2004 was a momentous year for some. George W Bush, for example, was swept back to the White House for another four years. But what about the fortunes of other people who made the news this year?
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Holidaymakers could soon be heading for Libya in their droves, thanks to events this year that made the country more accessible to travellers and foreign investors. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's current reconciliation drive with the West reaped rewards. In the first quarter of the year, the US lifted a 23-year travel ban and ended trade sanctions to reward the former international pariah state for giving up weapons of mass destruction and vowing to compensate victims of the Lockerbie bombing. A visit by Tony Blair to Tripoli in March sent a signal that Libya was a safe place to travel, according to some British tour operators.
Libya has the finest Roman ruins outside Rome and beaches to rival Tunisia, and Colonel Gaddafi now wants the country to emulate the success of Dubai, which has become the number one holiday hotspot in the Middle East. Tripoli is investing heavily in tourism projects, with plans that include a luxury five-star resort on the Mediterranean coast and another $260m resort. But Libya's arcane visa system as it stands could deter all but the most intrepid traveller - not to mention the current ban on tourists drinking alcohol.
Every Libyan I bumped into was friendly and welcoming, and a remarkable number of them spoke English
Tony Wheeler, Wanderlust magazine
The search for life on Mars is something that has managed to captivate the imagination for more than a century. So it was with much excitement that Nasa's two robots called rovers touched down on the Red Planet this year.
Besides treating the public to spectacular images of the strange Martian landscape, Opportunity and Spirit found compelling evidence for the prolonged existence of water on the surface of Mars. Opportunity found the salty, rippled sediments of a huge shallow sea, while Spirit found evidence that water once flowed at a rocky basin it was exploring.
Discovery that water once flowed on Mars hailed as a key scientific advance
Scientists hailed the discovery as a milestone in the search for life on Mars, although the find does not prove that it does exist. The rovers' discovery topped a list of the 10 key scientific advances of 2004 by Science magazine in December.
We are about to embark on what is arguably going to be the coolest geology field trip in history
Lead scientist Dr Steve Squyres
It is difficult to imagine how leading your political party to a surprising general election victory and then turning down the job of prime minister could be seen in a positive light. But that is exactly what happened to India's Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi.
Italian-born Mrs Gandhi threw the country into political turmoil in May when she refused the top job. Many of her supporters were devastated when she said she believed an Indian should run the country. However, India has a long cultural tradition of renouncing authority and worldly goods - and many, Congress supporters among them, lauded Mrs Gandhi for a selfless act of sacrifice. Many commentators said she had risen in the eyes of Indians and that her actions would boost the Gandhi name.
Indians love and respect no-one more than a renunciate
Times of India
BOSTON RED SOX
The prize for staging the most improbable comeback of the year goes to New England baseball team the Boston Red Sox. The team finally managed to exorcise itself of the legendary "curse of the Bambino" by beating the Saint Louis Cardinals in October to win the US World Series.
Legend has it that the team was jinxed after it sold its star player Babe Ruth, or the Bambino, in 1920 to hated rival team the New York Yankees. For more than eight decades, the Red Sox were dogged by dull or spectacular failure in the Series. However, a great swath of humanity known as the Red Sox Nation has been bonded by the failure, nurturing a belief that one day their time would come. This year it came and grown men were reduced to tears.
John Kerry could be forgiven for thinking the Bosox victory was a good omen
New Englander and Red Sox fan Senator John Kerry seized on the victory to promote his presidential bid. Referring to a radio show a year earlier when a caller had subjected his campaign to the ultimate mockery, Mr Kerry said: "Thinking they were cutting me right to the quick, they said: 'John Kerry won't be president until the Red Sox win the World Series.' Well, we're on our way." The home run, however, eluded him.
I've been rooting for this day since I was a kid. I couldn't be more thrilled for the team and for all the fans who stuck by the Red Sox year after year after year
Senator John Kerry
The actor-director was named the world's most powerful celebrity by Forbes magazine following the enormous success of his controversial blockbuster The Passion of the Christ. The magazine ranks people by combining earning power and public exposure.
