American Woman Murdered in Italy Reporedly Feared She Had A Stalker

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Olson and Her Boyfriend Had a Fight Shortly Before Her Death

35 year-old American Ashely Ann Olson was found murdered in her apartment in Florence, Italy by her Italian boyfriend.  Weeks earlier, she had posted pictures of herself from afar on Instagram with hashtags like #stalker #creeperintheback #f***off and #creeper.  It is unknown how she got the pictures or whether it was a joke or not.

There has been fear in Italy that the case will turn into a legal nightmare similar to Amanda Knox’s case in the murder of Meredith Kercher.  Police said they cannot confirm that Olson was strangled until an autopsy is performed, but they did confirm that her boyfriend found her with bruises and scratches on her neck.

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Amanda Knox Found Guilty Again by Italian Court

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Knox is Hoping the US will not Force her to Return to Italy to Face her Sentence

The seemingly endless Amanda Knox case took yet another twist as judges in Florence overruled her previous acquittal and she was sentenced to 28 years and 6 months.  However, Knox vowed to never return to Italy as she said, “they’ll have to catch me and pull me back kicking and screaming.”

Knox still maintains innocence in the 2007 murder of her roommate at the time Meredith Kercher.  Her ex-boyfriend Rafael Sollecito was sentenced to 25 years but will be allowed to remain free, as long as he surrenders his passport.  Knox, who is now an “international fugitive” said she was “frightened and saddened by this unjust verdict.”

The Top Fifteen News Stories Of 2011

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Every year is eventful in its own way.  You are bound to get some interesting stories out of 12 months.  But this year felt extraordinarily newsworthy.  From politics to disasters to protests to deaths, this year had something of everything.  There was so many stories that some events couldn’t make the list, despite gaining  a lot of media coverage.

Honorable Mentions:

Australian Flooding

Amanda Knox’s Freedom

Iran Capturing US Drone

Gabrielle Gifford’s Recovery

“Weinergate”

The Royal Wedding

Now, onto the massive stories that shaped 2011:

15. US Space Program Ending

Atlantis On Its Final Mission

On July 21st, NASA’s space shuttle fleet retired with the landing of the Atlantis.  It marked the end of a 30-year program, which had seen the US become the leading country in space exploration.  President Barack Obama had decided to end the program in order to cut spending.  It was originally suppose to retire in 2010, but the final two planned missions were delayed until 2011, which pushed the date backwards.  The Discovery, America’s most traveled space shuttle ended its 27-year career, during which it became the first to take a robot humanoid into space, on March 9th.

The four main orbiters, the Enterprise, Discovery, Atlantis, and, Endeavour, will all be sent to museums around the US.  NASA also donated many smaller components, such as thermal protection system tiles, to schools, universities, and even museums in Switzerland and Germany.  Sadly, the future of US space travel is bleak, as American astronauts now have to take rides with other countries, usually Russia or Kazakhstan.  It is an embarrassing step backwards for the country that became the first to send a man to the moon.

 

14. Speed of Light Tests

Inside Cern, The Location Of The Tests

Nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.  Since Einstein first published it in his theory of relativity in 1905, it has been an accepted fact and affected how we view the universe.  But two tests in Cern, Switzerland, if proven true, would literally change science forever.  In fact, if the experiments could be proven without a doubt, it would be my number one story of the year.  The only thing preventing this story from being higher is that it is still falsifiable.

Researchers in Cern shocked the world in September by announcing they had recorded tiny neutrinos traveling to Gran Sasso, Italy, going faster than the speed of light.  They were only traveling one 60 billionth of a second faster, but that was enough to break the supposed barrier.  But when the experiment was repeated in November, the world really took notice.  Other countries are going to repeat the experiment next year and if they get the same results, time travel may just be a possibility.

 

13. Casey Anthony Trial

The Photo That Outraged Millions

If Americans had gained any respect for their legal system after the OJ Simpson trial, Casey Anthony’s not guilty verdict destroyed it.  When 2 year-old Caylee Anthony was first reported missing on Junyl 15th by her grandmother, Cindy, who said she had not seen the girl in 31 days and that Casey’s car smelled like a dead body, it became obvious what had happened.  Casey Anthony only dug herself further into a hole with her lies to the police about a made-up babysitter named Zenaida Fernandez-Gonzales and her partying right after her daughter’s death.  Almost overnight, Casey Anthony became one of the most hated people in America.

