stands above a dismal 15%. Recent weekly unemployment claims have fallen below the key 400,000 level as exports hit highs. But if the ongoing debt crisis in Europe pushes the region into recession, export demand will be slashed -- and political instability overseas and here in gridlock-happy America is giving corporations pause when it comes to hiring.
The housing market and jobs have a chicken-and-egg quality: Is the anemic labor market feeding the slumping housing market, or vice versa? If housing stays in the dumps, how will the economy grow enough to handle the thousands of new employees entering the labor market each year?
Jobs bill DOA
President Obama had no luck pushing his full $447 billion jobs bill through Congress; the bill was dubbed DOA by majority leader Eric Cantor as soon as it was unveiled. Proponents argue that Obama's bill should, at the least, be passed piece by piece. Critics say the plan offers little but old methods that have failed before.
There are also disagreements on how far the Fed should carry its mandate to boost employment. Some say that the Central Bank has already done too much asset purchasing, while others -- including Chicago Fed President Charles Evans -- say more-aggressive tactics are needed to get Americans back to work.
The upshot: We need to create many more jobs per month to see a hefty chipping away of the unemployment rate, and currently the economy -- while improving -- remains too weak to put a meaningful dent in that number.
Note: This post was updated to include the November jobs numbers.
Rebecca Krasney Stropoli oversees news coverage on Yahoo! Finance. Before joining Yahoo! in 2007, she worked in a variety of editorial settings, including educational publishing houses and trade magazine newsrooms.
Six people were killed and 14 injured when a gunman opened fire January 8 on a crowd gathered to meet U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords at a Safeway store near Tucson. Among the dead were 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green, born on September 11, 2001; federal judge John Roll; and Gabriel "Gabe" Zimmerman, Giffords's community outreach director. Giffords, the alleged assassination target, was shot in the head at point-blank range.
Quick-thinking citizens were lauded for preventing further deaths. When the shooter reached for a new clip for his semiautomatic handgun, a bystander hit him in the head with a metal folding chair, and another man pinned him to the ground. Patricia Maisch, then 61, wrestled away the ammunition clip.
Others in the crowd tended to the victims. Daniel Hernandez Jr., then a 20-year-old intern in Giffords's office and a certified nursing assistant, was checking the pulses of other shooting victims when he saw how badly the congresswoman was injured. Hernandez provided physical and psychological first aid and is credited with helping save Giffords's life.
Hernandez's welcome was second only to President Obama's a few days later at an emotional memorial service where Obama announced that Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time since the shooting. "None of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack," Obama said in his address. "None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind. ... [But] let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."
Jared Lee Loughner has been charged with the attack. Loughner,
described as a "nihilistic" loner and diagnosed with schizophrenia, was 22 at the time. He had attended a Giffords event several years before the shooting and was reportedly unsatisfied with her answer to his question: "What is government if words have no meaning?"
Although he dropped out of high school, Loughner attended Pima Community College until he was suspended after posting a bizarre, inappropriate video online. Emails released after the attack on Giffords revealed instructors' and classmates' concerns about Loughner: "He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon," one classmate wrote.
Loughner's chilling mug shot and his online ramblings about grammar, the gold standard, and lucid dreaming left little room for surprise when he was ruled unfit for trial. A federal judge authorized prison authorities to administer psychotropic drugs, touching off a legal battle over whether Loughner could be forcibly medicated to make him fit for trial. "Is it ethical and proper to help someone regain competence just to go after them for a death penalty offense or a murder offense?" legal expert Cynthia Hujar Orr asked in a New York Times report.
Judy Clarke, who represented "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski, was appointed to defend Loughner. The New York Times reported that Loughner "clashed" with Clarke when she told him Giffords had survived. At a hearing, he burst out, "She died right in front of me. You're treasonous." He also has said that security video of the shooting was doctored.
The attack, which predictably brought up questions about gun control and public safety, also prompted a tough look at the political atmosphere. Controversy reignited over former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's "crosshairs" election map, and Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik's reproach to "vitriol"-fueled discourse touched a nerve. But no connection has been made between the political climate and Loughner's alleged actions.
A nation's recovery
Amid the contentious rhetoric and complicated legal developments,
observers held close to the concrete milestones of Giffords's recovery. Crime scene photographs gave way to the first images of a smiling, short-haired survivor. Her struggle to walk became a triumphant return to the House floor. She continues to progress, although it is unclear how complete her neurological recovery can be.
