From a devastating hurricane to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, tragedies dominated the the top 20 news stories of 2012.
While such haunting events grabbed national attention, the victories of President Obama and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps were also among the major news headlines.
To mark the end of 2012, MailOnline has compiled the top 20 list of the most popular news stories according to the number of times our readers visited our website.
Disaster: Boats are seen in a yard, where they washed onto shore during Hurricane Sandy, near Monmouth Beach, New Jersey after the storm lashed the East Coast
1) After the storm: True scale of Sandy's devastation across Eastern Seaboard emerges as death toll hits FIFTY and damage set to top $50BILLION
Devastation was given a name when Superstorm Sandy pummeled the Eastern Seaboard in late October.
New York and New Jersey were left especially battered by Sandy when the strong winds, heavy rain and an overwhelming storm surge struck the region.
At least 125 people were killed in the U.S. as a result of the storm, and a total of $62billion in damage was reported.
'Gigantic': Author and investor Douglas Kass (left) claimed that Donald Trump (right) had 'unearthed divorce papers' between the President and his wife
2) Donald Trump to reveal 'Michelle and Barack Obama's divorce papers', claims respected financial pundit
A possible 'October surprise' from real estate mogul and Apprentice host Donald Trump, promised to change the face of the presidential election.
Speculation grew that the tycoon may have unearthed divorce documents between President Obama and the first lady that would show that their relationship was anything but wedded bliss.
Douglas Kass, a Florida-based investor who appears on CNBC’s talkshow 'Squawkbox' where Trump is often a commentator, tweeted to his 48,000 followers: 'High above the Alps my Gnome has heard that Donald Trump will announce that he has unearthed divorce papers between the Prez and his wife.'
In the end, Trump's 'big reveal' was a challenge to President Obama to release his college records and passport applications.
In return, Trump pledged to donate $5million to the charity of Obama’s choice. The commander-in-chief did not oblige.
Brave face: The Duchess of Cambridge smiled her way through a tea party at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur after news that a French magazine published topless photos of her
3) Tea and sympathy for Kate as she puts on a brave smile but grim-faced William shows his anger after topless photo outrage
Coming in at No. 3 on the list was the brave face of Kate Middleton as topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge appeared in a French magazine.
In a show of unbelievable strength, the Duchess of Cambridge managed to smile and laugh her way through a Diamond Jubilee tea party at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur on September 14.
Prince William, on the other hand, was grim-faced as it was announced that the royal family would be pursuing legal action against the magazine, Closer.
Mother: Out of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, came a disturbing picture of Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza and his first victim, his mother Nancy, pictured
Murderer: Adam Lanza shot dead his mother and then went on a gun rampage at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut leaving 26 dead
4) 'She would get very upset that he wouldn’t let her hug him:' Dysfunctional relationship of Sandy Hook gunman and his mother
Out of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, came a disturbing picture of Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza and his first victim, his mother Nancy.
In the days following the massacre, it was revealed that Nancy Lanza was upset because her son - who had Asperger's - would refuse to hug her.
The December 14 shooting massacre gave new meaning to the phrase 'parents' worst nightmare' when Lanza forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed 26 people - 20 of them children - before turning his AR-15 assault rifle on himself.
Win: Obama, pictured with First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia after his Election Night victory, called for unity and set out an optimistic vision of America's future in a rousing acceptance speech
5) After Obama routs Romney in Electoral College AND popular votes to win four more years as President here comes the real challenge
President Barack Obama's decisive election victory over Republican rival Mitt Romney did not go unnoticed among MailOnline's most popular stories.
President Barack Obama's decisive election victory over Republican rival Mitt Romney did not go unnoticed among MailOnline's most popular stories.
Obama called for unity and set out an optimistic vision of America's future in a rousing acceptance speech after he defeated Romney to win another four years as president.
He promised 'the best is yet to come' and said the fierce battle with Romney had made him a better president, vowing: 'I will return to the White House more determined and inspired than ever.'
In a speech that saw a return to the soaring rhetoric he has become known for since his election in 2008, Obama said he had ‘listened and learned’ from the American people during his campaign.
He paid tribute to his opponent and hopes they can 'work together in the coming weeks'. This bipartisanship had been echoed by Romney moments earlier during his concession speech.