The trial, which lasted weeks, was one of the most followed and watched in history.  When Casey Anthony was found not guilty on charges of first-degree murder, aggravated manslaughter, and aggravated child abuse, and only guilty of a misdemeanor of lying to police, America was outraged.  The photos of Casey laughing in relief only made things worse.  A devastated Nancy Grace, who had followed the entire case, summed it up best when she said, “somewhere, out there, the devil is dancing tonight.”  Casey was released two days later due to time already served, and is now a free, but hated, women.

 

12. Herman Cain’s Rise and Fall

What An Unusual Year Herman Cain Had

   The Republican primary season dominated the news this year, and earned itself a position on my list.  However, the story of Herman Cain was so unusual and interesting, that I felt it deserved a separate entry.  When the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO announced his campaign on May 21st, there was little attention as no body really thought he had a chance.  But, he unexpectedly rose to the top of the polls in early October, much due to his 9-9-9 tax plan that brought him both media attention and many new fans.

It all started unraveling in late October and early November, when four women came forward, one by one, to accuse Cain of sexual misconduct.  At first, his followers remained faithful, but eventually the accusations began to take their toll, and Cain fell to second in the polls.  Then, Ginger White came forth, claiming she had had a 13-year affair with the presidential candidate.  Despite White having a questionable background, and Cain fervently denying the claims, he began to sink in the polls.  He pulled out of the race on December 3rd; which suggests there was more to the story than he claimed.  According to Pew Research Center, Cain was the most covered Republican candidate of the year.

11. Historic US Tornado Season

A Tornado In Chickasha, Oklahoma

   From April 25th to 28th, the largest continuous tornado outbreak ever occurred, as 353 tornadoes were recorded during those four days.  With 322 fatalities, it was also the fourth deadliest outbreak ever.  From May 21st to 26th, another large outbreak occurred, which killed a further 180 people.  The tornado season was the second deadliest in US history, only behind 1925, during which the Tri-State tornado occurred.  Further more; the two aforementioned outbreaks were the two deadliest in US history, as Oklahoma, Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Minnesota, and Georgia were consistently battered with tornadoes.

The deadliest tornado out of the whole season was the F5 that hit Joplin, Missouri on the afternoon of May 22nd.  The monster storm destroyed most of the town, and killed 160 people.  It was the costliest tornado in history, with estimates ranging around $3 billion, and among the deadliest in world history.  The only good thing to come out of the disaster was seeing America unite around the devastated town, and help the citizens to recover.  As someone who lives in Oklahoma, I can tell you that there is nothing like the feeling of knowing a tornado is barreling across the state towards you.

10. Kim Jong-il’s Death

The Leader Of One Of The Most Oppressed Countries On Earth

   One of the cruelest men in the world, Kim Jong-il, leader of a brainwashed North Korea, died on December 17th, while riding a train outside of Pyongyang.  His death was kept hidden from the world for 48 hours, a move typical of the most secretive country on the planet.  He reportedly died of a heart attack, and was in poor health for years before his death, as he had already suffered two strokes.  North Korea is currently among the world’s most oppressive governments, according to a Human Rights Watch report, which said, “Virtually every aspect of political, social, and economic life is controlled by the government.”

Now, Kim Jong-un, the third son of the former leader, has become North Korea’s next “supreme leader.”  Little is known of the man, as even his exact age cannot be verified.  Perhaps somewhat symbolically, a short-range missile was test fired on the day Kim Jong-il’s death was announced.  The west has to be wary while dealing with the young leader of the world’s fourth-largest standing army.

9. Iraq War Ending

The Terrible Toll Of The War

   On October 21st, US President Barack Obama announced that all US troops would be out of Iraq by the end of the year.  This was fulfilled when, at 4:27 on December 18th, the last US combat troops left the country.  This marked the end of a 7 and-a-half year war that was started when then-President George W. Bush and then-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair invaded Iraq on March 20th, 2003.  President Obama had been withdrawing troops since early 2010, but the end of this year saw all US troops officially depart.