Arizona Senate president Russell Pearce, who wrote a controversial illegal immigration law, was recalled in November, a development some seized as evidence of a shift in Arizona's political climate.
Inmate No. 15213-196, Jared Lee Loughner, remains behind bars. He now believes Giffords is alive.
Caroline Que is the D.C. editor for Yahoo! Local. Before joining Yahoo!, she worked at the Washington Post.
Amy Winehouse hadn't released a studio album in five years, and no new tracks seemed to be coming any time soon. Her one song on Quincy Jones's all-star album "Q: Soul Bossa Nostra," a slurry cover of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party," was a disappointment, and Mitch Winehouse, her jazz-singing taxi-driving father, released a new album before she did.
She'd been on indefinite hiatus since she swept the 2008 Grammys. During her absence -- and then some, because of her success -- rebel-divas such as Britain's similarly soulful Duffy, FlorenceWelch, M.I.A., Jessie J, and especially Adele, and the similarly sassy Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Katy Perry, came along and stole her thunder. Snooki from "The Jersey Shore" practically stole her hairstyle. Sadly, by 2011, Winehouse was mostly known -- and searched online -- for her tabloid marriage, tabloid divorce, bar brawls, drug arrests, court appearances, rehab stints, and failed comeback attempts.
Nothing testified to the staying power of her music than the heartbroken worldwide reaction to her sudden death from accidental alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011.
What could have been
Lesser singers would have been barely a blip on music fans' radar, relegated to a three-second spot in the Grammys' "In Memoriam" reel. Despite Winehouse's struggles and failures (one of her last public performances, in Serbia only a couple of weeks before her passing, was such a drunken disaster that the press dubbed it "the worst [concert] in the history of Belgrade"), many fans fiercely believed she had it in her to record a Grammy-worthy "Back to Black" follow-up and reclaim her old glory. The tragedy was what could have been. Instead, she joined the so-called "27 Club," that sad society of gone-too-soon, 27-year-old music legends such as Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin -- just as her own family had predicted and feared.
Her death instantly renewed appreciation for her exquisitely pained voice and timeless music. Touching eulogies and tributes by Adele, Ronnie Spector, Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, and even Russell Brand -- plus massive posthumous sales spikes for "Back to Black" -- proved what a rare and magnificent talent she truly was. No one, though, would ever listen to her music the same way again, not without the tiniest tinge of guilt. At one time, "Rehab," with its defiant "no, no, no" refrain, had seemed like a fist-pumping anthem -- a fun, tongue-in-rouged-cheek party song, hardly a desperate cry for an intervention. After her death, no one would hear it without wondering what might have been if Winehouse had just said "yes, yes, yes" and got some real help. Instead, she succumbed to "death by misadventure," according to toxicology test results, with a blood-alcohol level five times the legal limit. The lifestyle that inspired some of her finest music was what silenced her for good.
As is the case with all late, great artists, her music will live on forever. Along with her albums "Frank" and "Back to Black," which somehow just get better with every listen, there's her recently released "Body and Soul" duet with Tony Bennett, in which she sounds in surprisingly fine form, and posthumous compilation "Lioness: Hidden Treasures," which will hopefully enhance rather than cannibalize her legacy. And of course, Winehouse's influence will likely be heard in the music of nearly every young, aspiring, female vocalist who ever owned a well-worn copy of"Back to Black." These vocalists will be the ones to pick up this fallen torch-singer's torch.
When not serving as managing editor for Yahoo! Music or penning L.A. Woman, a column on Los Angeles nightlife for NME.com, veteran music journalist Lyndsey Parker spends much of her free time compulsively watching reality television. Her Yahoo! column, "Reality Rocks," is one of the most popular "American Idol" blogs on the Web. A die-hard music and pop-culture freak, former fanzine editor, "Rock & Roll Jeopardy" contestant, ex-child actress, and voracious pop-culture vulture, Lyndsey lives in Hollywood with her pet snake, piles of records, and a '70s-model television set that is always, always on.
The Arab revolt began in Tunisia when a young man, educated but jobless, set himself on fire to protest confiscation of fruit and vegetables he sold at a street stand without a permit. Fueled by resentment of a harsh regime and high unemployment, riots in the streets grew. On January 14, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled for the past 23 years, fled to Saudi Arabia.
Uprisings spread to Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Syria, and beyond. The "Arab Spring" flowered in the Middle East and North Africa -- and took hold on the Web, where lookups of the term quickly rose to one of the most searched of the year. Social media tools were in full effect: One Egyptian activist tweeted, "We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world."
