Associated Press Picks Top U.S. News Stories for 2012

The Associated Press had its top U.S. news editors pick the top news stories for 2012. For more information, check out the Huffington Post article here:

Newtown Shootings Top Story Of 2012: AP Editors Poll

Here’s their list of top 10 news stories which I have put in the following table with the following color scheme:


News story content

1. Mass Shootings 20-year-old Adam Lanza kills 20 children aged 6 or 7 and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
2. US Election Obama wins second term with large lead in electoral and popular votes. Republicans lose Senate, retain House.
3. Superstorm Sandy 800-mile-wide storm hits eastern US, particularly NY and NJ. With $60B + damage, second more destructive storm in US history after Hurricane Katrina.
4. Obamacare Supreme Court upheld law by a narrow 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice Roberts casting the decisive vote.
5. Libya 9/11 assault on Benghazi kills 4 Americans including US Ambassador Chris Stephens. Becomes cause celebre for Republicans seeking to attack President Obama’s administration.
6. Penn State Jerry Sandusky, former assistant of Coach Joe Paterno, convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys and sentenced to 30-60 years in prison.
7. US Economy First the good news: unemployment has gone down to 7.7%, the lowest rate in 4 years. GDP growth is weak (about 2%) but US economy doing better than that of Europe, which is in a recession.
8. Fiscal Cliff Now the bad news: the inability for the Republicans and the White House to come to a deal to reduce the Federal Deficit means that there will be an automatic trigger of dubiously named “the fiscal cliff” as a “shock doctrine” tactic by the media
9. Gay Marriage Three states, Maine, Maryland and Washington, became the first US States to legalize gay marriage by a popular vote. The Supreme Court has two cases up for consideration involving this matter.
10. Syria Protests against the regime of Bashar Assad have escalated into a civil war, and affected international relations since Syria is a client state of Russia which is helping arm itself against the rebel forces and impeding calls from the UN for a negotiated solution to the crisis.

Here are some of my thoughts about the stories, and where they might lead in 2013.

  1. Mass Shootings: top story in 2012 about mass shootings in Newtown was made even more poignant today by the story of the 2 firefighters who were shot and killed with 2 others injured responding to a house fire in Webster, NY. The gunman, William Spengler set the fire on purpose with the idea of luring the firefighters there whom he killed with an assault rifle. This will fuel the move by the President to introduce a ban on assault rifles in the next Congress. Prediction: The Republican-controlled House will not allow any such legislation to pass, and gun control will not go anywhere at the Federal level until 2014.
  2. US Election: The election of Obama over Romney was predictable if you were in the fact-based community (someone like Nate Silver, for example). But a race that was not close did not fit into the “horse-race narrative” that the mainstream media preferred, so the only ones that were surprised were ones that either got their news solely from those media or those political consultants who believed their own political spin. In the end, the ground game made the crucial difference between the two campaigns. GOP soul searching runs in two directions: either a) they need to become less extreme and reach out to minorities, or b) they need to become even MORE conservative. We’ll see which direction they go in 2014.
  3. Superstorm Sandy: the damage caused by the storm surge is literally the wave of the future. Insurance companies are taking note and may become more vocal in the climate change debate in the future.
  4. Obamacare: The vote by Roberts was a surprising, but it means that the controversial measure will survive at least until 2014, when many of its provisions finally kick in. This will not end the debate on the problem of health care costs in this country, but was at least an attempt at a solution.
  5. Libya: The debate about Susan Rice’s candidacy for US Secretary of State is over, since she withdrew her nomination. The “scandal envy” among Republicans trying to attack the Obama Administration will fuel more investigation into the Benghazi incident, but one angle that neither the Congress nor the media is covering is the problems created by the provision of the safety of public officials by private contractors.
  6. Penn State: The tendency for institutions to protect their leadership from the responsibility for their actions, to the point where it works against the interests of those whom the leadership is supposed to protect, is a theme that can apply to many institutions in the United States, and this tragedy is the perfect formulation of this dilemma.  Expect the tragedy to be replicated in the case of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church with the same issue of sexual abuse of minors, but this time by priests rather than a football coach.
  7. US Economy: 2% growth seems pretty anemic, until you look at the alternative in Europe which is in recession. How did it get that way? By adopting austerity measures, the very ones that the US is contemplating adopting here in response to the fiscal cliff negotiations. We have been given a warning by those across the Atlantic, if we had politicians who were wise enough to heed it.
  8. Fiscal Cliff: This is “shock doctrine” framing by the media at its worst. It is almost as hyped as the end of the “Mayan calendar” was, but the inability of the Tea Party to endure ANY compromise regarding tax increases means that come January 2013 we will endure the automatic budget cuts and tax increases that were hard-wired into the political system as the result of the LAST round of debt ceiling negotiations. Forgetting about the politics of it, the actual fiscal cliff results will mean a slowing down of the US economy by 1-1.5% (according to John Mauldin and other financial experts), but not bad enough to send us back into a recession (if we’re lucky).
  9. Gay Marriage: Three states have made it legal, and it seems that this may be a bellwether for the future outside of the South, of course. The US could have gone the route of some European countries and adopted a “civil union” approach which would have obviated the whole issue of the traditional definition of marriage, but for whatever reason activists chose the more direct approach which risked a greater backlash, but which is now bearing fruit.
  10. Syria: The real specter in all of the Middle East regarding the Arab Spring is what is happening in Syria, an all-out civil war. This is the nightmare in the background of all countries in the region, whether they be conservative such as Saudi Arabia or relatively more progressive, such as in Egypt. The real question about the end of the Assad regime in 2013 is not “if”, but “when”, and “after how many more deaths?”

It was a pivotal year for the country as it goes from election mode to governing mode, as the problems of 2013 require some serious attention by political and other leaders alike.


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