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Tragedy and triumphs / A capsule look at the year's top stories

January

*Jan. 8: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is among 12 injured during a Tucson, Ariz., shooting that kills six; prosecution suspended to allow suspect to undergo treatment for schizophrenia.

*Jan. 25: During his State of the Union address, President Obama outlines proposals for "winning the future."

*Jan. 25: In Egypt, thousands of anti-government protesters clash with police during a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

*Jan. 27: Tens of thousands of Yemenis demand that their president step down. Taking inspiration from Tunisians' revolt, they vow to continue until their U.S.-backed government falls.

***

February

*Feb. 6: The Green Bay Packers win Super Bowl, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-25.

*Feb. 11: Egypt explodes with joy after pro-democracy protesters bring down Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV.

*Feb. 15: Protesters swarm Wisconsin's capitol after Gov. Scott Walker proposes cutbacks in benefits and bargaining rights for public employees.

*Feb. 20: In Libya, Moammar Gadhafi's military unleashes heavy gunfire as thousands march in a rebellious eastern city, shooting mourners trying to bury victims in a cycle of violence that has killed more than 200.

*Feb. 27: "The King's Speech" wins four Academy Awards, including best picture.

***

March

*March 9: Shuttle Discovery ends its career as the most flown U.S. spaceship, returning from orbit for the last time.

*March 11: Magnitude-9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami strike Japan's northeastern coast, a combined disaster that will kill nearly 20,000 people and cause grave damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

***

April

*April 1: In politically gridlocked Washington, an eleventh-hour agreement on the federal budget, including tens of billions of dollars in spending cuts, averts a government shutdown.

*April 23: Yemen's president agrees to step down and hand power to his deputy in exchange for immunity from prosecution.

*April 27: Powerful tornadoes rake the South and Midwest, killing more than 300; Tuscaloosa and other Alabama cities are especially hard hit.

*April 29: Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton marry at London's Westminster Abbey.

***

May

*May 2: Osama bin Laden, the face of global terrorism and architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is killed in a firefight with elite American forces at his Pakistan compound, then is quickly buried at sea in a stunning finale to a furtive decade on the run.

*May 14: At New York's JFK Airport, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund and potential candidate for president of France, is pulled from a plane and charged with sexually assaulting a Manhattan hotel maid. He resigns. Charges are later dropped.

*May 22: Joplin, Mo., tornado causes more than 160 deaths; the monstrous storm, with winds up to 250 mph, damages or destroys about 8,000 homes and businesses.

***

June

*June 2: Scientists blame Europe's worst recorded food-poisoning outbreak on "super toxic" E. coli bacteria that may be new. At least 18 are dead as illness spreads to 10 European countries.

*June 12: Dallas Mavericks win first NBA title with 105-95 victory over the Miami Heat.

*June 16: Rep. Anthony Weiner announces resignation 10 days after admitting he'd sent lewd self-portraits to women online.

*June 21: Amid street protests, the Greek prime minister survives a confidence vote, keeping alive a government dedicated to austerity measures.

*June 22: President Obama announces he is bringing home 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by next summer.

*June 24: New York becomes the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage.

***

July

*July 5: Orlando, Fla., jury finds Casey Anthony, 25, not guilty of murder, manslaughter and child abuse in the 2008 disappearance and death of her 2-year-old daughter, Caylee.

*July 7: Rupert Murdoch's media empire unexpectedly jettisons News of the World, Britain's best-selling Sunday newspaper, after a public backlash over claims it used phone hacking and other illegal tactics.

*July 21: The 30-year-old space shuttle program ends as Atlantis lands at Cape Canaveral, Fla., after the 135th shuttle flight.

*July 22: Gunman in Norway massacres 69 people at an island youth retreat.

***

August

*Aug. 1: A last-minute deal in the U.S. Congress ends a stalemate over raising the federal debt ceiling.

*Aug. 5: Citing a "gulf between the political parties," credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgrades U.S. debt for the first time.

*Aug. 6: Afghan insurgents down a U.S. military helicopter, killing 30 Americans and eight Afghan commandos, the deadliest single loss for U.S. forces in the decade-old war.

*Aug. 23: A magnitude-5.8 earthquake in Virginia, the strongest on the East Coast since 1944, causes cracks in the Washington Monument and damages the National Cathedral.

*Aug. 27: Hurricane Irene, after striking Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, pushes up the U.S East Coast, prompting evacuations in New York City and leaving major flood damage in Vermont.

***

September

*Sept. 11: As the U.S. and the world mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/1 1 terrorist attacks, a memorial plaza at ground zero opens.

*Sept. 17: A demonstration calling itself Occupy Wall Street begins in New York, within weeks prompting similar protests around the U.S. and the world.

*Sept. 18: For a second year, Emmy Awards for drama and comedy go to "Mad Men" and "Modern Family."

*Sept. 20: Repeal of U.S. military's 18-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" compromise takes effect, allowing gay and lesbian service members to serveopenly.

***

October

*Oct. 3: An Italian appeals court frees Amanda Knox of Seattle after four years in prison, tossing murder convictions against Knox and an ex-boyfriend in the stabbing of their British roommate.

*Oct. 7: The Nobel Peace Prize goes to three women: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, who has long pushed for change in Yemen.

*Oct. 16: In Washington, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is dedicated.

*Oct. 20: Moammar Gadhafi, Libya's dictator for 42 years, is killed as revolutionary fighters overwhelm his hometown of Sirte.

*Oct. 28: St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 of the World Series.

*Oct. 31: United Nations marks world population surpassing 7 billion.

***

November

*Nov. 6: Greece's prime minister and main opposition leader agree to form an interim government to ensure the country's new European debt deal.

*Nov. 7: Los Angeles jury convicts Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, of involuntary manslaughter for supplying an anesthetic implicated in the entertainer's 2009 death.

*Nov. 9: After 46 seasons as Penn State's head football coach and a record 409 victories, Joe Paterno is fired, along with the university president, over their handling of child sex abuse allegations against former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky; two top university officials step down following grand jury indictments.

*Nov. 12: Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi resigns.

*Nov. 21: In Washington, Congress' bipartisan deficit reduction "supercommittee," appointed to find $1.2 trillion in cuts over a decade, fails, triggering automatic cuts agreed to under the summer's debt ceiling deal. But they don't take effect until 2013.

*Nov. 23: Yemeni President Saleh agrees to step down amid a fierce uprising to oust him after 33 years in power.

***

December

*Dec. 2: U.S. Labor Department announces unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent in November, lowest since March 2009.

*Dec. 3: One-time GOP front-runner Herman Cain suspends his campaign amid allegations of sexual improprieties, which he denies.

*Dec. 15: The flag used by U.S. forces in Iraq was lowered in a Baghdad airport ceremony marking the end of a war that left 4,500 Americans and 110,000 Iraqis dead and cost more than $800 billion.

*Dec. 18: Kim Jong Il, the North Korean leader whose iron rule and nuclear ambitions dominated world security fears for more than a decade, dies.

*Dec. 18: Last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops leaves Iraq crossing into Kuwait in darkness in final moments of nine-year war.

*Dec. 23: After days of stalemate and rancor, the U.S. Congress approves a two-month renewal of payroll tax cuts for 160 million workers and unemployment benefits for millions.

-- Compiled by the Associated Press