A fall, and the rise of Egypt
The citizens of Egypt rose up against the authoritarian regime of President Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power since 1981. The protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square began January 25, and Mubarak was ousted 18 days later. Protesters were enraged by the lack of free elections and freedom of speech, police brutality, corruption, as well as the country’s dismal economy. The ousted Egyptian leader was put on trial for allegedly ordering the killing of protesters.
Libya's eccentric dictator Moammar Gadhafi was killed after rebels took over his hometown. Tunisia pulled off its first democratic election after the uprisings. But the story of Arab democracy is still being written. In November, the Arab League suspended Syria for killing its own protesting citizens, while Libya and Egypt are early in the rebuilding process.
The women of the Middle East
Women also played an important role: They marched with their children and husbands in Tunisia; in Yemen, columns of veiled women forced their autocratic leader from office. And in Syria, women blocked roads to demand the release of their husbands and sons from prison. The Nobel Peace Price was awarded to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen "for their nonviolent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace-building work."
While Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya are the "success stories" of the Arab Spring, other countries -- such as Bahrain and Syria -- are still unstable.
As we go to press, the landmark parliamentary elections, the first since Mubarak's ouster, are holding forth. The Arab Spring may live to see another season yet.
Alina Seagal from Yahoo! Canada, Faye Valencia from Yahoo! Philippines, and Claudine Zap from Yahoo! (U.S.) contributed to this report.
To those from the outside, revolution seemed to have a domino effect in the Middle East. But while long-suppressed dissatisfaction brought startling turnarounds in Tunisia and Egypt, the uprising in Libya amounted to a bloody civil war.
Unlike Hosni Mubarak or Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi was a military man, and a brutal one at that. The de facto leader of Libya since 1969, Gadhafi was known beyond his borders for his roles in terrorist acts, such as the Lockerbie bombing. Within Libya, citizens witnessed public hangings of students and prison massacres, endured food stampedes and torture. The man who came to power in an Arab revolt wasn't going to step down during one.
A hidden massacre
What set off Libya was a massacre that went back 15 years: Inmates, anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500, were killed over the course of three hours at Abu Salim, a political prison. Gadhafi's reign hid the bodies, refused to release victim names, and arrested those who protested. Human rights activist and lawyer Fathi Terbil represented the families, an action that led to his arrest seven times.
But this last arrest on February 15 came just within a week of Egypt prime minister Hosni Mubarak's resignation. Fellow lawyers, peers, and later the victims' families protested at the Benghazi courthouse. The crowd swelled to 2,000, and Terbil, like before, was released. But the dawn release wasn't enough, and Benghazi -- the country's second largest city -- fell.
Fighting broke out, and Gadhafi's forces gained back territories. NATO's involvement began March 17 with a no-fly zone, and then the entry of military aircraft and ships from France, Italy, Great Britain, and the United States. For Americans, the sudden entry surprised some: Questions like "where is libya on a map," "what's going on in libya," "who are the libyan rebels," and "why are we at war with libya" surged. Despite his repressive regime and acts of terrorism, Gadhafi in later years had lately been known for his eccentric costuming, the tents he briefly set up in New York during a United Nations visit, and his coterie of female bodyguards.
In a weekly address, President Obama called the conflict a potential bloodbath and later, in his March 28 speech, a "looming humanitarian crisis." The Libyan "brother leader" resorted to civilian vehicles to hide from air strikes, while rebels both ill-armed and ill-trained posed their own set of issues. Leadership cracks showed, though, as yet another long-time Gadhafi adjutant -- such as Mousa Kousa, the foreign minister accused of being a "terror mastermind" -- took a private jet out of Tripoli and escaped to Britain.
Holy month, civil war
By the time the holy month of Ramadan came in August, the Libyan people suffered from mass hunger, and an estimated 50,000 were dead after six months of civil war. Then the rebels captured Tripoli, the capital city. Gadhafi fled into hiding, but not a silent one, after his compound was raided and ransacked August 23.
His retreat there was what one of Gadhafi's men called a "suicide mission," and he apparently said, "I prefer to die by Libyan hands." He did, on October 20, in an act now under investigation by the National Transitional Council. His 1969 coup had been hailed as bloodless, but his ending was not so. Rebels tracked the colonel to a drain outside his hometown of Sirte. The 69-year-old was dragged out. Accounts differ, but gruesome videos of his last moments circulated online. His body was put on display, and Libyans came by to see proof that the "brother leader" was indeed gone.
