- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — The onslaught of Gulf Coast hurricanes, notably Katrina and the deadly flooding that devastated New Orleans, was overwhelmingly picked by U.S. editors and news directors as the top story of 2005 in the Associated Press’ annual vote.

The hurricanes received 242 first-place votes out of 288 ballots cast. No other story received more than 18 first-place votes.

The death of Pope John Paul II, and the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to succeed him as Pope Benedict XVI, was the No. 2 pick, followed by the situation in Iraq.

Iraq was voted the top story in 2002 and 2003, and was runner-up in 2004 to the U.S. election in which President Bush won a second term.

Here are 2005’s top 10 stories, as voted by AP members:

1. HURRICANE KATRINA: Its impact was stunning. It killed more than 1,300 people in five states, ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast and set off flooding that submerged 80 percent of New Orleans. Hurricanes Wilma and Rita also inflicted severe damage.

2. PAPAL TRANSITION: John Paul II’s death marked the passing of the first non-Italian pope in 455 years and ended a 26-year pontificate, third-longest in history. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany became the new pope.

3. IRAQ: As in 2004, news from Iraq ranged from the grim, including a devastating wave of suicide bombings, to the promising — Iraqis voting for new leaders and thrashing out differences about a new constitution.

4. SUPREME COURT: Two spots opened on the court as a result of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s retirement and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist’s death. John G. Roberts Jr. was confirmed to succeed Chief Justice Rehnquist, but President Bush’s next nominee, Harriet Miers, had to bow out amid conservative complaints. The next choice, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., could face tough Democratic opposition at confirmation hearings in January.

5. OIL PRICES: Crude oil prices reached an all-time peak of almost $71 a barrel in August before subsiding.

6. LONDON BOMBINGS: Attacks on three rush-hour subway trains and a bus killed 56 persons, including the four bombers, on July 7.

7. ASIAN QUAKE: A massive earthquake near the Pakistan-India border killed more than 87,000, and left more than 3 million homeless.

8. TERRI SCHIAVO: A family feud escalated into a wrenching national debate as the husband of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo struggled and finally succeeded in getting clearance to remove the feeding tube that had kept her alive for 15 years.

9. CIA LEAK: Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, was indicted and several prominent journalists were entangled in complex offshoots as a special prosecutor investigated the Bush administration’s leaking of Valerie Plame’s CIA status to the press in 2003.

10. BUSH’S STRUGGLES: Multiple factors, including public doubts about Iraq, a flawed response to Hurricane Katrina and a failed Supreme Court nomination, drove President Bush’s national approval ratings below 40 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

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