Monday, December 31, 2012

Twelve Stories Defining 2012

Twelve Stories Defining 2012
Nick Dobis

The Loaded Issue

This year was not the first year the nation had to cope with gun violence, but 2012 will resonate viscerally with Americans. On February 26th in Sanford, Fla., 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed to have shot Martin in self-defense. The shooting sparked a nationwide debate and a prompt response from the White House, but it was only the beginning. On July 20th, 24-year-old James Holmes opened fire at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado – killing 12 and wounding 58. Five months later, Ryan Lanza would walk on to the grounds of Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Conn. and leave 26 people, 20 of whom were children between the ages six and seven, dead. Proposals for stricter gun laws were pledged to be sent to Congress within the next month, and how our elected representatives deal with the bloodshed of 2012 will be one the biggest stories in 2013. 

A Golden Age Ends, Another Begins

Michael Phelps swam off into the sunset as the most decorated Olympian of all time, deciding to hang up the goggles after winning 22 medals in his remarkable Olympic career, 18 of which were gold. In the London games this summer, Phelps won four gold and two silver medals in what he adamantly claims to be his last Olympics. His six medals in London made him the most accomplished athlete of summer games for the third time in a row. The nation will miss his breathtaking performances in the pool, but the US has plenty to look forward to in Olympiads to come, especially from its golden girls. 

The United States finished first in the medal count with 104, leaving the usually dominant Chinese a distant second at 88. The young Gabriel Douglas not only helped women gymnastics win their first team gold since 1996, but she became the first African-American gymnast to win the individual all-around medal. The women’s soccer team avenged their 2011 World Cup loss to Japan, defeating them 2-1 and claiming their fourth gold medal in their last five Olympics. 

Syria’s Civil War

The fury of the Arab Spring captivated the world in 2011, as a small protest in Tunisia led to the overthrow of their long-standing ruler, along with those in Lybia, Egypt, and Yemen. But Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad was not willing to be toppled as easily as his Middle Eastern counterparts. Although protests began in Damascus in 2011, Assad increased bombardment of rebel strongholds after Russia and China blocked a UN Security Council draft resolution to remove Assad from power in February. Despite efforts from UN Envoy Kofi Annan and his monitoring missions in the following months, the world watched as the violence in the country perpetually intensified. Statistics vary but it is estimated the civil war has left nearly 40,000 dead and 400,000 refugees in neighboring countries without a clear end in sight as the calendar turns over to 2013. 

President Obama Reelected

After contentious campaigns between opposing ideologies, President Obama was reelected on November 6, beating Governor Mitt Romney 332-206 in Electoral College votes. Despite the perceived mandate, the election in reality was in fact much closer, with Obama out-edging Romney by 2.8% in the popular vote. The numbers reflect a nation still deeply divided in its vision of its future. The victory gave Obama four more years to lead a nation recovering from one of the greatest economic disasters it as ever endured. Those efforts continue to this very day as he and Congress race the clock to steer the nation away from the “fiscal cliff.” 

King James’ Revival

Two seasons after the debacle of “the decision,” and a season after letting another title slip through his fingers, Lebron James silenced his critics by posting arguably his best overall season, leading the high-powered Miami Heat to an NBA Championship in June. In the regular season, James led the Heat in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, earning him the regular season MVP. In the 2012 Playoffs, James averaged 30.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 5.6 assists a game. James was awarded the NBA Finals MVP after the Heat, who dropped game one to a young and talented Oklahoma City Thunder squad, won four straight to claim the title. 

After vindicating his move to Miami, James wasn’t finished winning accolades for the year. Under the direction of coach Mike Krzyzewski, James and the US team won gold in London in a largely dominating fashion, prompting Sports Illustrated to dub him their Sportsman of the Year. James has electrified audiences worldwide since his entry into the NBA at age 18, but 2012 will mark the year James set himself apart as the world’s best basketball player. 

One Small Step for Equality…

On May 9, President Obama stated his support of same sex marriage in an interview with ABC News, becoming the first active US President to do so. In response to his support, Maryland, Maine, and Washington joined Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont as states to legalize same sex marriages on November 6. The ratification re-invigorated the efforts of LGBT groups in their decades long struggle for equality. Although 30 states currently have banned same sex marriage, the US Supreme Court has agreed to review proposition 8, which was passed by California voters in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled gay and lesbian couples could marry. The high court’s ruling will likely not be made for several months, but their decision will unquestionably be a monumental story in 2013. 

