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Japan Earthquake to Osama Bin Laden's Death and Penn State Scandal: Among the Top Five News Stories of 2011

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Top Five News Stories of 2011

As the year 2011 comes to a close, it was a year where we witnessed a horrific earthquake in Japan and major political upheaval in the Middle East.

Two trials captivated the nation (Casey Anthony and Amanda Knox), and Penn State University's football program was forever damaged by Jerry Sandusky's alleged child sex crimes.

It's hard to rate a top 5 or top 10 list so I did my best to list what I think are the top 5 news stories of 2011.

#5 Penn State University Child Sex Scandal: Jerry Sandusky Allegations and Joe Paterno's Firingjerry sandusky arrested

This is easily the most shocking scandal in college sports history and one of the most shocking news stories in Pennsylvania in quite some time.

It all started with the news of Jerry Sandusky's arrest and allegations of sexual abuse of young boys on Saturday morning November 5. As the days wore on the story took on a life of it's own. Joe Paterno announced he would retire at the end of the season and by Wednesday night the Penn State Board of Trustees announced that Joe Paterno was fired.

For the first time in 60 years, Paterno would not be a part of Penn State football. Moreover, Penn State's national reputation was scarred as a result of Sandusky's alleged crimes and the coverup by officials Tim Curley and Gary Schultz.

Then came the bizzarre interview Jerry Sandusky did with NBC's Bob Costas on "Rock Center." It's clear the man isn't playing with a full deck.

Now, Paterno's legacy as one of the greatest coaches in college football history has been tarnished. It may take years for Penn State University to recover from Sandusky's horrific (alleged) crimes, and his trial has not even begun.

#4 Arab Spring Protests: Overthrow of Egyptian and Libyan Governments

The power of protesting was put to the test in the Middle East this year. And, the people of Egypt and Libya rose up and overthrew their oppressors. Both Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi were overthrown - with Gaddafi being executed by his own people.

The power of social networking also proved that atrocities can no longer be hidden for any length of time. Within minutes, the atrocities committed by both governments were put out there on Facebook and Twitter when citizens were attacked.This resulted in worldwide solidarity for the people of Egypt and Libya through social networks.

Egypt still faces an uncertain future, while Libya is in a similar situation. But, the two situations prove that people can rise up and defeat oppresive regimes.

This certainly puts governments like Syria and Iran on notice.

#3 Casey Anthony Trial

The nation was captivated by the Casey Anthony trial  for months in what would be the most highly publicized trial in the U.S. since the O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1995.

From the evidence that was reported, it appeared that this would be a slamdunk case for the prosecution team. Then Anthony was declared not guilty by the jury due to reasonable doubt. Millions were outraged and  Anthony has been in hiding ever since her release.

#2 Osama Bin Laden's Death

Millions of people were watching TV on a Sunday night. Suddenly an urgent alert came through on broadcasts that President Obama would be addressing the nation.

Moments passed and NBC political correspondant Chuck Todd reported that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces. Then nearly an hour later President Obama came on TV to address the nation and announced that Bin Laden was dead.

U.S. Special Forces received tips on Obama's whereabouts in Pakistan and raided his compound. After a brief firefight they broke into his room and shot him dead.

#1 Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster

The number one news story of 2011 was the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which resulted in the destruction of a global superpower. The images of the tidal wave rolling through the country and swallowing up everything in it's path were horrific.

Japan Tsunami 2011

The tsunami resulted in the complete meltdown of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear plant - putting it on par with Chernobyl as the worst nuclear disaster in recorded history.

The official name of Japan's earthquake is the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and at a magnitude of 9.0 it ranks as the 5th most powerful earthquake in history. It is estimated that the earthquake and tsunami are responsible for $35 billion (US Dollars) in insured losses. The World Bank's estimated economic costs are $235 billion (US Dollars) making this the most expensive natural disaster in recorded history.

Photo of Japan Tsunami from news.nationalgeographic.com

Photo of Sandusky from businessinsider.com

Contact Dennis Bakay at dbakay@philly2philly.com

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