The film, which angered some Jewish groups with its depiction of Christ's last days, is expected to make some £280m. It has become one of the highest grossing movies of all time. As well as attracting standard blockbuster audiences, entire church congregations booked screenings. In December, Gibson bought his own island paradise in Fiji, reported to have cost $15m, funded by the proceeds of the film.
One of the highest-grossing movies of all time
I gather Mel doesn't handle the comedy too well, and he seems to totally ignore the singing opportunities of the crucifixion
Monty Python and Life of Brian star Eric Idle
Kenyan ecologist Wangari Muta Maathai - or Mama Miti, Swahili for mother of trees - scored a first in 2004 when she became the only African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the only person to have been awarded it for efforts to protect the environment. "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment," the Nobel committee proclaimed when it revealed this year's winner.
The 64-year-old, who is also Kenya's deputy environment minister, has spent much of her life stemming the deforestation that has stripped much of Arica bare. She was honoured as founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has sought
to empower women, improve the environment and fight corruption in Africa for almost 30 years.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has challenged the world to broaden the understanding of peace
Wangari Muti Maathai
Greece emerged as a clear winner this year. When Athens was awarded the Olympic Games, many people around the world scoffed at the idea that this small country on the fringe of Europe could host such a massive event. Some said Athens would not be ready on time because the Greek workforce lacked organisation and discipline. There were warnings that venues would not be built, notably that the Olympic stadium roof would not be finished, and concerns over traffic chaos. But Greece had got used to proving the rest of Europe wrong. Against all expectations in July, its football team won Euro 2004.
The Games in Athens far surpassed expectations and offered the world two weeks of memorable sport. Athens had seen an Olympic record in anti-doping violations. But commentators said Greece and the International Olympic Committee handled them with exemplary severity.
They really did a fantastic job. I am very, very happy about the Games. Our Greek friends have delivered in a splendid way
Olympic Committee boss Jacques Rogge
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez was also a big winner this year when he easily survived a referendum on his presidency. It strengthened Mr Chavez, who has proclaimed a "revolution of the poor" in this nation of 25 million.
The recall ballot was the culmination of a two-year campaign by opponents to drive out Mr Chavez, who has already survived a coup, a two-month general strike and a previous attempt to force a vote on his leadership.
After the referendum, leaders of the coalition against Mr Chavez summoned followers to protest against what they said was vote fraud. But former US President Jimmy Carter and a team of international monitors said the voting appeared fair and accurate.
This is the largest turnout I have ever seen
Jimmy Carter commenting on the referendum
Smokers could be forgiven for feeling as though they had been singled out for persecution this year as Europe joined America in its crusade against tobacco. Ireland and Norway banned smoking in pubs, restaurants and some other public places, pushing smokers literally out into the cold.
In November, the Scottish cabinet voted to follow suit by banning smoking in public places, and the UK government announced that a ban on smoking in workplaces, cafes, and pubs and bars would be in place by 2008. In Australia, smoking was banned on Sydney's Bondi beach and the capital's suburb of Mosman has become the first in the world to ban smoking at pavement cafes.
The cancer rate might be going down but, bejasus, death by hypothermia will be going up
Irish plumber quoted by the Sunday Herald on the eve of the Irish ban
Fans of Edvard Munch had much to agonise over this year after the brazen seizure of The Scream. In August, armed robbers stole the priceless painting, in front of stunned visitors to Oslo's Munch Museum. One national newspaper described it as "a great blow to Norwegian culture."
The painting, one of the most famous in the world, depicts a pale-faced figure wailing on a road against a backdrop of a blood-red sky. It has become a symbol for all the sufferings of a century.
The angst-ridden can identify with The Scream
There have been no arrests, and neither The Scream nor the other painting stolen at the same time, Munch's Madonna, has been recovered. Experts say a painting such as The Scream is too recognisable to be sold legitimately. Some say it has probably been kidnapped and will most likely be held for ransom.
Almost as easy as robbing a kiosk
Aftenposten newspaper's front-page headline
Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced out of office by an uprising in Haiti in February. He was flown by the US government to the Central African Republic, where they said he would be safer. The precise circumstances of the former Roman Catholic priest's leaving may be debated. Mr Aristide has repeatedly accused the US and France of forcing him into exile. He said he was warned that thousands would die, including himself perhaps, if he did not agree to go.