…One Giant Leap for Mankind

Fifty-five years to the month after the Russian’s launched Sputnik into space, the world was once again mesmerized by a wonder in the October sky. On October 14th, 43-year-old Felix Baumgartner of Austria started his leap 24 miles above the earth’s surface from a helium balloon, and completed it in just over eight minutes in the New Mexico desert. Not only did Baumgartner set the record for the highest human free fall, but at one point shattered the sound barrier by reaching 833.9 miles per hour, becoming the only human to do so without aircraft assistance. The leap didn’t bring about world peace or end global hunger, but the leap captivated the imaginations of millions and once again pushed the boundaries of the impossible. 

The Sandusky Trial

June 11, 2012 marked the beginning of the trial against former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, who was charged with 48 counts of sexual abuse against children as a coach under the once highly revered Joe Paterno. Over the next 11 days, 10 victims stepped forward to give tear-filled testimonies of their sexual encounters with Sandusky. After closing statements were made, the jury needed only one day to reach its verdict, which was delivered on June 22nd. Sandusky was found guilty in 45 of his 48 abuse charges. He was later sentenced in October to 30-60 years of prison, essentially putting the 68-year-old behind bars for the rest of his life. The sentencing marked the end of a painful chapter for the victims, who must cope with the memory of their abuse for the rest of their lives. But the repercussions for Penn State University had only begun. On July 23th, the NCAA fined the university $60 million, reduced the number of their scholarships, banned the football program from bowl games for the next four seasons, and wiped clean 111 of Paterno’s victories for it’s involvement in concealing Sandusky’s actions. 


By the time Hurricane Sandy finished its onslaught, the storm left 140 (60 in the Caribbean) dead and over $30 billion in property damage. The storm itself registered impressive numbers across the East Coast. According to, Sandy registered 94 mile per hour winds in Eaton’s Neck, NY, 33” of Snow in Clayton, WV, nearly 15” of rain at Andrew’s Air Force Base, and 30-foot waves in New York harbor. By the time Sandy made landfall south of Atlantic City, the storm’s diameter was an estimated 820 miles. The verdict isn’t conclusive if climate change directly made Sandy’s destruction more ferocious, but many scientists speculated the rise in sea level and temperature surfaces could have played a factor in Sandy’s unusual 90 degree turn back to the US mainland. 

Supreme Court Upholds Healthcare Reform 

On June 28th, the nation’s highest court narrowly ruled in favor of upholding the highly contentious Affordable Care Act of 2010. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the law’s requirement of most Americans to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty is authorized under Congress’s power to levy taxes. Despite the ruling, the court did retain the law’s ability to expand Medicaid coverage, claiming it exceeded its constitutional boundaries by unfairly coaxing states to participate in its expansion with the threat of losing current federal funding. Opponents of the act vowed to appeal the high courts decision, but the ruling was a major victory for President Obama and greatly aided his reelection efforts later in the fall. 

Financial Crisis Shakes Europe 

As the nation continued its struggle to breathe life back into its economy, the financial crisis grabbed hold of Europe. After months of debate, the European Union agreed to a $132 billion bailout of Greece, reducing their debt by 75% in order to stabilize the Euro. But it was later proved Greece wasn’t the only country facing economic calamity. On June 9th, the Spanish government requested almost $125 billion to help stabilize their banks and lower an unemployment rate nearing 25%. These profound bailouts proved to the world how intricate, yet fragile, a global financial system can be, and perhaps it will need a global effort to recover from a fiscal crisis originating on American shores in 2008. 

Newsweek Prints Their Last Words 

After 79 years of filling pages with definitive headlines and images throughout the decades, the national news giant Newsweek announced its December 2012 issue will be its last ever print edition. In the final print issue, Newsweek’s Editor Tina Brown ensured the magazine’s commitment to journalistic excellence despite its change in medium. Brown wrote in her column: “We are ahead of the curve. A magazine that will soon turn 80 will now be, when all the changes are unveiled in February, a vigorous young publication all over again, taking its readers to territory that is new and uncharted.” 

The emergence of the internet as a daily presence in our lives has forced newspapers and magazines to change, arguably for the better and for the worse. But with progress comes unintended consequences. When humans began writing words, oral tradition faded into history. Radio forced the written word to change, and television applied the same agent of change to radio. In light of this news, Empirical magazine faces the same challenge with both anxiety and excitement. We will remain steadfast in our dedication to bringing readers thought-provoking points of view and new paradigms, no matter the medium. 

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