It's been a long year for the staff at Raw Story. The 12 months of 2011 have brought us many highs, many lows, many what-the-hell moments and plenty of surprises.
In the spirit of looking back, as so many of us do each year before the dawning of the next, Raw Story humbly presents the 10 most popular stories from 2011, as selected by our readers' clicks.
They may not be the most important stories the world encountered this last year, but that doesn't make them any less fascinating.
It's a moment the world has waited to see for decades: a man once condemned to die by a relentless disease appeared to be completely cured after a bone marrow transplant that incorporated a radical stem cell therapy. Fortunately for the patient, 45-year-old Timothy Ray Brown, his marrow donor was one of the very few people who are naturally immune to HIV, the infection which causes AIDS. Doctors said they were planning to study the new technique in clinical trials beginning in 2011.
Say what you will about Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) as a candidate for president, but one thing is indisputable: his supporters have an online presence second to none. They made the candidate's recent kerfuffle with a CNN reporter our ninth most popular story of 2011 by taking to Paul's defense in a scandal that seems to have stuck, with less than a week to go before his first major test of electability in the Iowa caucuses. And yes, Paul fans, we did see that CNN's interview was slightly edited at the end. Here's the link you asked us for (over and over again). You're welcome.
Woah there, candidate Newt: it doesn't work like that. On a conference call with reporters earlier in December, the former House Speaker suggested that if he were elected president and the Supreme Court were to encroach on his power, he'd just "issue instructions to ignore it, and say it's null and void and I do not accept it because it infringes on my duties as commander-in-chief to protect the country." Though that's probably not the most shocking thing Newt has ever said, his remark so flabbergasted our readers that they made it the eighth more popular Raw Story of 2011.
What, you expected any less? This is Clint Eastwood we're talking about, here. Not some sissy who's afraid to speak his mind. Of course, coming from someone who once said, "The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice," it makes a lot of sense too. That's why, after GQ magazine managed to get this priceless quote out of the master director back in September, our readers clicked and shared the snot out of it. "They go on and on with all this bullshit about 'sanctity' -- don't give me that sanctity crap!" Eastwood said. "Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want." It's safe to say that, by and large, Raw Story readers agree, and that is why Dirty Harry's straight talk is our seventh most popular news story of the year.
There's a lot of politicians out there every day saying a lot of unbelievably stupid things, but this one is just beyond the pale. During a debate over a bill that would have mandated a dress code for Florida studients, Republican Florida state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo declared her support for the legislation by claiming that an 11-year-old girl who claimed she was gang raped by 18 young men suffered that horror because she dressed to provocatively. "And her parents let her attend school like that," she said, speaking to fellow lawmakers. "And I think it's incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn't happen to our students." Because our readers were so stunned by this story, clicking, commenting, sharing and linking it with such fervor that it became the sixth most popular of 2011, it still to this day appears atop Google searches for Rep. Passidomo, second only to her Facebook page.
Try repeating that headline five times fast. This was seriously the most bizarre crime story we've encountered in a long time, and the grizzled journalists on our staff have seen quite a lot of them. Here's how it went down: a 27-year-old Utah man was trying to kill a mouse by shooting it, but he missed, firing through a wall and hitting one of his roommates. While that was bad enough, the gunshot caused an unknown guest to cry out in fear, leading the shooter to a shocking surprise: a third roommate, 34-year-old Paul Daniel Kunzler, had been harboring a 13-year-old sex slave in his closet, and (allegedly) nobody in the house knew anything about it. When police responded to the scene they confirmed the girl had been having an affair with the man for about four months, so they arrested him on eight different felony charges. A fourth roommate inexplicably slept through the whole thing ... Making enough of our readers shake their heads to vault this odd tale to the fifth most-read Raw Story of 2011.
It was a really, really bad year for Randy Hopper, 45, the former Republican state Senator from Wisconsin. As a crowd of protesters was marching on his home back in March, they were stunned to find his wife was more than happy to chat with them, and she had a startling bit of information too: Sen. Hopper had moved in with his 25-year-old mistress, and the couple was now living outside of the district he was paid to represent. As if that weren't bad enough, a month later his campaign sent out a mailer with a mis-typed phone number that connected supporters to a phone sex hotline. Then in August he lost a recall election as voters decided that Democrat Jessica King was much more their style. Finally, in October he was arrested for drunk driving, with his then 26-year-old girlfriend in-tow to watch the whole thing. Looking back, it appears that leaving his wife was just the beginning of a painful downward spiral that sent Hopper's 2011 straight to hell, rocketing the start of his sad tale all the way up to the fourth most read Raw Story of 2011.
The technology humans build to make them feel more connected to the world around them gets more and more marvelous every year, and 2011 was no exception. Apple's iPhone 4S was a must-have device that certainly topped the pack this year, and one of its new features stood out above the rest: a digital secretary named Siri who responds to the users' voice. But if you need access to women's health services, forget about it: Apple's latest creation oddly has an anti-abortion bent. After Raw Story noticed that Siri was directing questions about abortion to so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" run by anti-abortion activists, we put together a list of all the other things she'll help users find -- things like Viagra, marijuana and escort services -- and that made Apple none too happy. Our readers, on the other hand, shared this one so much that it became the third most popular story we published all year.
The year past was a big one for medical breakthroughs, but this one nearly topped our list. Scientists at the Penn State College of Medicine announced in September that they discovered a virus that kills breast cancers "within seven days" of its first introduction in a laboratory setting. Researchers have been studying the cancer-killing properties of adeno-associated virus type 2 since 2005, after it was observed killing cervical cancer cells in a test tube. Scientists hope to use genes from the virus to develop specialized therapies that target individual cancers. While it's not quite a cure for breast cancer yet, research like this gives hope to millions who've watched a loved one suffer from this disease, which kills nearly 40,000 American women each year.
There's nothing like some old fashioned congressional skullguggery to get people riled up, and in December the House Republican leadership provided it in droves. Though not as nefarious as it might sound, during a fight over an extension for the payroll tax, a Republican officer from Speaker John Boehner's (R-OH) office brought the House into session, then immediately gaveled them out again: a parliamentary tactic intended to prevent Democrats from introducing a bill that would extend a tax cut to most working Americans. As Rep. Stenny Hoyer (D-MD) stood and began condemning Republicans for literally walking away from their jobs, C-SPAN's audio and video mysteriously cut, diverting from a moment of high drama to a peaceful, silent shot of Capitol Hill. C-SPAN later explained that they are not in control of their own cameras, clarifying that all their equipment is operated through the Speaker's office. Earlier in 2011, C-SPAN had asked Speaker Boehner to let them be more independent, operate their own cameras and produce a more "journalistic" product. He said no, and this story made it abundantly clear why. That enraged our readers enough to propel House Republicans' antics to the top of our most popular stories in 2011.
Photo: Flickr user Curtis Palmer.