Blasted: Navy SEALs slammed Obama for taking the credit for killing Osama bin Laden and accused him of using Special Forces operators as 'ammunition' for his re-election bid
6) SEALs slam Obama for using them as 'ammunition' in bid to take credit for bin Laden killing during election campaign
This election season, things weren't always so smooth for the president, who was called out by serving and former Navy SEALs, who slammed Obama for taking the credit for killing Osama bin Laden and accused him of using Special Forces operators as 'ammunition' for his re-election campaign.
The SEALs spoke out to MailOnline after the Obama campaign released an ad entitled ‘One Chance.'
In it President Bill Clinton is featured saying that Obama took 'the harder and the more honourable path' in ordering that bin Laden be killed. The words ‘Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?’ are then displayed.
The White House then marked the the first anniversary of the SEAL Team Six raid that killed the terror leader inside his Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound with a series of briefings and an NBC interview in the Situation Room designed to highlight the 'gutsy call' made by the president.
Revealing: A list of keywords used by government analysts to scour the internet for evidence of threats to the U.S. was released under the Freedom of Information Act
7) Revealed: Hundreds of words to avoid using online if you don't want the government spying on you (and they include 'pork', 'cloud' and 'Mexico')
The Department of Homeland Security was forced in May to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.
The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda,' 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork,' 'cloud,' 'team' and 'Mexico.'
Released under a freedom of information request, the information shedded new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats.
Paws for thought: Cat Orville was turned into a helicopter by his artist owner Bart Jansen, pictured right,after he was run over by a car
8) Cats away! Artist turns his dead pet into flying helicopter after it is killed by a car
Many animal lovers find it hard to part with their pets when they die.
So when cat Orville, named after the famous aviator Orville Wright, was run over by a car, his artist owner Bart Jansen decided to turn him into a permanent piece of artwork as the ultimate tribute by transforming him into a flying helicopter.
The Dutch artist first stuffed Orville before teaming up with radio control helicopter flyer Arjen Beltman to build a specially-designed flying mechanism to attach to the cat.
Sweet Success: Michael Phelps of the U.S. smiles after winning the men's 4x200m freestyle relay final during the London 2012 Olympic Games
9) Michael Phelps IS the greatest Olympian ever: The Baltimore Bullet silences his doubters by winning 19th medal with gold in men's relay
Heroes were born on the world stage as the world's top athletes converged on London for the Summer Olympics.
In just 200 meters, Michael Phelps became the greatest Olympian of all time as he claimed his first gold medal of the 2012 Games in late July with the powerful stroke of his outstretched arm, grasping a glory unknown to any other competitor in the world.
The swimmer secured his 19th medal with victory in the men's 4x200mn relay, smashing the 48-year record of Russian gymnast Larissa Latyina and earning himself a place in history.
Days later, Phelps displayed his characteristic power in the butterfly leg of the 4X100 medley relay to close down the leading Japanese team and claim a record 18th gold medal.
He has 22 medals in total.
Scares: Fears were growing for Whitney Houston's 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina after she was rushed to the hospital twice in the 24 hours following the discovery of her mother¿s dead body
10) Shocking moment Whitney Houston's daughter was rushed to hospital after star's death as family 'fear she is suicidal'
Fears were growing that Whitney Houston’s 18-year-old daughter Bobbi Kristina may be feeling suicidal - after she was rushed to hospital twice in the 24 hours following the discovery of her mother’s dead body in the bathtub of a Hollywood hotel in February.
The teenager was first admitted when she allegedly passing out after drinking alcohol and then taking a sedative pill given to her by one of her mother's entourage to calm her down upon learning of the devastating news.
She was then pictured being taken out of the Beverly Hilton - the same hotel where her mother had died just hours earlier- on a stretcher and being rushed to Cedars-Sinai where she was treated for extreme anxiety.
She was released several hours later, but the health scare drew fears over Bobbi Kristina's mental state.
Invasive: Female trooper Kelley Helleson, left, aggressively searched the women
11) Female US cop caught on tape giving two women body cavity search during routine traffic stop... and 'using the SAME gloves on both'
Two Texas women sued after state troopers subjected them to a humiliating and invasive 'roadside body cavity search' that was caught on video.
Female trooper Kellie Helleson is seen in the footage aggressively searching the private parts of Angel Dobbs, 38, and her niece, Ashley Dobbs, 24, in front of passing cars.
The women, who claim the trooper used the same rubber glove for both of them, were initially stopped by Helleson's colleague David Farrell on State Highway 161 near Irving after he saw one of them throw a cigarette butt out the window.