His son, Moatassem Gadhafi, was also killed. His other son, Saif al-Islam, was captured a month later and faces trial. Libya ended its seven-month civil war and now faces the even tougher task of building its future without resorting to the same tactics that paralyzed the nation for decades.
Vera H-C Chan has been the editorial lead for Yahoo! Year in Review five years running.
The notion of a privileged 1% has been kicking around for a while. About 1% of the population owns 40% of global wealth. To put it another way, if the 48 poorest nations pooled their resources, they'd still own less than the three richest guys in the world.
Those numbers date back to 2000 -- before toxic mortgages, Wall Street implosion, country bankruptcies, and aggrieved Greeks throwing yogurt over austerity programs. In America, the latest census reported that the top 20% had nearly half of all U.S. income. The bottom 20%'s take was about 3.4% -- the biggest gap to date and almost double the gap from 1968, when President Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty. Outrageous bonuses and parachute packages paid to executives of bailed-out or fallen companies have enhanced the sense of imbalance.
Adbusters goes gangbusters
Those calculations riled up Adbusters, a Canadian-based nonprofit magazine. When Tunisia erupted, inspired staffers thought now was good a time as any for America to Occupy Wall Street. One editor explained the concept as combining "the tactic of the Egyptian uprising" and the Spanish intifada, with general assemblies in which people vote "using consensus-based decision making."
If there's anything (former) ad people know, it's how to make a poster, pick a slogan, and publicize it. Adbusters came up with a ballerina dancing atop the Wall Street bull, "We are the 99%," and all forms of social media to monitor and coordinate developments.
Facing the bull
Protesters took to the streets -- including Wall Street -- and went online almost immediately. "Occupy Wall Street" buzzed in searches September 16, the day before the first protest, with searchers ages 13 and up, from coast (New York) to coast (Oregon). Some supporters fretted about the lack of media coverage, and some journalists thought the movement's leaderless concept backfired.
Then again, that was what social networking, alternate media, and live-streaming were all about. Does a viral movement need mainstream buy-in? Through Occupy, would a digital generation show a new way of getting things done? In the 1960s, the antiwar protester chant was, "The whole world is watching." In 2011, protesters spread their own message and captured their own video. They were occupying two spaces: a physical one and the digital sphere.
Coverage came soon enough, as encampments -- some functioning as mini villages -- spread to more than 65 cities. Occupiers were sometimes characterized as socialists or drum-circle hippies, but the wide-ranging involvement of celebrities, moms, college students, military veterans, and retired police chiefs made the movement difficult to pigeonhole. (Even the Muppets got drafted.) This diversity would also later make for compromising video footage or tweets, such as the pepper spray incidents involving an 84-year-old woman and UC Davis students.
One California city's attempt to evict campers turned Occupy Oakland's ire upon the government. The police shot tear gas canisters and fractured an Iraqi vet's skull. He recovered and gained instant folk-hero status. A quickly organized general strike and mass day of action brought in thousands of peaceful marchers by day, as well as a handful of masked, so-called anarchists by night. Searchers posed the question, "Why Occupy Oakland?" Whatever the reason, the San Francisco Bay Area city served as the movement's first really raucous confrontation. Later crackdowns on college campuses and Zuccotti Park spurred media coverage, support, and a pepper spray controversy.
Would you like tea or occupation?
Occupy's quick rise sparked comparisons with the tea party. The movements shared surface similarities: a gathering of disenfranchised citizens inspired by a media campaign (Adbusters vs. Rick Santenelli of CNBC), coming together to express frustration against institutions -- both without a clear platform.
Of course, the differences run deep (and the tea party was adamant in making distinctions clear). One distinction was Occupy's online appeal: Comparisons between the first weeks of each movement reveal Occupy Wall Street garnered more searches than the tea party in all but the first week.
Time for a plan
Two months into the movement, questions on "what is Occupy Wall Street" and "Occupy Wall Street demands" surged. With winter approaching, it was the Adbusters editors who suggested a drawdown date: December 17, the three-month anniversary.
Some encampments have lingered, but others have packed up for the next stage, whatever that might be. No matter what its future may be, Occupy has accomplished one thing: It has shown how America's largest generation, with some Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers mixed in, are ready to change the conversation.
Vera H-C Chan has been the editorial lead for Yahoo! Year in Review for five years running.