Continued from page 1

Still, with a Republican-led House taking office next year and court battles continuing, the health care law likely will spur vigorous debate in 2011 as well.

Away from Washington, a spate of weather disasters beset countries abroad, with massive floods in Pakistan submerging about one-fifth of the country and affecting 20 million residents, while an Icelandic volcano’s eruption savaged European jet travel as a smoke-and-ash cloud billowed into the atmosphere.

The world’s attention turned to the Gulf of Mexico after an April 20 explosion on a BP oil rig sent at least 170 millions of gallons of black crude spewing into the region’s turquoise waters.

As environmentalists and others crusaded against corporate greed and the roiling environmental disaster — putting the overwhelmed Mr. Obama under siege as the leak could not immediately be stemmed — the oil company promised a full cleanup and a $20 billion fund to help affected communities, including devastated fishing and tourism industries.

The world joined in relief and a collective high point when 33 Chilean miners, trapped underground for 69 days after an Aug. 5 explosion, made their way to the surface in a televised rescue effort.

The group of hard-working laborers earned celebrity status for their survival skills — one finished the New York Marathon — and brought hope in a down year with the miracle of their story of toughness against long odds.

On the entertainment front, a wardrobe from hell, replete with a raw-meat dress, brought post-Madonna shock value to pop star Lady Gaga, whose fashion and performance theatrics drew fascination and disdain from fans and music critics.

Lady Gaga, along with Rihanna, Jay Z, Taylor Swift and a reborn Eminem, led music lists of the “best of the year” as artists struggled to maintain profits in an increasingly disposable, music-downloading nation.

“Lady Gaga remains the social provocateur,” observed music critic and artist development consultant Holly Gleason. “Her songs, like it or not, are about mores, social obsessions and without name-checking, the Kardashian invasion of fame. With her, she’s actually preaching compassionate, inclusive, all freaks welcome reality — no toy is too broken for her world. Tragically, her clothes may eclipse her music.”

Ms. Gleason noted an all-flash, no passion, cash-it-in-for-fame music environment and a likely reality-TV backlash — “Steven Tyler, on ‘American Idol’? Seriously?” — that sent music fans toward a weird trend, “milking the past.”

“Ultimately, two of the biggest event records this year were excavating the vault — [the Rolling Stones’] ‘Exile on Main Street’ and [Bruce Springsteen’s] ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town,’” she said of the nation’s retro fervor. “For people who wanted to remember what they were at their brightest, most essentially rebellious youth, they could check into 40 and 35 years ago and try to access what probably really wasn’t. Ironically, that music is still more compelling than 90 percent of the music being made right now.”

Online giant Yahoo! reported top-10 Internet searches for 2010 as: BP oil spill, World Cup, Miley Cyrus, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, iPhone, Megan Fox, Justin Bieber, “American Idol” and Britney Spears.

Leading Yahoo’s top online searched questions: How to tie a tie, How to lose weight, How to kiss and How to write a resume.

On the information-security front, the ongoing WikiLeaks controversy, with its James Bond villain-inspired techno-leader Julian Assange, continued to divide free-speech advocates and those who called his national-security exposes cyberterrorism.

One media specialist said he understands why WikiLeaks fascinates the world, but worries that people who read it get a blast of information with no context. He called that aspect of it troubling.

Story Continues →