A wide variety of stories captivated us in 2010, from the monumental swings in politics to the frustrating state of the economy, from the oil spill in the Gulf to the worldwide fallout of WikiLeaks. But it wasn't only momentous news stories that attracted our attention. We were enthralled by a slew of controversies both large and small — and also by some big-name nuptials, unpredictable weather, and important medical advances. Here, a look at TheWeek.com's five most popular stories of 2010:
1. Beck and Palin's mysterious 9/11 event: 5 theories
Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin made a "mysterious" and much-buzzed-about joint appearance in Anchorage on September 11. The Fox News host and the former Alaska governor revealed few details about the program ahead of time, leaving pundits to speculate wildly about their agenda: Would the Tea Party "dream team" join forces for a 2012 presidential campaign? Or announce "some sort of joint lecture tour"? In the end, the event turned out to be a scaled-down version of Beck's earlier "Rally to Restore Honor" — a result that left some critics wondering what all the fuss was about. Of course, the rally did nothing to dampen speculation about Palin's presidential ambitions.
2. Chelsea Clinton's wedding: An instant guide
After months of fevered media speculation, Bill and Hillary's daughter tied the knot on July 31 with Marc Mezvinsky, a 32-year-old Goldman Sachs banker, in a lavish affair — it cost an estimated $3 million — attended by some 400 guests. The bride wore a strapless Vera Wang gown, the groom wore a custom Burberry tuxedo, and the former president made sure he looked good for the occasion, too: He lost 20 pounds, five more than his daughter had asked him to shed.
3. 5 startling new facts about sleep
How much shut-eye do you really need? Sleep scientists zeroed in on answers to that and other nighttime mysteries this year. Researchers at West Virginia University found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was lower among adults who claimed to regularly sleep seven hours a night. British scientists, meanwhile, found that parents of newborns lose about six months worth of sleep over a baby's first two years of life. And while the summer blockbuster Inception brought the notion of controlling dreams to the mainstream, it turns out researchers had already been using a similar form of "dream mastery" to help patients reduce or eliminate nightmares.
4. Irony alert: The unusually chilly global-warming summit
Environmental concerns were in the news often this year, most prominently with the BP oil spill. But in December, as representatives from nearly 200 countries gathered in Cancun, Mexico for a U.N. conference on climate change, they were greeted with an "inconvenient" bit of irony: local temperatures, typically balmy, fell to a 100-year low of of 54° F. Attendees braved the less-than-warm weather and emerged with a deal to create a Green Climate Fund — but some critics said the agreement was just a "hollow" promise.
5. Democrats will hold the House and Senate
As the November elections drew near, columnist Robert Shrum saw reasons for Democrats to be optimistic and suggested it was "Rove time" for the party — a moment for President Obama and others to rally the base in order to maintain control of Congress. Those hopes of keeping the House were dashed on Election Day, when Republicans came away with a victory that Obama memorably termed a "shellacking" for him and his party. The GOP landslide paved the way for John Boehner (R-OH) to become the next Speaker of the House, and it left some strategists debating the magnitude and meaning of America's rightward shift.