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The 13 things the world taught us this year

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Dead heroes (and villains), confused newsreaders, hammer-licking pop stars; David Whitehouse condenses the past year into nuggets of essential knowledge

1. OUR LIES WILL CATCH US IN THE END

January. Lance Armstrong finally admits to the doping offences that kept him at the top of world cycling, despite everyone long suspecting that he was packed full of enough illegal substances to edge a tight sprint finish on the Champs Elysee using only his chin to move the pedals. He had been under US Federal investigation for more than three years by the time he owned up… to Oprah Winfrey, whose knack for extracting confessions should see her put to work in Guantanamo Bay. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. No man hates his own Wikipedia page more.

2. SOON WE’LL BE ABLE TO PRINT OUR OWN BODY PARTS

February. Mastering technology we can’t even begin to understand, US scientists use a 3D printer to create a living lab-grown ear from collagen and animal ear cell cultures. They predict that soon they’ll be able to make working ears for transplant patients. A generation of men with identical A4 genitals awaits.

3. THERE ARE STILL PLENTY OF REASONS TO BE SCARED

Terror moved back to street level. In April, two men detonated explosives at the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three. In May, Drummer Lee Rigby was butchered in Woolwich. In September, militants attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi, where 61 civilians died.

4. WE SHOULD ADMIT WHEN WE CAN’T DO SOMETHING

February. Pope Benedict XVI resigns as pope, the first to do so voluntarily since 1294, and is replaced by Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who everyone agrees would make a nicer grandad. No one knows why this happened, but the timing suggests it was because Pope Benedict wanted to devote more time to Candy Crush.

5. HEROES DIE, AND SO DO VILLAINS

Nobody polarised opinion like Margaret Thatcher. What died with her in April was a kind of politician this country will never see again. James Gandolfini, who died in June, was – thanks to Tony Soprano – also hero and villain, perhaps the greatest TV actor of our time. And in December, Nelson Mandela (a man for whom the term hero should now be retired), finally passed away.

6. IF YOU’RE GOING TO BLOW A WHISTLE, YOU’D BETTER RUN FAST

May. Edward Snowden leaks 200,000 classified documents from the US’s National Security Agency, primarily concerned with the mass surveillance programme he believes infringed on ordinary people’s civil liberties. He then flies to Hong Kong, before getting to Russia where he has been granted temporary asylum as a fugitive charged with espionage by US authorities. In July, Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning was convicted of the same offence

and imprisoned for 35 years, perhaps dreaming of Russia’s comparatively clement winter.

7. IF YOU ASK People THEIR OPINION, THEY WILL GIVE IT

July. Sky News presenter Kay Burley had been camped outside a hospital in Paddington, London, waiting for the Duchess of Cambridge to give birth basically since the conception.When the future King arrived, she thrust her microphone into a crowd of frothy-mouthed royalists for their reaction. “The news is, it’s a black boy,” said one man, leaving Burley unusually gobsmacked and the Daily Mail furious, in case it was true.

8. YOU CAN STYLE OUT ANYTHING, IF YOU TRY

September. BBC News presenter Simon McCoy picks up a packet of printer paper believing it to be an iPad while presenting an on-air piece about drunkenness. He realises his mistake, but still finishes the broadcast, styling it out in heroic fashion. Unfortunately the camera doesn’t pan down to reveal he’s also accidentally wearing his daughter’s lunchbox as a shoe.

9. POP MUSIC IS NOT FOR US ANY MORE

Those of us who remember when Madonna’s pointy bra was radical were beaten into submission in August by a naked Miley Cyrus licking tetanus off a hammer.

Odd, but not as much as the rise of Robin Thicke, the Lowestoft 57-year-old who went out to buy super-strength lager dressed as Beetlejuice and somehow ended up simulating sex with Hannah Montana. That’s what it looked like, anyway.

10. THERE is absolutely NO situation IN WHICH A SELFIE IS INAPPROPRIATE

What kind of egomaniac monster would want to take a photograph of themselves? That’s a question that fewer people are asking than ever, in a turn of events that should despair us all. Even the President Of The US Barack Obama and Novelty Prime Minister David Cameron were roped into the year’s most unedifying trend at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.

11. UKIP is as bad as we thought

September. It’s easy to feel slightly anxious when a political party with objectionable views gains a little traction, and so it helps us to relax when one of their members reminds us they’re comprised of preposterous old white men who couldn’t get elected if they ran for office against a dog in a hat. Step forward Godfrey Bloom who, at his own party’s conference, jokingly refers to his female audience as sluts. In August, he claimed feminism was a “passing fashion” and that women were better at “[finding] the mustard in the pantry” than driving a car. Ah, the great mustard/pantry analogy.

12. IT’S POSSIBLE to SURVIVE WITHOUT BREAKING BAD

September. Breaking Bad comes to an end after five triumphant series, and, to their surprise, most fans find something else to do once Walter White’s story has been played out in full. Many turn to Ruby Tandoh on The Great British Bake Off, who turns into a Heisenberg-esque antihero for some, who accuse her of using her femininity to manipulate the judges and audience. In actual fact what she was doing was making a cake. Proof that the best drama is all around us.

13. YOU CAN BE MISERABLE AND SUCCESSFUL

After retiring in May aged 71, the fearsome Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson publishes a bestselling autobiography in November, where he isn’t very nice about people such as Owen Hargreaves, David Beckham and Roy Keane – a man whose name we’re almost too scared to write down in case he doesn’t like the font. Morrissey releases his memoir to similar fanfare and huge sales. We hoped he’d call it ‘Grumplestiltskin’. However, he very much didn’t.

(Images: Wenn; PA; Cornell University Photography: Simon McCoy, GRAB; Getty)

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