"Highlights" Continued...

Issue: "News of the year," Dec. 31, 2005

His threats, coupled with his insistence that Iran be free to develop its nuclear facilities, provoked protest not only from the West but from Arabs in the region. "We don't want to see an Iranian nuclear plant which is closer in distance to our Gulf shores than to Tehran causing us danger and damage,' said Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Rahman al-Attiya in December.

Finish strong

Lance Armstrong didn't just win a seventh Tour de France, he did it in record speed-averaging 25.88 mph. But can an elite athlete at the prime of his career really just lay down his bike and quit forever? Rumors had the American cycling legend and cancer survivor coming back, if only to prove the French wrong about persistent but unproven doping charges. Mr. Armstrong insists he's done racing in the Tour but told fans near his Austin, Texas, home, "I've been an athlete my entire life. I'm not going to sit around and be a fat slob now. I have to do something."


Honolulu golf phenom Michelle Wie made a less than auspicious pro debut. Though she finished eight-under at the Samsung World Championships in October, she didn't pocket any cash. She could have landed around $50,000 if she had properly penalized herself after making an illegal drop. But she can always blame that on her age. By rights, the 17-year-old shouldn't yet be worrying about professional golf-she's still in high school.

Year's best rescue

Rizal Shahputra, 20, was clinging to a dead tree when crew aboard a Malaysian container ship spotted him Jan. 3. He had been sweeping out a mosque under construction in Aceh, Indonesia, when the tsunami swept him out to sea. Nine days later and 100 miles offshore the ship's crew, en route from South Africa to Malaysia, spotted the man who for no reason wore a yellow shirt to work Dec. 26. He said he survived on floating coconuts.


Book: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

CD: Coldplay's X&Y

DVD: Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith

Bestselling "religion and spirituality title": Jim Wallis' God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It

Bestselling hardcover nonfiction book in publishing history: Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life (first published in 2002, surpassed 23 million copies in 2005)

Iron lady

Liberians elected Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf in November as their new president, the continent's first female head of state. But it is her experience, not her novelty, that could resuscitate the country: She is a former World Bank economist and was finance minister before a coup toppled then-president William Tolbert in 1980. Since then, the "Iron Lady" has survived as a political opponent and outsider, even when her life has been at risk. She now has to rebuild a country recovering from a 14-year civil war.

Need to eat

The death of southern rebel leader and vice-president John Garang in July jeopardized Sudan's young peace between north and south. Meanwhile, an almost three-year, slow-motion genocide in Darfur continues. Attacks on aid workers prompted the UN and other groups to scale back their work. So far an estimated 400,000 Darfuris have died, with about 3.5 million affected and in need of food aid.

Food not needed

Kim Jong Il's regime decided North Korea no longer needs World Food Program aid because 2005-06 grain production is the largest in 10 years. But UN officials with the food program are scrambling to stay inside, where they feed about 6.5 million people a year, or almost one-third of the country. With Mr. Kim's change of policy, food aid will now come primarily from South Korea and China, who do little to verify that grain reaches those who need it most.

With nuclear talks deadlocked, something more like progress came on human rights. For the first time, the UN passed a resolution condemning North Korea's abuses. The country's deputy deputy to the UN, Hon Song Ryol Han, showed his battle fatigue at an October conference in Washington. At a Capitol Hill lunch activist Kim Seung-min held up a sign saying, "The Road to Peace on the Korean Peninsula Is the Expulsion of Kim Jong Il," and then repeated similar words. "You bastard," Mr. Han shot back. "Do you want to die?"

Freedom fever

Several countries scuttled democracy this year with sham polls. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak added another term to his already 24 years in power after he jailed his main rival, Ayman Nour. The move ensured that only the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood could win big, increasing its representation six-fold.


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