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Diana, Mother Teresa and McVeigh conviction top stories of 1997By Michelle Boorstein, Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) - The No. 1 story of 1997 was a car crash in a tunnel under Paris. Just three people died.
Ordinary - except that victims were Princess Diana, her boyfriend and their driver. The boundless fascination and grief unleashed by this singular tragedy made it the biggest story of the year, according to The Associated Press' annual poll of American newspaper editors and broadcast executives.
Other deaths figured in the top 10 stories, too: the conviction and death sentence of Timothy McVeigh, held responsible for 168 obliterated in Oklahoma City; the passing of Mother Teresa, who loved and served the poor; the eerie suicides of 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult.
There also was room for life, albeit life aided by science. Thanks to fertility drugs and faith, a family in Iowa expanded exponentially, from three to 10. And a wee lamb named Dolly was born in Scotland, a ewe's clone.
There was more: A spacecraft rambling around Mars. The fundraising problems of the Democrats. And the two-step on Wall Street - a frenzied down-and-up - amid stumbling markets in Asia.
Satellite dishes carried the news to the world's edges. When Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died, mourners from New Mexico to New Zealand could grieve together, on the Web.
Technology is ''really changing the way we view boundaries,'' proclaimed Diana Owen, professor of government at Georgetown University. ''We've become more of a global village.''
Here, according to the AP poll, are the village's top 10 stories of 1997:
1. DIANA: British reserve cracked this summer. Commoner and royalty together mourned the death of the ''people's princess.'' Makeshift shrines appeared around the world, and a million bouquets bloomed in London, near the church where her body rested. Eyes teared for days - via radio, television, even the Internet.
At first, mourners raged at photographers who chased Diana and Dodi Fayed at high speeds, and legislators even talked of banning the ''stalkarazzi.'' But tests blunted that anger, exposing the driver as legally drunk.
2. DEATH FOR DEATHS. In June, a jury delivered the verdict - ''guilty!''- on the most deadly act of terrorism on U.S. soil: the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. At trial in Denver, its victims told of nightmares - loved ones dying amid rubble - and of waking horrors that never end.
Upon conviction, McVeigh offered scant explanation. When he was sentenced to death in August, he would only quote Justice Louis Brandeis: ''Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.''
3. MOTHER TERESA: Calcutta wept with the world this fall. Mother Teresa, the revered Roman Catholic nun who ministered to India's ''poorest of the poor,'' died of a heart attack at 87. After her last words ''Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you,'' many of her followers walked the muddy streets - waiting, waiting, waiting to pay homage.
Over her lifetime, she launched a charity, from one clinic in Calcutta to more than 500 missions in 100 countries. And she touched that world: the hungry in Ethiopia, the radiation victims at Chernobyl, the survivors of Armenia's quake, the blacks of South Africa's squalid townships. To accept the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, she wore a $1 sari, familiar white edged in blue.
4. THE BULLS ROMP. Wall Street shook off a record one-day plunge of 554 points, traced to tumbling markets in Asia. Then, stock prices climbed again, thrilling investors. After it all, the Dow rose 20 percent for the third straight year.
5. SEND IN THE CLONES: In February, Scottish researchers announced that, for the first time, they had cloned an adult mammal. Some scientists celebrated a sheep named Dolly, seeing the key to improved livestock; others demurred, urging the end to research on cloning humans.
One of Dolly's creators told Congress that cloning is ''ethically unacceptable'' for humans, but Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, countered: ''It will take place within my lifetime...It holds untold benefits for humankind in the future.''
6. LUCKY SEVEN. One day Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey were an average Midwestern couple with one child. The next, they were the world's most famous family, parents of the world's only surviving septuplets.
Television offered hourly updates: Kenneth breathing on his own. Joel Steven in critical condition. Kelsey feeding by mouth. Everyone wanted to share, and everyone wanted to debate: Was it fertility drugs or God's will?
Experts insisted that the couple should have aborted some fetuses to improve the health of others. Despite such carping, President Clinton called and gifts poured in: groceries, appliances, a deluge of diapers, and a van that seats 15.
Then the McCaugheys longed to be average. ''This is my family. That's what I want it to be, and it's just going to be us,'' said the father. ''And we're not on for display.''
7. SMOKED OUT. After decades of denying smoking-related health problems, tobacco industry leaders were ready to make a deal. Tobacco companies would pay $368 billion if states would drop lawsuits. Amid complex negotiations, Congress closed its session without legislation.
Meanwhile, tobacco farmers wanted help. Americans, in polls, doubted that any settlement could reduce teen smoking. And documents showed that cigarette makers paid off sympathetic researchers.
8. MARS ROCKS: This summer, a pint-sized Sojourner toured Mars, poking at rocks named ''Scooby Doo'' and ''Souffle'' and transmitting data to its mother ship, Pathfinder.
Millions visited NASA's Web site as Pathfinder beamed images of a desert landscape back to Earth. The mechanical explorers found signs of ancient flooding and examined rocks similar to those from Peru's mountains and the Pacific Northwest.
After landing on July 4, Pathfinder shipped back data late into September - more than a month longer than scientists predicted. In October, it uttered its last peep, likely hobbled by a dead battery and freezing temperatures.
9. FUNDING FOLLIES. Fundraising scandals dogged the Democrats all year long. Early on, it was revealed that the party received illegal donations from Asian donors, and party leaders hastily returned more than $1 million.
Then sleepovers in the Lincoln Bedroom, coffee klatches at the White House, Al Gore making fundraising calls from the White House, even one donor buried - wrongly - at Arlington National Cemetery as a hero.
10. DEATH BY COMET: In March, 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult had a simple plan: They would shed their earthly ''containers'' and board a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp comet.
En route, members had abandoned family. Some embraced castration. They wore black, wore their hair in bowl cuts, refused alcohol. Besides praying and preparing, they designed Web pages.
When the time was right, they drank a mix of vodka, sedatives and pudding. Found in a rented, hilltop mansion outside San Diego, they were neatly dressed in new, black Nikes and covered with purple shrouds.
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