1. Obama Wins Re-election
President Barack Obama won re-election on Nov. 6 by 51 percent—becoming the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to hit that benchmark twice. Republican challenger Gov. Mitt Romney had 47 percent, the same number he used to describe the portion of the country that he doesn’t “worry about,” as he told wealthy donors at a secretly recorded Florida fundraiser in May that Mother Jones magazine later released. Despite the Supreme Court upholding “Obamacare” in July—handing the GOP a hot-button election-year issue—Obama ended up with 332 electoral votes to Romney’s 206, and beat the former Massachusetts governor by more than 4.6 million voters.
2. Global Financial Instability
From the still-unfolding saga surrounding the sluggish U.S. economy’s fast-approaching fiscal cliff—which would initiate sweeping tax increases and spending cuts, with global ramifications—to the ongoing European debt crisis, 2012 saw the world economy teeter on the brink of a new global financial meltdown. Austerity measures in Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain, among other countries, sent millions into the streets in protest, fueling violent clashes with police and political upheaval in several nations. More than 25 million are now jobless throughout the European Union as the crisis threatens its very existence and economists warn that Europe and the United States could be dragged into an even deeper recession.
Confusion was the operative word when State Department personnel at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, came under fire on Sept. 11 of this year by an armed group later linked to al-Qaida. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed. The next day President Obama called it an act of terror. But Susan Rice, our UN ambassador, said the attack may have begun as a “spontaneous” reaction to events at our embassy in Cairo, where protesters had stormed the gates blaming the U.S. for allowing YouTube to broadcast an anti-Islam film. She was misinformed.
4. “God Particle” Discovered
Although the elusive particle itself proved to be amazingly small, the news was big indeed for the world of physics when scientists working at the “Big-Bang” atom-smasher otherwise known as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland said convincingly on July 4 they had finally discovered a Higgs boson particle, theoretically the essential building block of the universe. It was named for Prof. Peter Higgs, a now-retired British physicist at Edinburgh University, who in 1964 first conceived of this infinitesimal thing that can give matter mass and hold the fabric of everything together.
Movie theaters and Sikh temples were added to the list of places where Americans can’t go without fear of a psychotic gunman trying to kill everyone this year. The deadliest came when a nutbag killed a dozen and wounded 58 at a theater in Aurora, Colo. on July 20, the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, 25, used tear gas, dressed in tactical gear, dyed his hair orange and called himself “The Joker” for the occasion. Less than a month later, psycho white supremacist Wade Michael Page gunned down six and wounded four inside a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on Aug. 5, before taking his own life.
6. Syrian Civil War
Last year’s Arab Spring broke down in Syria into a civil war claiming 40,000 lives since March 2011, as President Bashar al-Assad continues his brutal military campaign against civilian targets while trying to reverse rebel advances. LI native Marie Colvin, a veteran war correspondent for The Sunday Times of London, was among those killed. America has blamed Russia and China for vetoing UN resolutions to sanction Syria out of fear of outside military intervention. It’s a convenient excuse for a nation that just pulled out of Iraq, aims to end its longest war in Afghanistan in 2014 and recently suffered blowback for its involvement in Libya.
7. Penn State Pedophilia Scandal
The least shocking aspect of this horrific national lesson in ferreting out predatory pedophilic rapists was the fact that Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach at storied Penn State, was convicted and sentenced to up to 60 years in prison. Investigators have since turned their attention to how the once-proud university allegedly turned a blind eye to years of abuse allegations. Sandusky’s boss, college football coaching legend Joe Paterno, was among those fired before he died. The NCAA also stripped the school of 112 wins over the past decade and fined it $60 million. And there’s still more to come.
Racial tensions flared nationwide following the Feb. 26 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, by Hispanic neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman, citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws, claimed self defense but was later charged with second-degree murder. Martin sympathizers formed million-hoodie marches to protest the oft-overreaction of suspicion toward people with brown skin—especially those wearing hooded sweatshirts, as Martin was when he was slain. The case also underscored the reality that despite electing the nation’s first black president, America has yet to evolve into a post-racial promised land.
9. Petraeus Sex Scandal
Retired Gen. David Petraeus resigned in November as CIA director after the FBI began investigating emails sent between the women in his life who weren’t his wife. He was having an extramarital affair with his married biographer, Paula Broadwell, whose book about the man of action was called, All In. The G-men got involved when they were on the trail of anonymous emails she’d sent to Tampa socialite Jill Kelley warning her not to mess with “her” man. The secret was out and Petraeus quit in disgrace although he didn’t breach national security. In France, he would’ve stayed on.
10. Giants Win Super Bowl
Twice in five years the New York Giants, who play in New Jersey, won the Super Bowl by beating the New England Patriots. The final score was 21-17, when Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw fell on his backside beyond the goal line with the winning touchdown. With his team trailing by two points, Giants QB Eli Manning sparked the victory drive by completing another miraculous Super Bowl pass, this time to Mario Manningham along the sideline for a 38-yard gain. For the game’s last minute, the defense held Patriots’ QB Tom Brady in check, cementing Coach Tom Coughlin’s and Manning’s legacy.