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2019 in news: The alternative end-of-the-year awards

Congratulations, you've made it through another year of news.

We know it wasn't always easy, so here's a reward: our round-up of the moments that put a little smile on our faces in 2019. Many of them, inevitably, involve animals.

Animal rescue of the year

Winner

Image copyright Berufstierrettung Rhein Neckar

Spare a thought for the poor fat rat of Bensheim, which became stuck in a German manhole in February. She was eventually freed, but not before passers-by took embarrassing photos of her plight. "She had a lot of winter flab," one rescuer said, compounding the humiliation.

Runner-up (1)

Image copyright ViralPress

Oil rig workers 220km (135 miles) off Thailand's coast got a shock in April when they spotted a brown dog paddling in the sea, possibly after falling from a trawler.

They plucked him to safety and named him Boonrod, a Thai word that roughly translates as "the saved one" or "survivor".

Runner-up (2)

In this case, the animals were the rescuers rather than the rescued (sort of).

Anticipating the threat of wildfires later in the year, staff at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California hired a hungry herd of 500 goats to eat flammable scrub around the building in May.

And so, when fires did strike in October, the library was saved because of the fire break the goats had created by eating the flammable scrub. Nice one, goats.

The 'picture says it all' prize

Winner

Back in August, millions of you read about the adventures of five-year-old Lucie, whose before-and-after photos from her first day back in school were picked up by a newspaper in her native Scotland, then shared around the world.

When her mum saw her return home, she asked what Lucie had been up to. "Nothing much," came the reply.

Runner-up

Image copyright Edi Okoro

Edi Okoro, who took secret photographs of his girlfriend with an engagement ring for a month without her noticing. She eventually said "yes".

Sporting feat of the year

Winner

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Media captionSarah Thomas was repeatedly stung by jellyfish during her swim

Just a year after being treated for breast cancer, Sarah Thomas became the first person to swim the English Channel four times non-stop. She did so over 54 hours, after which she said: "I'm pretty tired right now."

Runner-up

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Media captionNot featured: The pigs Jasmin Paris hallucinated

It was a close-run thing, pun intended. But all credit goes to Jasmin Paris, who broke the record for a 268-mile race by more than 12 hours. While stopping regularly to express breast milk. And hallucinating. On only three hours' sleep. In the middle of writing her PhD thesis.

The weirdest headlines from Wales

The most creative response

Winner

Image copyright Josh Thompson

Copywriter Josh Thompson could see the writing on the wall at work when he was called in for a meeting: he was facing redundancy. His managers encouraged him to bring a "support person" to help cushion the blow, an option that is legally required in New Zealand.

But rather than bring a family member, a friend or even a pet, he splashed out NZ$200 (£100) on a clown called "Joe", who sat making animal balloons during the meeting. The screeching sound proved to be somewhat of a distraction.

"Boy, oh, boy, are they noisy," Josh said.

Runner-up

Top marks to Eimi Haga, a Japanese student of ninja history who handed in a blank paper. Her professor realised the essay was written in invisible ink, following the ninja technique of "aburidashi", which involves spending hours soaking and crushing soybeans to make ink.

The uplifting stories of the year (tie)

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Jordan Kinyera, the Ugandan man who was only six when his father lost his land in a legal dispute. After Jordan trained as a lawyer and took on the case, the family won back the land this year - 23 years later.

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Media captionHan Young-hee has been delivering yoghurt and helping the elderly for 16 years

The South Korean women who deliver yoghurt from motorised fridges, and keep an eye out for the country's most isolated people.

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South African Uber driver Menzi Mngoma loves singing arias to his passengers - and after he featured in a video that went viral this year, he auditioned for the Cape Town Opera and was invited to perform around the country.

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Media captionThe singing Uber driver is now set for the opera stage

The 'hiding in plain sight' prize

Winner

When archaeologists began an investigation into a stone circle found in rural Aberdeenshire, they thought they had stumbled across a site that was thousands of years old.

So it came as a disappointment when they learned it was, in fact, only about 20 years old, and put there by a farmer.

Runner-up

When South African comedian Trevor Noah presented the Best Picture nomination for Black Panther at the Oscars in February, he quoted a saying in the Xhosa language.

"Abelungu abazi ubu ndiyaxoka," he said, "which means: 'In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.'"

But that's not what that phrase actually means. Its true translation is: "White people don't know that I'm lying," and no-one in the audience picked up on the joke.

The most adventurous animals of 2019

Winners

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Media captionRats drive little plastic cars around a lab in the US

Raise a very small glass for the rats that feel less stressed when they drive tiny cars.

Runner-up (1)

The Russian eagles fitted with SMS transmitters who migrated a bit further than expected and ran up huge data roaming charges.

Runner-up (2)

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Float on, little water bear

What greater adventure than a trip to the Moon? It emerged this year that thousands of Earth's most indestructible animals - tardigrades, or "water bears" - were on board an Israeli spacecraft which crash-landed on the Moon.

Tardigrades are tiny creatures with eight legs and are presumably furious at having been dumped so far from home.

The Biggles Prize for amazing aviation action

Winner

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Media captionFootage from inside the plane showed it striking birds after take-off

Shortly after take-off from Moscow's Zhukovsky airport in August, an Airbus jet with 233 people on board struck a flock of gulls, causing both engines to fail.

With the jet full of fuel, the pilots managed to crash-land in a corn field in a belly-flop without lowering the wheels, to avoid debris flying off and rupturing fuel tanks.

This is how they pulled it off, and why it was called a miracle landing.

Runner-up

This gutsy helicopter pilot who rescued an injured skier from a steep slope in the Alps in January.

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Media captionFrench Alps skiers rescued in dramatic helicopter manoeuvre

Scientific advancement of the year

Winner

There could be only one: the first ever photo of a black hole. Behold, the blazing space doughnut:

Image copyright EHT

What's even more impressive is that the black hole is 500 million trillion kilometres away, and about three million times the size of our planet. Here's how the photo was taken.

Runner-up

This was a seriously close contest, but the discovery that men's left testicles are slightly warmer than their right is just edged out of first place by the black hole photo.

This research involved getting French postmen to stand naked for 90 minutes, because sure, why not?

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