Top 10 news stories of 2011


PETE SOUZA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Death of bin Laden, Japan tragedies, Arab and Occupy movements led reports

Every year the Associated Press polls editors nationwide for their view of the top news stories of the year.

Here are 2011’s top 10:

OSAMA BIN LADEN’S DEATH: In May, the nearly 10-year manhunt ended with a nighttime assault by a helicopter-borne Navy SEAL squad on the terrorist leader’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Bin Laden was shot dead by one of the raiders.

JAPAN’S TRIPLE DISASTER: A 9.0-magnitude earthquake off Japan’s northeast coast in March unleashed a tsunami that devastated scores of communities, leaving nearly 20,000 people dead or missing and wreaking an estimated $218 billion in damage. The tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986 after waves knocked out the cooling system at a nuclear power plant.

ARAB SPRING: It began with demonstrations in Tunisia that rapidly toppled the longtime strongman in January. Spreading rapidly, the Arab Spring protests sparked a revolution in Egypt that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February, fueled a civil war in Libya that climaxed with Moammar Gadhafi’s death in October, and fomented a bloody uprising in Syria against the Assad regime. Bahrain and Yemen also experienced major protests and unrest.

EU FISCAL CRISIS: The European Union was wracked by relentless fiscal turmoil. In Greece, austerity measures triggered strikes, protests and riots, while Italy’s economic woes toppled Premier Silvio Berlusconi in November.

U.S. ECONOMY: Hiring picked up a bit, consumers were spending more, and the unemployment rate finally dipped below 9%. But millions of Americans remained buffeted by foreclosures, joblessness and benefit cutbacks.

PENN STATE SCANDAL: In November, former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky was accused of molesting 10 boys; two senior Penn State officials were charged with perjury; the longtime president and coaching legend Joe Paterno were ousted.

GADHAFI TOPPLED: After nearly 42 years of mercurial and often brutal rule, Moammar Gadhafi was toppled by his own people in August. Anti-government protests escalated into an eight-month rebellion that culminated in Gadhafi being and killed in the village where he was born.

CONGRESSIONAL SHOWDOWNS: Partisan divisions in Congress led to several showdowns on fiscal issues. A fight over the debt ceiling prompted Standard & Poor’s to strip the U.S. of its AAA credit rating in August. In November, the so-called supercommittee failed to agree on a deficit-reduction package of at least $1.2 trillion — potentially triggering automatic spending cuts of that amount starting in 2013.

OCCUPY WALL STREET PROTESTS: It began Sept. 17 with a protest at a New York City park near Wall Street, and within weeks spread to scores of communities across the U.S. and abroad. The movement depicted itself as leaderless and shied away from specific demands, but succeeded in airing its complaint that the richest of Americans benefit at the expense of the rest.

GABRIELLE GIFFORDS SHOT: The popular third-term Democratic congresswoman from Arizona suffered a severe brain injury when she and 18 other people were shot by a gunman as she met with constituents outside a Tucson supermarket in January. Six people died, and Giffords’ painstaking recovery is still in progress.

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