A Look Back at 2012: The Year in News


2012 textJanuary 1, 2012
Alexandra Taylor
Assistant Editor
The Nation

US Election

On November 4, the people of the United States re-elected Barack Obama for his second term as the forty-fourth President of the United States. President Obama and Vice President Biden defeated Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan with 332 electoral votes and fifty percent of the popular vote. Republicans retained a majority in Congress, while Democrats held onto the majority in the Senate. The issues that took center stage in this election were the federal deficit and job creation, as well as health care, education, and national security. President Obama’s second Inauguration will be held on January 21, 2013.

This election served as a landmark for certain social issues, including LGBT rights. Same sex marriage became legal in Maryland, Washington, and Maine, while voters in Minnesota struck down a bill that would have banned same-sex marriage. For the first time in United States history, an openly LGBT candidate, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin, was elected to the Senate.

Mass Shootings

On June 20, James Eagan Holmes set off tear gas and shot into the audience of a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, killing twelve and injuring fifty-eight people. On December 14, Adam Lanza opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing twenty children and six adults. These horrific events are two examples of gun violence in America, and have reignited the national debate over the control of firearms. The thoughts and prayers of Americans everywhere go out to the families and friends affected by these incidents.

Superstorm Sandy

On October 29, the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded hit the East Coast, causing severe flooding and devastating areas of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Superstorm Sandy claimed 106 lives in the United States and caused close to $63 billion in damages.

One positive development to come out of the storm was Occupy Sandy, a relief effort sprung from the Occupy Wall Street protest, committed to collecting and distributing supplies and rebuilding damaged areas. Proceeds from “12-12-12: The Concert for Sandy Relief,” featuring artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, and the Rolling Stones, were collected by the Robin Hood Relief Fund.

Affordable Care Act

On June 28, 2012, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, citing Congress’ power to tax as the basis of its constitutionality. As a result of the Afforable Care Act, most Americans will be legally mandated to have healthy insurance by 2014, and insurers are required to offer policies regardless of most pre-existing conditions.

Another result of the Afforable Care Act is the significant changes in women’s health care. Contraception is now available to all women regardless of income, and maternity care will be extended to 8.7 million more women by 2014. The contraception issue proved contentious, forming part of the “War on Women” debate regarding the overlap of politics and health care policy.


On September 11, United States Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three members of his staff were killed in a firefight for control of a diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Members of the assault expressed anger over The Innocence of Muslims, a short, American-made film which portrayed the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual and a pedophile.

Though initially the escalation of violence seemed unclear, the State Department has classified the event as a planned terrorist attack. The breach of security and its aftermath became a hot-button issue for the 2012 election, while Ambassador Susan Rice faced criticism for portraying the attack as a “spontaneous reaction” to the film.

Mars Rover

The NASA rover Curiosity landed in Mars’ Gale Crater on August 6, 2012, after an eleven-month journey through space. NASA’s objectives include studying the planet’s geology and climate and assessing whether the Gale Crater has ever been hospitable to microbial life. The rover has delighted Earthlings with its striking, high-definition photographs of the planet’s surface. Curiosity continues to collect samples from the Red Planet, with a mission timeline the length of one Martian year, or 687 Earth days.

Penn State

In June, former Penn State assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky, stood trial for fifty-two charges of sexual crimes against children. Each of the eight males who testified had met Sandusky through The Second Mile, a nonprofit organization for underprivileged children which Sandusky founded in 1977. Convicted on forty-five counts, Sandusky has been sentenced to at least thirty years in prison.

The Penn State football program was punished after efforts to cover up the scandal came to light. The program was fined $60 million by the NCAA, banned from bowl games for four years, and had 112 wins vacated from 1998 to 2011. The school was also forced to cut ninety scholarships over the course of five years. Joe Paterno, the former head coach of the Nittany Lions fired late in 2011, passed away in January.


The civil war persists in Syria between the Ba’ath Party and its opposition. Rebels have demanded an end to the twelve-year term of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, as well as numerous political reforms, new parliamentary elections, and the expansion of human rights. The Arab League, the United States, and the European Union have denounced the violence, as the death toll approaches 60,000.

On December 13, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, was kidnapped along with his crew by members of the Shabiha government militia, loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The team was released five days later after a conflict between their captors and a group of Syrian rebels.

Summer Olympics

Starting in July, 219 million Americans tuned into the 2012 Summer Olympics, making last year’s games the most-watched event in United States television history. The games, held in London, featured a host of British celebrities at the opening and closing ceremonies, including Queen Elizabeth II, Daniel Craig, JK Rowling, Paul McCartney, The Who, Naomi Campbell, and the Spice Girls.

The games provided a wealth of memorable events: Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian ever; the US women’s gymnastics team took home its second gold medal in history thanks to the “Fierce Five,” with Gabby Douglas becoming the first African-American gymnast to claim the title of individual all-around champion. America came out on top in total medals, with forty-six gold, twenty-nine silver, and twenty-nine bronze, followed by China and Great Britain.

Famous Deaths in 2012: 

Etta James, Whitney Houston, Adrienne Rich, Earl Scruggs, Maurice Sendak, Vidal Sassoon, Carlos Fuentes, Donna Summer, Ray Bradbury, Rodney King, Nora Ephron, Andy Griffith, Sally Ride, Gore Vidal, Phyllis Diller, Neil Armstrong, Sun Myung Moon, Arlen Specter, Norman Schwarzkopf Jr.


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