Farrell can be heard in the disturbing video questioning the pair about marijuana though he failed to find any evidence of the drug in the vehicle.
Mimicking: Danish tennis player Caroline Wozniacki impersonates Serena Williams by carrying towels under her clothes simulating bigger breasts and bottom, during an exhibition match against Maria Sharapova
13) Egypt's 'plans for farewell intercourse law so husbands can have sex with DEAD wives' branded completely false
Alleged proposals to allow Egyptian husbands to legally have sex with their dead wives for up to six hours after their death were branded a 'complete nonsense' after a firestorm in April.
The controversial new 'farewell intercourse' law was claimed, in Arab media, to be part of a raft of measures being introduced by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
They reported it would also see the minimum age of marriage lowered to 14 and the ridding of women's rights of getting education and employment.
But sources inside the Egyptian Embassy in London have said the claims were 'completely false', 'forbidden in Islam' and 'could never imagine it happening'.
Not optimal: President Barack Obama, pictured left, discussed the killing of four men in Benghazi while speaking to Jon Stewart, right, on The Daily Show
14) 'If four Americans get killed, it's not OPTIMAL': Obama's extraordinary response to Comedy Central question about shifting story after Benghazi attack
President Obama, during an interview shown on Comedy Central, responded to his administration's confused communication after the Benghazi attack in September, saying: 'If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.'
Obama was speaking to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show for a program that was broadcast last night.
Stewart, a liberal whose young audience is full of potential voters prized by the Obama campaign, asked the president about his handling of the aftermath of the Benghazi attack.
But Obama's response sparked outrage among Republican commentators including the website Breitbart and prompted a vicious backlash from the Twitter community.
Jailed: Tessa Vanvlerah who admitted allowing her five-month-old daughter to be raped by a man she met online, was given two consecutive life sentences
Record breaker: Ye Shiwen knocked five seconds off her personal best and broke the world record by more than a second as she stormed to gold in the 400m individual medley in the London Olympics
16) Ryan Lochte may be speedy... but this 16-year-old Chinese girl is even quicker! Bizarre scenes as swimming prodigy smashes world record and even beats U.S. champ's time over last 50 metres
Ye Shiwen, 16, posted such a good time in the 400m individual medley in the Summer Olympics that her final 50m was in fact faster than male swimmer Ryan Lochte's performance in the men's event, at just 28.93 seconds.
Her achievement was so unprecedented that it even led some broadcasters to question whether Ye had benefited from underhand practices.
Ye's total time was 4:28.43, a world record which was three seconds ahead of her closest rival and five seconds quicker than her own personal best.
Condolences: Flowers and personal messages (right) are pictured outside the King Edward VII Hospital apartments where Jacintha Saldanha (left) was found dead earlier this month
17) Kate hoax nurse was found 'hanged' in her flat and note to her family was discovered
The nurse who apparently took her own life following the royal hoax call scandal was found hanged in her staff housing, it was revealed earlier this month.
Mother-of-two Jacintha Saldanha, 46, had not told her husband or children that she was involved in the incident, meaning the letter may provide their only clue to what prompted the respected nurse to take such a drastic and tragic step.
Saldanha was the first unwitting member of staff at the King Edward VII Hospital in London, where the Duchess of Cambridge was being treated for acute morning sickness, to take the call made by two Australian DJs pretending to be the Queen and Prince Charles.
Exposed: A McDonald's worker revealed what it is really like to work at the fast-food chain after claiming that some staff deal marijuana from the parking lot
18) Marijuana deals, the pain of Happy Meals and how to get a free Big Mac: McDonald's worker reveals secrets of fast-food giant (and warns against ordering grilled chicken)
Staff jokingly call their company 'The Party' after the totalitarian political group in George Orwell’s 1984.
Newsweek released their cover early, likely hoping to drum up attention for their next issue and their same-sex marriage coverage
19) 'First Gay President': Newsweek marks Obama's landmark announcement with controversial cover
In a gutsy move, Newsweek released the cover of a May issue, in which President Obama is depicted with a rainbow halo and the title of 'The First Gay President' after Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage.
Tina Brown, who edits the magazine and its sister website The Daily Beast, is known for her love of controversial covers to help boost public interest and sales.
But Brown's efforts would ultimately prove to be all for naught, as Newsweek published its last print issue earlier this month.
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