Almost 4,500 US soldiers were killed and 32,000 further troops were injured, many of which were left paralyzed or as amputees.   Sadly, the war may have been for nothing, as Iraq will likely explode once more in 2012.  The Sunni-Shiite power struggle is far from over, and there are now signs that Iran is trying to exert influence over their neighbors, which will stir anti-American sediment.

8. Norwegian Shooting Massacre

A Monster Of A Individual

   On July 20th, Anders Behring Breivik committed the deadliest shooting rampage in history on Utøya Island, off of Norway. A labor party youth camp was taking place, and Breivik played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with his victims while the police took over an hour to arrive.  He shouted “you will all die!” as he walked along the island, shooting innocent youths.  He then dressed up as a police officer and convinced scared youths to come out of hiding on the other side of the island, before shooting them too.  Hours before the shooting, which killed 69, Breivik had planted a bomb outside of the prime minister’s building in the capital of Oslo, which killed a further 8 people.

The attacks were originally feared to be an act of terrorism, but it was later discovered that Breivik was criminally insane, and had schizophrenia.  He was inspired by Hitler and other right-wing militants, and was clearly a very unstable man.  He was also a failure throughout his life, as all his business adventures failed and he could never become the entrepreneur he wanted to be.

7. Steve Jobs’ Death

A Tribute To Steve Jobs

   The world lost one of history’s most influential people on October 5th, when Steve Jobs, the former CEO of the biggest company in the world, Apple, succumbed to the pancreatic cancer he had been battling for years.  Jobs must’ve known the end of his life was near, because he resigned as CEO on August 24th, due to no longer being able to “meet [the] duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO” and died only a little over two weeks later.  His death was one of the most mourned in years, as social networking sites saw records broken as fans posted their condolences.

Apple released a touching statement after learning of the death that read, “Steve’s brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives. The world is immeasurably better because of Steve.”  Jobs revolutionized the computer industry with the Macintosh computers, the music industry with the iPod, the phone industry with the iPhone, and finally, began the tablet computer craze with the iPad.  All of Apple’s products bore his mark, and he took risks releasing them, but the risks always paid off tremendously.  Apple may go on without Jobs, but his mark on the world will last forever.

 

6. European Financial Collapse

The Euro Has Been Crippled In 2011

   It seems over for the Euro.  2012 is likely to be the year the currency completely collapses.  The much-talked about Greek collapse only got worse this year, and Italy also crashed.  New governments in both countries doesn’t seem to be helping, and nearly the entire eurozone has been put on a credit rating watch.   This even includes the two countries thought to be the best off – Germany and France.  Those two, especially Germany, are likely going to have to bail the rest of Europe out, which will be impossible.  This will merely drag Germany into the mire.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were two of the most important people of this year, and their importance will only grow next year, as Europe, which has been at the brink for years, completely implodes.  Protests have been spreading like wildfire, and will only grow as the situation in Europe gets worse and worse.  All this sets up the entire region like a bomb with a fuse already lit.

 

5. Republican Primary

The Initial Candidates

   The most talked about news story, over the course of the year, by far was the Republican primary.  It is incredibly hard to summarize one of the most turbulent and interesting election cycles in history into 200 words, but I will try.  The field quickly narrowed down to eight serious candidates battling to win the party’s nomination and face President Barack Obama in the general elections.  Michelle Bachmann started out leading, ahead of Mitt Romney.   But, when former Texas Governor Rick Perry announced he was running, he immediately jumped to the front.

After a series of poor debates, he fell, and was replaced by Herman Cain, whom I have already spoken about.  Cain’s departure paved the way for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to become frontrunner.  Now, it seems to have come down to a two-person race between Gingrich and Romney, although it is too soon to count any of the others out.  From January 3rd to June 26th, each state will hold their primaries.  The winner will then face President Obama on November 6th to decide the next president of the United States.

4. Osama bin Laden’s Death

The White House Learning The Raid Was Successful, One Of The Iconic Photos Of The Year

   Late on May 2nd, Americans learned that Osama bin Laden, the man behind the country’s darkest day, 9/11, had been killed.  In major cities across the country, people took the streets, chanting, “USA!”  It was a time for the country to celebrate the death of a man who could’ve been described as the most hated man in America.  He was shot and killed in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by a Navy SEAL team known as SEAL team six.  His body was then put into the North Arabian Sea for burial.

