Headlines of 2012 mixed with sorrows, joy and uncertainties

The LA County Coroner reported Thursday that Whitney Houston died of an accidental drowning due to an underlying heart condition. The coroner also said cocaine was found in Houston's system which may have contributed to her death.

By Ayesha K. Mustafaa

Interim Managing Editor

Whitney Houston

Near top of the year, pulling at the heart strings of most Americans was news of the sudden death of pop icon Whitney Houston Feb. 11. She left behind daughter Bobbi Kristina. The star was found face down in a water-filled bathtub with drug paraphernalia nearby. The coroner’s initial report stated that she died of accidental drowning.

Forensic toxicologist Bruce Goldberger said the details about her blood from the toxicology report indicated she was “acutely intoxicated from cocaine” at the time of her death and was a “repeated cocaine user.” Traces of prescription medications were in her system, and blood tests indicated that she smoked marijuana within two weeks before her death.

According to the Associated Press poll, the horrific massacres of 2012 remained at the top of the list for 2012 headlines – including the deadly shooting by gunman white supremacist Wade Michael Page in the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wis., Aug. 5, where he killed 6 and wounded four. Page killed himself after being wounded by a local police officer.

Mass slaughter with an assault weapon in the Aurora, Colo., Century movie theatre during the midnight showing of the “The Dark Knight Rising,” occurred July 20. The gunman, dressed in tactical clothing set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience with multiple firearms, killing 12 people and injuring 59 others. The sole suspect is James Eagan Holmes, who was arrested outside the cinema minutes later.

The Dec. 14 slaying of 20 children and six teachers and staff in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., tore at the heart of the nation, sparking the call for greater gun control over assault weapons and greater attention to the mentally ill. Also dead were the gunman and his mother who was his first victim.

While the Newton shooting was the worst in U.S. history, earlier in the year, Feb. 6 in Oslo, Norway, Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to 21 years for killing 77 people in two terrorist attacks where eight people were first bombed in Oslo and then 69 young people were shot to death  by Breivik on nearby Utoya island.

The 2012 presidential campaign and election were headliners of the year, with President Barack Obama’s being not only the first African American U.S. president but also the first African American president to gain re-election. Also making headlines was the enormous amount of money spent in the Obama-Romney race.

It was the most expensive in history at more than $6 billion spent collectively by the two candidates, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics – $700 million more than the previous “most expensive election in history” in 2008.

Also making headlines were Romney’s comments about 47 percent of Obama’s supporters wanting hand outs and a free ride on the government and his “binders full of women” that will follow him for years to come.

There was the Nov. 9 sudden resignation of CIA director David Petraeus, after it was disclosed that he had an extramarital affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. Petraeus submitted his resignation to President Obama, at the time citing “personal reasons.” The FBI continued to investigate Petraeus.

Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast Oct. 29 and remained at the top of news headlines, killing at least 125 people on the U.S. eastern coast and leaving 70 people dead in the Caribbean. At a calculated $60 billion, it is rated the second-costliest storm in U.S. history after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

Internationally, Libya topped the list with the murder of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stephens. Congressional demands for answers to why the American workers were not provided added protection led to hearings with then CIA director David Petraeus, leading to Susan Rice withdrawing her name from consideration as the next Secretary of State, after Hillary Clinton completes her term.

Also on the international scene is the ongoing civil war in Syria where peaceful protests escalated into the current civil war, with the death toll to date at over 40,000. Syrian President Assad continues to blame “infiltrating terrorists” and reportedly had begun to move around deadly biological weapons. However, the U.S. refuses to give weapons in support of the opposition, fearing that such weapons may fall into the hands of terrorists who may later target the U.S.

On a happier note was the 2012 London Summer Olympics Gold Medalist Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas, fondly called “the Flying Squirrel.” At age 16, she became the first African American and woman of color to win the Olympic gymnast competition. As a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team, she won Gold medals in both the individual and team all-around competitions.

On Oct. 14, near Roswell, N.M., extreme athlete Felix Baumgartner landed gracefully on earth after a 24-mile jump from the stratosphere in a daring feat that officials said made him the first skydiver to break the sound barrier – traveling faster than sound. He came down safely in the eastern New Mexico desert about nine minutes after jumping from his capsule 128,100 feet, or roughly 24 miles, above earth.

Earlier this year, on June 15, Aerialist Nik Wallenda walked a tightrope over Niagara Falls in Canada, on an 1,800-foot-long, 2-inch-wide wire and became the first person to cross directly over the falls from the United States into Canada.

Other tragedies of the year include the Jan. 13 Costa Concordia cruise ship capsizing off the shore of the Italian island Giglio, killing 32 people onboard. Italian Francesco Schettino was not only fired by Costa Cruises but also accused by prosecutors of causing the accident by sailing the luxury cruise liner too close to shore. He is fighting the charges.

More astonishing was Schettino’s actions after the accident, where he abandoned the ship with passengers left onboard to fin for themselves. According to Reuters, the angry order to “Get back on board, damn it!” delivered by a coast guard officer to Schettino over the telephone after he had abandoned his ship was printed on T-shirts in Italy.

The worst sex scandals reported continued to follow Jerry Sandusky, 68, when a Pennsylvania judge sentenced the former Penn State football coach to 30-60 years in prison Oct. 9 for the sexual abuse of 10 boys. Judge John Cleland said at the sentencing hearing, “This sentence will put you in prison for the rest of your life.” Sandusky would be 98 at his earliest possible release date. He was also classified as a sexually violent predator, mandating that he register as a sex offender if he ever were released from prison.

As we head into the New Year, fear of plummeting off the “fiscal cliff” still looms. According to MarketsWiki, the “fiscal cliff” refers to a combination of tax increases and spending cuts set to take place simultaneously in the U.S. at the end of 2012, just as the country approaches the debt ceiling.

The ‘draconian’ provisions were originally designed to force a compromise between Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives on reducing the debt. The biggest sticking point has been whether to extend the expiring George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of U.S. households through 2013.

According to the Associated Press, with the yearend deadline looming before the economy goes over the so-called fiscal cliff, President Obama cut short his traditional Christmas holiday in Hawaii with plans to return to Washington, Dec. 26. Congress was expected to return to Washington the next day.

Without action by Obama and Congress, automatic budget cuts and tax increases are set to begin in January, which many economists say could send the country back into recession. With the collapse of House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to allow tax rates to rise on million-dollar-plus incomes, lawmakers were increasingly worried that no deal can be reached.

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