He told CNN that it was a "real coup d'etat... a modern way to have a modern kidnapping". But the US and France insist that Mr Aristide agreed to leave the country voluntarily, and signed a letter of resignation.
Mr Aristide lives in exile in South Africa, from where he is suspected of maintaining ties to his partisans in Haiti.
The country is completely destroyed
Leonce Duval, resident of Bel-Air, Haiti
Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at February's Super Bowl was the low point of the American football championship. The breast-baring incident while Ms Jackson was performing with Justin Timberlake brought her a flood of publicity and flak - as well as a hefty $500,000 fine for the television network CBS. Twenty of its stations received the maximum $27,500 fine, but the company is contesting the penalty.
The show went out live and 144 million viewers watched as Ms Jackson ripped open the front of her leather stage outfit to reveal for 1.7 seconds her breast with its starburst-motif silver nipple-shield. Ms Jackson maintains it was an accident. At the time, many US commentators were wringing their hands over how low America's moral sense of itself had sunk.
The breast-baring incident attracted massive fines
Following the incident, dubbed Nipplegate, the US Senate overwhelmingly voted to raise the standard fine ten-fold, from $ 27,500 to $ 275,000. This has thrown many networks into a panic over what they can or can't show.
A classless, crass and deplorable stunt
US Federal Communications Commission
One person who would no doubt like to forget 2004 is Urs Meier, the Swiss referee who became arguably the most vilified man in football after disallowing England defender Sol Campbell's "goal" during England's Euro 2004 game against Portugal. The team went on to lose the game following a penalty shoot-out and British tabloids helped make Mr Meier a national scapegoat.
He was subjected to a barrage of abuse when his phone number and e-mail address were printed and had to be offered police protection. It wasn't just the newspapers. Supermarket giant Asda offered all Swiss nationals a free eye test at its optical centres.
I felt like a hunted animal. And for three or four weeks I coudn't sleep, I had terrible dreams
Losing 10% of its value over the past half year may seem a tad careless, but falling by a whopping 58% against the euro since July 2001 doesn't quite gel with the claims of a "strong dollar" policy made by the dollar's bosses, US Treasury Secretary John Snow and President George W Bush. But then things may not be that bad after all: oil is priced in dollars, and being cheap helps US exporters and keeps foreigners at bay, who used to undercut American manufacturers.
Mind you, better watch out for what the Chinese are doing: The only reason the dollar's value hasn't collapsed completely is Beijing's rapacious buying of US government debt - a desperate attempt to stop it from falling. And without that demand for the weak dollar, its value would drop through the floor in no time. So it had better look out in 2005.
It's basically the same price in dollars as in pounds back home in London
Briton Graham Petherick on Christmas shopping in New York
It was a humiliating year for "Queen of Perfection" Martha Stewart, the lifestyle guru convicted of lying to federal investigators about a suspicious share sale. Ms Stewart is serving a five-month stretch at Alderson federal jail in West Virginia, although she went there voluntarily rather than remaining free during her appeal.
The trial and jailing of Ms Stewart generated immense interest across the US and many argue may have boosted her appeal. American consumers are said to love a comeback and 2005 is looking rosier for Ms Stewart, who is preparing for a return to the spotlight with her own television series.
There are many, many good people who have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela
Italian politician Rocco Buttiglione will remember 2004 as a year in which he suffered humiliation at the hands of members of the European Parliament. His nomination as EU justice commissioner came under fire after he expressed views condemning homosexuality and abortion. Opponents argued that the devout Catholic would bring prejudices into the political process.
Mr Buttiglione contended that he was quite capable of keeping his personal views out of his politics. MEPs threatened to reject the entire Commission unless Mr Buttiglione was fired. He decided to step down. Mr Buttiglione is now considering starting a European movement dedicated to bringing Christian principles into the European decision-making process.
I have the right to think that homosexuality is a sin... But this has no effect on politics because in politics the principle of non-discrimination prevails and the state has no right to stick its nose in these situations