Because of the way his body had been disposed of, conspiracy theorists immediately began claiming bin Laden had in fact never been killed.  President Obama refused to release a photo, arguing it would be insensitive to Muslims.  Despite al-Qaeda even acknowledging his death and naming a new leader, the conspiracy still lives on.  On August 6th, 38 SEAL members were killed when their Chinook helicopter was shot down.  Although no members of the bin Laden raid team was killed, it was the largest loss ever suffered by the SEALs.

   

3. Occupy Wall Street

“The 99%” Became The Unofficial Slogan Of The Occupy Movement

   The title of Occupy Wall Street’s official website (www.occupywallst.com) is Occupy Wall Street – NYC Protest for World Revolution.  I don’t know about you, but it seems to be every time a “revolution” has occurred, it’s been a bad thing.  The word has a dirty connotation with the left.  When protesters decided to occupy Zuccotti Park, in Wall Street, on September 17th, little did we know how it would grow.  Soon, every city in the country was “occupied.”  They even started “occupying” Christmas to get workers to take the whole of December off.  Think about what that’ll do for our economy.

The most telling statistic to me is that, after only 40 days of protests, Occupy has cost the cities they were in $2,400,000, while the Tea Party, which had been protesting for 989 days at that point had cost $0.  Occupiers frequently left the cities they were protesting in absolutely trashed.  It may sound nice, rising up against the greedy bankers.  But hidden in the group are left-wing extremists who are promoting class warfare.  That’s not saying all Occupiers have a hidden agenda, many truly do want change that is needed.  But I have to agree with Newt Gingrich on the movement – “Go get a job right after you take a bath.”

 

2. Japanese Disaster

The Photos That Surfaced Are Absolutely Incredible

   A massive 9.0 earthquake hit off the coast of Japan on March 11th.  It was one of the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded.  This triggered a tsunami which hit the Sendai area of Japan with waves up to 133 feet in height (40.5 meters).  It absolutely devastated the country, with the Prime Minister Naoto Kan rightfully saying his country faced the “most severe crisis since World War II.”  Almost 20,000 were either confirmed dead or are still missing.  However, the country impressed the world as it got right to work rebuilding.  There was practically no crime or looting after the disaster, and the Japanese united in an honorable and outstanding way.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant had to be shut down following the tsunami, and was initially feared to be the worst nuclear accident in history, as it received a Level 7 rating, which corresponds to “major release of radioactive material.”  However, it was soon realized that the situation had been hyped and was out of control.  Sadly, the media’s continuing reporting on the power plant took time away from the real disaster that should’ve been reported – the tsunami.

 

1. Arab Spring

The Various Groups And Countries Invovled In The Arab Spring

It all began with a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, setting himself on fire in protest to harassment he had received from the Tunisian police on December 17th, 2010.  Little did we know it would lead to a complete change of the Middle East that is still ongoing today.  The Tunisian leader Zine Al Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after 23 years in power due to concerns about his safety.  Egypt was next, as weeks of intense protests forced Hosni Mubarak to step down as President of Egypt.  Syria, Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen have yet to force their leaders out, but violent protests in the countries continue.

But by far the country hit with the most violence was Libya, where protests turned into a full-blown civil war.  Colonel Muammar Qaddafi vowed to stay in power until his death.  This led to months of conflict between the rebels and Qaddafi’s government forces.  NATO, led by France, the US, and the UK even joined the war, aiding the rebels.  On October 20th, Qaddafi’s promise turned out to be true, as he was killed and paraded around in a bloody video taken by the rebels.  After his death, the war, which had claimed 30,000 lives, mostly civilians, ended.  If 2010 was the year of natural disasters, then 2011 as without a doubt, the year of protests.

Now, just for interests sake, here are The Top 5 Most Viewed Stories on my Blog:

5. Experts Pinpoint Possible Location Of Atlantis

4. World To End At 6 PM Tomorrow

3. Medal Of Honor Marine Sues Former Employer After Unfair Firing

2. “Spiderman” Climber Scales World’s Tallest Building

1. Australian Flooding “Of Biblical Proportions”

2012 is being predicted to be a rough year, and not just by the Mayans!  Let’s hope there’s some uplifting stories to counter the expected rough times. Have a wonderful New Year!