11 News Stories That Will Shape 2011

Jan 1st 2011 – 1:00AM
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Christian Cotroneo

AOL Canada
Too early for the top news stories of 2011?

Maybe. But news tends to spill more than it breaks.

The major events that carve out one year's headlines are often seeded the previous year. Major events sprout dozens more stories -- headline fodder for months, even years to come.

Sure, you'll occasionally arch an eyebrow at a story about Newfoundland teens trying to rob a motel with a musket or an elderly woman staving off thieves with a pitchfork. But many of the biggest stories don't' stand alone.

With that in mind, let's play Newstrodamus – and predict the 11 major headlines of 2011.

That's right. 2011. Happy New Year? Read on to find out.

11. Et Tu Dewani? A South African Epic

Setting: Night. Anni and her new husband, wealthy businessman Shrien Dewani are travelling by taxi through a particularly murky end of town. A couple of men ambush them at a street corner. Anni is shot dead. Shrien is left unharmed.

Sad, but these things do happen in a 50-murder-a-day kind of town.

The story's second act took a turn for the universal, even downright Shakespearian – anguished fathers, duplicitous lovers, family fortunes and all.

It really got started after South African authorities had spent some time alone with the taxi driver. He may have protested too much.

Setting: A Capetown courthouse. The taxi driver is on trial. He announces he was paid by Shrien to kill his bride.

What fresh horror for Anni's father, who flew in from England, clutching his daughter's tear-soaked photos to attend the trial? His own son-in-law?

By act three, the story had steeped in its own epic, accenting the drama with one fresh detail after another.

Enter stage left: a British man, purporting to be Shrien's paid lover.

Enter stage right: rumours, swirling that the Dewani union was anything but blissful, and even Shrien's fortune may have been false.

Exit stage: Shrien Dewani. He was arrested in Bristol on Dec. 8, where a High Court will determine whether to send him back to Capetown, where it all began. Or did it? And so the worm is poised to turn in 2011.

10. Return to Sender

These days, 'You've got mail' doesn't have much a reassuring ring in the Italian capital. In fact, as staff at several embassies learned in December, it packs more of a boom. On Dec. 23, the Swiss and Chilean missions in Rome received mail bombs within hours of each other. In both cases, the hapless workers suffered severe injuries to their hands.

Another package was defused at the Greek embassy a few days later.

Somewhere in the senselessness of it all, it emerges that an Italian group -- the Informal Anarchist Federation -- is sending a message. Whatever could it be?

Don't shoot the messenger. Bomb the poor sod whose job is to open the message.

In any event, the Informal Anarchist Federation is due for a special delivery in 2011. Likely from the business end of a carabiniere's boot.

9. Meteorological Mayhem!

Canadians take their winter with a grain of salt. Make that a few hundred thousand tonnes of salt, liberally applied to roads, sidewalks and walkways across the land. But all the salt in Salt Lake City couldn't bail out more than 200 motorists near Sarnia, Ont. In early December, the highway, running to London, was suddenly swallowed by the stuff. Travellers spent more than 24 hours shivering in cars, and waiting for military helicopters to bail them out. One of them, security guard Neeland Rumble, didn't make it back – having frozen to death about 50 metres from his car.

Mother Nature's random violence spans the country. And it's not just snow. Floods in Quebec's Gaspé region prompted a state of emergency, while rain-ravaged New Brunswick teed up a $50-million damage bill. In the west, winter heaved enough snow on Vancouver Island's Mount Washington to compel vacationers to dig their way out of condos.

It's only the start of the mean season, and cold-hardened Canadians are already crying uncle.

8. Displeasure Island

Haiti had a bad year. No doubt about it. Maybe worse than 1825 when France sent the island a 150-million gold franc bill for its independence.

The year started with a magnitude 7.0 earthquake that claimed some 300,000 lives, while making a million people homeless. With a population close to 10 million, that's one in ten citizens turned out of their homes.

In late October, Haitians woke up to a cholera epidemic. It was the island's first encounter with the lethal disease, smuggled to shore by unwitting United Nations peacekeepers. Death toll? 2,591. And rising. With the disease running rampant, Haiti tried to stage a national election in November. The key word, according to many, is stage. No clear winner emerged from a constellation of contenders.

Cue the riots.

7. Bank of Canada: Interest Piqued
The country's top bank may have bored Canadians to sleep in 2010 – what with interest levels lingering so low for so long. Bank governor Mark Carney admitted as much himself when he warned Canadians in December not to doze off in 2011. Something's got to give in 2011. And, in any case, we have only to look to the sad state of affairs in the U.S. to see what happens when you fall asleep at the mortgage.

Speaking of cases, whatever became of the governor's pilfered dossier – the one was burgled from his car while he was at a meeting? You know the one with all the sensitive banking documents in it? Reportedly, it was recovered a few days later. But intact? The RCMP remains mum. What kind of information was spilled briefly into the public sphere?

Will we have to wait for WikiLeaks to tell us about it?

6. Russell Williams: A Devil of a Divorce

More like a mini-monolith, this story is part of what was probably the biggest Canadian news epic of the year – the grisly confessions of former soldier Russell Williams. In case you went out for a quart of milk for the last year, Williams shot to infamy after being arrested in connection with the murder of two young women, forcible confinement, burglary, and a spate of sexual assaults. Read: Serial killer.

But Williams wasn't just the commander of Canadian Forces Bases Trenton – a decorated officer who flew missions for such dignitaries as Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II – he was also a married man. It's all too easy to forget, amid the cavalcade of carnage that Williams kept his second life between himself and his victims. Mary Elizabeth Harriman remained oblivious. On December 16, she quietly filed for divorce. The key word here being quietly, as Harriman hopes a judge will seal the financial and health documents necessary for the split. Nevertheless, the media wagons will circle. The show must go on. Chalk up another victim in this sordid saga.

For the Final Five Headlines of 2011... Click Here!

Filed under: Canada
Copyright: (C) Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, http://www.cbc.ca/aboutcbc/discover/termsofuse.html