Anyone who watched the stock market or presidential polls knows 2008 was a year of highs and lows. Politics and pocket books dominated both News and Search, but wild weather, military setbacks, and medical miracles also set the world abuzz.
- Caylee and Casey Anthony
- Election 2008
- Pregnant Man
- Shelley Malil
- Patrick Swayze
Paths of Destruction
From hurricanes to earthquakes, floods to wildfires, natural disasters assailed virtually every corner of our planet. The Chengdu earthquake devastated the region of Sichuan, less than three months before China hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics. Months later, a temblor in Pakistan left thousands homeless.
In the Americas, hurricanes shook Search: Gustav‘s torrential rains blistered through Jamaica and Cuba. A month later, New Orleans braced itself for what many thought could be Katrina‘s second coming, and the 2005 Atlantic hurricane resurfaced in searches. Ike spared the Big Easy, but users flocked to the Web to follow its devastating trail through Galveston Island, Texas.
Weather even played a role in politics this year, when the Republican National Convention delayed its start and adopted a more somber tone. Elections around the world stage highlighted power struggles, including those in Russia, Pakistan, Thailand, and Zimbabwe. All eyes, however, turned to the long slog for the U.S. presidency with all its historical twists and turns. Within the U.S., searchers turned out in droves at every stage, investigating politicians, delegates, voter registration, and the Electoral College.
Shifting Winds of War
The last leg of the presidential race became dominated by the economy, but issues of national security never left Searchers’ minds. On March 20, Americans and Iraqis quietly marked the fifth anniversary of the war as violence de-escalated through much of Iraq. Violence in Afghanistan, however, continued to grow, ultimately making 2008 the deadliest year for U.S. troops in that country. Searches again spiked for Afghanistan when a magazine leaked news that Britain’s Prince Harry was serving on the war’s front lines. After a well-publicized (and royal) routing, New Idea apologized, and Harry was sent home to avoid drawing attention—and possibly danger—to his regiment.
The specter of global conflict accelerated during, of all times, the 2008 Summer Olympics. The Games opened with great fanfare on China’s luckiest day of the century: 08.08.08. But as the world united in Beijing, a deadly situation escalated in the former Soviet Union. Searches for Russia ballooned as the U.S., NATO, and other Western countries condemned the violence and demanded Russia remove its forces from Georgia.
Gone, but not Forgotten
Among the crime stories that mesmerized people, the missing—like that of Natalee Holloway or Madeleine McCann—remained high in searchers’ minds. But Caylee Anthony, a Florida toddler who disappeared under very suspicious circumstances, captivated interest especially since the story was first reported in late summer. Her mother Casey was arrested on first-degree murder charges less than three months after Cindy Anthony, Casey’s own mother, called 911 to report the case. 2008 finally brought some relief to the loved ones of JonBenet Ramsey—12 years after her death, local police ruled out her family members as suspects.
No one rose from obscurity to celebrity faster than the pregnant man. Born a woman, Thomas Beatie captivated both the world and the Web with one very famous photo and one very popular appearance on Oprah. Search predictably spiked a few months later when the bearded transgender man gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Susan Juliette … soon to be followed by a sibling.
Patrick Swayze may be no stranger to movie fame, but a surprising battle with pancreatic cancer thrust him into this year’s spotlight. Search soared as people researched the 56-year-old actor’s grim diagnosis. Just a few months later, after enduring rigorous chemotherapy, the beloved dirty dancer shocked everyone by heading back to work on a new TV show.